In this piece Thalia Ntoka had an interview with Mahmoud El Alaily, president of Free Egyptians Party and ALDE Liberal Member. He speaks about perspectives for liberalism in Egypt and connections with Europe.
I met Dr. Mahmud el Alaily during the Congress in Amsterdam and I was impressed by his passion for liberalism. He is already an ALDE Party Individual Member working hard for the growth of the liberal movement in Egypt and interested in sharing his vision and political experience.
You are the President of “FEP – Free Egyptians Party”. How old is this party and what is its purpose in Egypt?
Our party was founded in April 2011 after revolution of the 25th of January, it was mainly founded at that time to represent the growing liberal movement and the revolutionary youth, raising the values of freedom, democracy, citizenship and respecting human rights. In the meantime-since most of the founders were from economic background- the issue of free market economy was a key stone and was very clear in our campaigns in a country of a recent socialist background , coming up with new clear ideas for economic reformation .
It was also clear at that time that the country needed a strong party to represent the civil movement against the upraising Islamic stream at that time. Especially the very well organized Moslem Brothers and the Salafies. So the FEP was one of those and we played a very important role against them crawling all over the country before and during the year they ruled.
Are there any structural elements that prevent Egypt from fully becoming a liberal country?
Sure there are, especially traditions, and also very important is the influence of islamists on the religious mind set of the majority of the population and subsequently on the decision making. Also the effect of the successive authoritarian regimes which ruled the country since 1952 emphasized the parental ideas in the minds of both the people and the governments.
Putting all these elements together explains the obstacles that may face Egypt to transform to a fully liberal country soon which I find it extremely difficult, but never impossible.
Why you joined the ALDE Party and how you think we should work together so that our friends in Egypt stay more connected with Europe?
As in the last few years I worked very closely with some of the liberal institutions like LI and African liberal network (ALN). Being president of Arab Liberal Federation (ALF) I found it very important to join ALDE party at that point of time to go through real liberal political experience and to learn how to apply liberal values in politics without hindrance or suppression.
People in Egypt are by default connected to Europe, but the real problem is to connect them to European values, which most of them fear as imported western values which they believe are against our consrvative traditional values and of course against religion. So it is very important to start explaining that those are global human values for everyone on earth not restricted to a couple of countries or certain race and color.
Is there a country in Europe, you think Egypt has more similarities to and what is that you would wish for 2018 for your country?
Can’t name any specific country, as the circumstances are totally different, but maybe the ex-socialist countries maybe the nearest especially on the grounds of democratization process and its fluctuations, and changing the mindset towards values of freedom and human rights from the perspective of both the citizens and the authorities.
Wishing that Egypt will start flourishing somehow after the radical economic reformation steps that took place through the past few years. Also hoping also that the authorities there would be able to combat the growing terrorism and terrorist groups, stopping the stream of fundamentalism, extremism and radicalism, giving some space for real political reformation without excuses from security threats or economical uncertainty.