Half a century ago, I was part of a human flood surging through the streets of Cairo. It was March 1954, and we had poured out of the university gates intending to cross the bridge of Qasr el Nil and meet up with other protesters for a massive demonstration outside the official presidential palace in Abdin Square. The Egyptian people had recently emerged from the rule of King Farouk, who had been ousted in a military coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952. The coup was initially met with support and hope, but that quickly dissipated as the Egyptian people watched the new leadership veer toward repression. Newspapers were nationalized, the constitution was suspended and members of the opposition were arrested. The Egyptian people, led by students, rose up to resist oppression and call for freedom of expression and respect for the constitution, and that is how I found myself marching through Cairo in 1954. The bridge shook from so many footsteps as we set out across the Nile. It pulsated with the anger and hope we all felt that day knowing that history was being made. And then, as we reached the middle of the bridge, soldiers opened fire. Books covered with blood flew and wounded students cried for help. The resolution of the crowd was immediate: We refused to be cowed. We would find another way to reach Abdin Square. The government had to be brought down. We had no cellphones or Internet, of course, but word spread rapidly. We were to disperse and go as individuals or small groups to Abdin Square on foot or by public transportation. The streets leading to the square were soon rivers of people, some of them waving the bloody shirts of the wounded students as banners. Police personnel and army officers joined the demonstration. Our sense of euphoria and determination drove us on, the same feelings I see on the faces of today’s protesters in Cairo. We fervently believed that victory was within reach. But it was not to be. Our leaders and the politicians who joined with us were invited to negotiate with the dictator Nasser. Tears were shed; false promises made. An agreement was reached, and they came out to the balcony overlooking the square to announce it as if we had achieved victory. When the protesters were told to disperse, most of them did. Egypt’s first real chance for democracy died that day. After the failure of our democracy movement, the country slipped into authoritarianism.
Maher Hathout is senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Southern California and chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
Rather than being part of a “pro-democracy movement”, it is likely that Maher Hathout was part of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood at that time. Maher Hathout was born on January 1, 1936 in Cairo where he eventually obtained a medical degree. According to comments by his son, Maher went to jail in Egypt, probably from 1965-1968. It should be noted that 1965 was the date of the 2nd major action against the Muslim Brotherhood by Gamel Abdul Nasser suggesting that Maher’s imprisonment likely was connected with those events. His association with the Muslim Brotherhood is further supported by a short biography from a 1989 pamphlet which states: “He has been actively involved in the Islamic movement since his student days and his quest for freedom and human right landed him in prison twice.” Another online biography posted on Islam Online also states that “Dr. Hathout’s activism and scholarship began as a young man in Egypt. An earlier post profiled Hassan Hathout, Maher’s brother, whose background also suggests that he too was part of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and a disciple of its founder Hassan Al-Banna.
MPAC, headquartered in Southern California, was established initially in 1986 as the Political Action Committee of the Islamic Center of Southern California whose key leaders likely had their origins in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Since that time, MPAC has functioned as the political lobbying arm of the U.S. Brotherhood. MPAC has opposed virtually every count-terror initiative undertaken or proposed by the U.S. government. At times this opposition was said to be on civil-rights grounds but, just as often, MPAC claimed that U.S. counter-terror efforts were aimed at the U.S. Muslim community itself. MPAC has consistently supported and facilitated terrorism by supporting terrorist organizations and, more more broadly, constructing an elaborate ideology defending the use of violence by Islamists and Islamist organizations. More than any other U.S. Muslim Brotherhood organization, MPAC has developed extensive relationships with the U.S. government which have included numerous meetings with the Department of Justice and the FBI.