News / Middle East

Egyptian Female Professor Targets Young in Bid to Save Brotherhood

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi march in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 27, 2013.
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi march in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 27, 2013.
With a spare bed always ready for friends on the run, Wafaa Hefny is not your average English literature professor.
In her spare time, the 47-year-old veiled academic is trying to save the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed group that Egypt's army-backed authorities brand a “terrorist group”, by ensuring it remains committed to peaceful change and rejects violence.
With most Brotherhood leaders, including Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Morsi, now behind bars, the granddaughter of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna is one of the movement's few influential figures still at large.
Hefny wants to prevent a frustrated younger generation of supporters from taking up arms in the face of one of the toughest crackdowns on the group and its 86-year history.
“The harder the state presses us, the more committed we should be to peaceful activism. That is what gives us strength. Violence would be very dangerous for us,” she said.
“There are some young Islamists and others trying to get our youth to become violent. We have to stop this.”
Resorting to violence would be disastrous because the movement would lose its moral high ground and provide an excuse to the government to crack down even harder, Hefny said.
To give the young an outlet to let off steam, Hefny organizes clandestine meetings where they can use social media, write film scripts and design anti-government logos.
Children as young as 10 daub graffiti on walls mocking Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the general who ousted Morsi last July after mass protests against his rule. Sissi is tipped to win next month's presidential election in Egypt.
“This is starting to move things and give them ideas ... To keep people going so they can discover new things,” said Hefny, a tall imposing figure who lives in a middle class district.
Hefny also directed a play starring Brotherhood youth which had a simple and ambitious plot: the movement would one day return to power and Sissi would face a court martial.
  • Riot police detain a man who was taking part in a protest against a new law in Egypt that restricts demonstrations, in downtown Cairo, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Riot police fire a water cannon to disperse people protesting a new law restricting demonstrations, in downtown Cairo, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Police fire a water cannon to disperse a protest by dozens of activists commemorating the death of a protester a year earlier, Cairo, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters shout slogans against a new law in Egypt that restricts demonstrations, in downtown Cairo, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Cairo University students shout slogans against the military and Interior Ministry in front of riot police at the main gate of the university, Cairo, Nov. 24, 2013.

Such initiatives may not be enough to restrain young people in the Brotherhood, which steadily earned popularity over the decades by providing social services to Egypt's poor but faced repression under one autocratic ruler after another.
Apart from the crackdown by security forces, Brotherhood youth face many other challenges. They are demonized by the state press, thousands of their comrades are in jail and jobs are all too scarce in Egypt's gloomy economic climate.
Hefny said jailed members such as Morsi had diminishing sway while emerging new leaders were offering the young a greater say in how the famously hierarchical movement is run.
In a sign the movement's old guard understands the dangers of radicalization, its exiled secretary general issued a lengthy statement on Tuesday underscoring the Brotherhood's history of peaceful activism and rejecting the use of violence.
The letter from Mahmoud Hussein was the highest level statement from a senior figure not jailed in the crackdown.
Egyptian authorities have not provided evidence to back their accusations that the Brotherhood is involved in terrorism, but it is clear that younger members are losing patience with the movement's traditional pacifism.
In a downtown Cairo cafe, a Muslim Brotherhood member who only wanted to give his first name, Mohamed, said some leaders of what he calls youth cells told him they were considering the use of lethal force against policemen with blood on their hands.
“We know where these people live,” the youth, who said he was tortured in prison, told Reuters.
A second member, who requested anonymity, said: “Of course some youth will want revenge and killings are taking place on an individual basis.”

More than 1,000 pro-Morsi supporters have been killed by army and police forces during a major crackdown on two protest sit-ins in Cairo in August last year.
Though adamantly opposed to violent reprisals, Hefny said she believed men in the security forces who have abused detained women members of the Brotherhood should be publicly shamed.
“We harass these security men who rape. We send messages to them and write on their houses. We say 'your father or son did this' and this will pressure them to stop',” said Hefny.
General Ahmed Helmy of the Interior Ministry's media section denied all Brotherhood allegations of torture or rape.
“We ask any prisoner who has a complaint to submit an official complaint and we will investigate fairly and until that gets proven, then it is all talk with no evidence,” he said.
Hefny, who teaches at Al-Azhar University, said she was constantly reminded of the risks she faces because of her work for the Brotherhood. Secret policemen sometimes ask her neighbors for information about her, she said.
Asked why she was not already in jail, Hefny smiled and recalled her grandfather who was assassinated in 1949.
“This is love that comes from the spirit of Hassan al-Banna,” said Hefny, who uses an old model cellphone she thinks cannot be tapped. “Also my mother prays for me every day.”    

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
April 11, 2014 1:25 PM
Yeah, catch them young, radicalize them and send to do suicide jobs. Zawahiri is an Egyptian, isn't he? Hefny is hooded, masked, or do you say she is veiled; she teaches the young - even as young as 10yrs old - the hate doctrine. How does Hamas, a nearby Brotherhood organization, behave towards civility and neighbors? Violent! All that talk about avoidance of violence is a diversion. They are meant to grow up to become extremists. Already we can feel the fruits of it - they know where the security agents and operatives live; they will attack them individually.

How else do you describe terrorism? And the children are taught to write graffiti on the walls of those they have been taught to hate - that is terrorism learned at infancy that is ever difficult to wash away. This makes the Muslim Brotherhood the most dangerous terrorist enclave in the world because it recruits, indoctrinates and radicalizes them from their tender age. It forms part of them that to turn around is practically impossible. With everything she has to say here, the veil and the masked teaching of hatred, especially to under-aged children, betray Hefny, the grand daughter of the infamous founder of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs