In an interview with Spanish daily La Razón, Ahmed Hussein said of Mohamed Morsi’s rise to power in Egypt, “He is our hope, a symbol of change.” Hussein, an Egyptian, is the leader of the 2000-member Muslim community in Alcalá de Henares, a city just northeast of Madrid, while he is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist political organization that recently came to power in Egypt via democratic elections. The Muslim business said of Morsi, “He doesn’t have a lot of charisma, but charism is deceptive and can obscure other things. A good heart is better, and he has it.”
Hussein has lived in Spain for 30 years, having arrived in the 1980s “when there was no racism,” he said. Times have changed, said the bearded Hussein, who added “The bombing of the Twin Towers changed the image of Islam in the world.” Hussein spent time in Barcelona before moving to Madrid, where he met his Chilean wife. Their two children are native-born citizens of Spain and thus of Europe. Hussein imports goods from Arab countries for a living, while he also manages the Arab center of Alcalá – a city of 200,000 – where classes in Arabic and Islam are offered.
According to Hussein, under former President Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood was treated very poorly. There were assassinations, injustice and revenge, as well as persecution. Concerning the “bad reputation” the brotherhood has earned as a group of fanatical Islamists, Hussein claimed “Islam does not oblige anyone to be a Muslim,” while adding “We believe that God must be recognized. We know that there is a Creator who must be obeyed and respected.” He also went on to claim that Muslims “do know how to live among other people and religions.” Concerning some of the more radical members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hussein shrugged “There’s everything, just like anywhere else.” He asserted that Alcalá de Henares (the word alcala originates in the Arabic word for fortress), like Toledo, was once a place where Christians, Jews and Muslims coexisted in the medieval era.
Hussein seeks to soften the image Islam has gained in recent years. “Even while all of my family in Egypt wears the veil, my daughter does not. I only give counsel; I do not pressure.” He spoke of the five commandments or pillars of Islam that are taught at the Islamic school in Alcalá – 1) the belief that there is only one God and that Mohammed is His messenger, 2) prayer 3) pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in the believer’s lifetime, 4) the giving of alms – amounting to 2.5 percent of one’s income – to the poor; and 5) keeping of the Ramadan fast. “Thus it is to live in the presence of God.”
Ramadan is coming on July 20, during one of the hottest months in Spain and Egypt. Even while he fears that it will be horrible, even while Muslim women are not relieved from cooking and serving their husbands and families during the fast, Hussein asserted “This is a matter of obeying God. With suffering, without drink or food, we show that we are capable of following His commandments despite those things that tempt us.” For the Muslim Brotherhood, religion is “quite the opposite of doing your own thing. It means self-denial, discipline. But it also means respect, understanding. I cannot prohibit the women here from wearing mini-skirts and clothing of that sort, but I can avoid looking,” assured Hussein.
Another Egyptian who lives in Spain, Ahmad Ibrahim, is confident that President Morsi will make positive changes in Egypt. As for Egypt’s place in the world, the outspoken Ibrahim critiqued its role heretofore as a mediator in the Mideast. He said that Egypt has “dropped its pants lots of times. The Americans rule Egypt and I don’t like it.”
Indeed, under President Morsi, Egypt’s profile could change radically despite assurances from the new leader that he will adhere to the peace accords that have afford with Israel that has afford 30+ years of stability. Morsi, speaking to the Egyptian people, told that “Islam is the solution,” even while he asserted that his government will reinforce its ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose leaders have long boasted that they would erase Israel from the map.