RECOMMENDED READING: “Profile: Kamal AL-Helbawy, A Defector Of Conscience”


Egyptian media has published a profile of Kemal Al-Helbawi, best known as the former official spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West,  providing further details on his resignation from the Egyptian Brotherhood and his support of Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, the favored Egyptian presidential candidate of Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi. The article in the Egypt Independent begins:

Mon, 09/04/2012  Kamal al-Helbawy is taking a break from a busy day of media interviews and meetings with revolutionaries to eat grilled fish at a simple seafood restaurant in Nasr City. The 73-year-old has just taken his first bite when a man wearing a pullover and a dress shirt approaches the table. Without any introduction, he begins questioning Helbawy on how a proper Islamist should vote in the upcoming presidential election. ‘What happened was wrong, right? With Shater … That was the wrong thing for them to do, right? So we should all give our votes to Abouel Fotouh, right?’ he asks, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent nomination of Khairat al-Shater for the presidency, a betrayal of their previously stated commitment not to run a candidate.Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, a reformist leader within the movement, was kicked out of Egypt’s oldest Islamist organization when he announced his candidacy last summer. That is who Helbawy is backing. Content with Helbawy’s approval, the man walks away and Helbawy returns to his lunch. He knows he only has a few minutes to eat, because a pro-revolution, anti-Shater Islamist is in high demand these days. Helbawy’s bald head and trim white beard suggest his age, but he still seems to have the energy of a man far younger than his years. A return to Egypt after 23 years in exile, and the prospect of participating in a viable revolutionary movement, has undoubtedly rejuvenated him. A lifelong member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a former member of its Guidance Bureau, he resigned last week to protest Shater’s nomination. Still, though, he feels a connection to the group that has been such an important part of his life, including being the main reason behind his exile. ‘Despite my deep sadness [on the state of the Muslim Brotherhood now], my conscience is clear that I am not participating in this nonsense,’ Helbawy says. It was the unfortunate resolution of a profound and defining relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood that began when Helbawy joined the group as an 11 year old in the village of Kafr al-Batanoon in Monufiya Governorate. From that time on, he was a dedicated Brother at the heart of the conflict with President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime, then working for the movement in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and London. As one of the Brotherhood’s early travelling men he became a founding member of the Brotherhood’s so-called International Organization when they began trying to realize their global project in the late 1970s. Helbawy returned to Egypt in the beginning of March 2011, greeted at the airport by Muslim Brotherhood heavyweights like former Supreme Guide Mohamed Mahdi Akef. Almost immediately, he began coordinating with youth groups and activists within and without the organization to push forward the group’s demands.

Read the rest here.

 A post from April had reported that Al-Helbawi had resigned from the Egyptian Brotherhood.

According to his resume, Helbawi is the former official spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West, one of the founders of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and one of the founders of the Muslim Council of Britain, a U.K. umbrella organization comprised largely of Muslim Brotherhood organizations. He is currently the director of the London-based Center for the Study of Terrorism (CFSOT) which purports to be a think-tank describing itself as follows:

…an independent research and consultancy organisation, dedicated to the in-depth study of Islamic resurgence, democratisation and extremism in the Muslim world. Working with high-quality primary sources, CFSOT delivers unique information and analysis to its clients. The centre publishes a monthly journal and provides training and courses on terrorism-related issues as well as bespoke consultancy services.

A post from April 2011 reported that Helbawi had returned to Egypt after 23 years of “voluntary exile” in the UK. Other previous posts have discussed some of Helbawi’s more incendiary statements including that the “Zionist Movement” obeys the orders of a single official and praising Osama Bin Laden as a “leader of Jihad.”

That Helbawi is able to resign from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood yet continue supporting the presidential candidate favored by Youssef Qaradawi speaks to the utility of the concept of a Global Muslim Brotherhood of which the Egyptian organization has long been only a single component.

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