• With: Ed Husain

    This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 11, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

     

     

    BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Let's get some perspective now on the stunning events in Egypt over the past two-and-a-half weeks and today's resignation from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

    Joining me now is Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of the book "The Islamist." Welcome. You are a former Islamic radical. You signed on to Islamic fundamentalists as young man in Britain, stayed with it for six years and then, left it. Tell us briefly about that before we ask you about Egypt.

    ED HUSAIN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well it was an attraction to a global ideology that offers black and white answers to the problems of the Middle East. In my time it was issues surrounding Muslims in Bosnia and Muslims in Palestine and the answer offered by Islamic extremists from various groups was, the answer is jihad, the answer is concentration, the answer is Muslim supremacist tendencies and the answer is to take up arms against arms.

    But after a period of being in those groups, I realized several things. One, that they were spiritually remote from mainstream Muslims that they were away from god. Two, that their confrontational one-world view gave us very little in the way of solid results or answers to the world's problems. And looking at Egypt today I think I am vindicated in realizing that those groups don't have the answers. And three, realizing that the rhetoric and the mindset of jihad and supremacy tendencies isn't just talk, but it's reality on the ground. When I saw, on my own campus, a non-Muslim student being killed, I moved away from extremist group.

    BAIER: Now today, this historic change, and there is all the celebration on the square and throughout Egypt that this 30-year dictator has been overthrown. The power has gone to the military, and there are still questions about what comes next. Some people are worried about the vacuum and possibly the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists stepping in. What are your thoughts about that?

    HUSAIN: Well, as a student and subsequently after that I spent time with the Muslim Brotherhood, so I'm familiar with its thinking and its pragmatic strategy. The good news is-- well let's start with the bad news. The bad news is the Muslim brotherhood does play the mood music to which suicide bombers dance. It did traditionally have a very confrontational attitude toward the west, it's very suspicious of Israel, to put it mildly. And it tends to mobilize people around its own interpretation of religion. That's the bad news. The good news is Muslim brotherhood over the last 30 years has abandoned violence and it tends to be pragmatic and want to enter democratic politics. I think if the Muslim Brotherhood is brought in to a broader coalition but on the condition that it respects the peace treaty toward Israel, that it's respectful to the west and it respects human rights, which it claims to, then it's good news. The debate in the discussion is whether we'll get there. By keeping them outside were not -- it's instigating the discussion.

    BAIER: But if you listen to the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who talked in recent weeks about ending the treaty with Israel, about starting another war with Israel, about Sharia law, I mean that doesn't sound like a concern for human rights or a lack of violence.

    HUSAIN: I hear everything you are saying. That said, the Muslim Brotherhood, thankfully, is not monolithic organization. It has different strands within it. El-Gazar, the man who went to see Omar Suleiman last Friday came out saying that the peace treaty with Israel is in the Egyptian national interest. So there is good news. You had Mohammed Al-Badie the current leader of the brotherhood, who is not a reformist, he a conservative. He wants, within the Muslim brotherhood tradition, he wants to create, what he calls a "civilian government" not an "Islamist government." So --

    BAIER: The problem, I guess, is there wasn't an opposition group, because Mubarak had clamped down on all opposition. So in the absence of that, do people then turn to what is comfortable to them, which may be their religion and perhaps extreme religion, in some cases?

    HUSAIN: What we've seen with this generation of Egyptians -- jeans, baseball caps, tatoos, Facebook, twitter, they are not the kind of people who are gonna sit back and allow some kind of Ayatollah Khomeini type figure to take up.

    BAIER: You don't think so?

    HUSAIN: I think what is important is what coming up in the six to seven months. In other words, enabling the civil society and center left, center right, centrist politics to emerge, something that the U.S. government has been trying to do in the Middle East over the the last ten years but without great success. Now's the critical moment and it's all up for grabs.

    BAIER: Wow, you get all of the emotion on the streets. Do you think that that carries over the other places, quickly, throughout the Middle East, knowing what you know?

    HUSAIN: Well, I've traveled across the region, I speak Arabic and ya know, I'm a Muslim. What I can say is that there is a great deal of pride in the new Arab dignity, that they too have overthrown a despot today. They are now comparing themselves with the European revolutions of the 18th century and the American Revolution here. So there is a great sense of pride in the Arab world. And I think we should welcome that and try and help nagigate the Arab street to a better tomorrow rather than allow them to be hijacked by the extremists that you spoke about.

    BAIER: Because that is the threat.

    HUSAIN: That is the threat.

    BAIER: Ed, thank you very much. We'd love to have you back.

    HUSAIN: Thank you.

    BAIER: Next up, we will look at the situation in Egypt from the view of the American intelligence community. Stay with us.

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