In his first televised interview, presidential hopeful Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that “irresponsible protests and chaos” will eventually bring down the state, highlighting the importance of the Protest Law.
Nearly a year after mass protests led to the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, paving the way for presidential elections in which Sisi is the favored candidate, the Field Marshal stated that the contentious law is aimed at regulating protests rather than banning them.
“The right to protest is guaranteed for all,” Sisi said, “but we will not let the country be destroyed.”
In the first part of an interview conducted by Lamis al-Hadidi and Ibrahim Eissa, Sisi immediately took charge of the discussion by welcoming the anchors himself. He was firm in his answers throughout the interview and appeared not to be intimidated by the interviewers’ futile attempts to probe about military rule and his “war on terrorism.”
The discussion was inevitably steered toward terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood, where Sisi affirmed that “there will be nothing called the Muslim Brotherhood during my tenure.”
He discussed the violence that followed the ouster of Morsi, saying he had asked for a mandate to confront terrorism last July in his capacity as defense minister, since he felt “Egypt was facing a great danger.”
Sisi, however, maintained that it is the Egyptian people who said “no” to the Muslim Brotherhood and brought their era to an end.
He explained that the ideology of “some of the Islamist groups” is built on “takfir” (the Islamic practice of excommunication, whereby a Muslim declares another to be “kafir” or an unbeliever) and that a confrontation of the “pre-Islamic society” is inevitable.
Sisi also said that the religious discourse is “costing religion its humanity,” adding that there was never a religious state in Islam, only a civilian one.
He claimed that the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat al-Shater, had threatened that militants from Afghanistan, Syria and Libya will confront the Egyptian military, to which Sisi said that he will “banish anyone who threatens Egypt’s security.”
He also said that he warned Morsi about pardoning jihadis, telling him that he is pardoning “people who will kill us.”
The presidential candidate said that his priorities for the coming period are stability and security. Sisi said he is keen on striking a balance between maintaining security and preserving human rights, but that “it is difficult to imagine that violations won’t occur in light of the current security situation.”
He added, however, that any violations will be dealt with by the law.
The former defense minister also stated that the decision to nominate himself came on February 27, 2014, and that he initially had no plans to assume power.
“I wouldn’t be able to respect myself if I had put in place a plan to take over power,” Sisi explained. However, he also added that “the challenges against Egypt and its targeting would make any patriot step up to the task.”
Sisi maintained that he only entered the race because the Egyptian people called on him to do so.
He also clarified that he only “notified” the Armed Forces that he is leaving his position, rather than asked permission. He added that he answers to no one, whether on a local or international level.
The only people he discussed this decision with, he said, were his family.
Sisi then went into a monologue about Egyptian women, saying he is “astonished by their awareness,” and stated that his wife told him that he doesn’t have a choice but to nominate himself.
When he was asked again about his family, Sisi reminisced about proposing to his wife, with whom he raised four children: Mahmoud, Mostafa, Hassan and Aya.
However, he maintained that he had nothing to do with his sons’ employment at the General Intelligence and the Administrative Control Authority.
Both anchors attempted to ask him about his link to late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, to which Sisi replied that “Abdel Nasser was hung in people’s hearts, not on pictures in their homes.”
Sisi was visibly agitated by Eissa’s continuous use of the word “askar,” a term used to refer to the military in a critical manner, blatantly telling Eissa that he will “not allow him to use it again.”
He insisted that the Armed Forces did not play a political role in the past 30 years, and was only concerned with defense. He also assured that the military will not interfere in politics should he be elected president.
When Hadidi asked if he was the Armed Forces’ presidential candidate, Sisi replied with a firm “no.”
Sisi was also asked about the extent of his participation in Cabinet meetings and decisions when he was defense minister, to which he confidently suggested that they “ask the other ministers, even former ministers.”
He stated that he only imposed his opinion during Cabinet discussions on minimum and maximum wages and social security.
The second part of Sisi’s interview will be aired on Tuesday.