Sitting on a low couch in front of his house in Kafr el-Sheikh City north of The Nile Delta, Abdulmoneim, 41 years old, told his story of defecting from the Muslim Brotherhood, which began two years before the revolution and still affects his life today.

Sitting on a low couch in front of his house in Kafr el-Sheikh City north of The Nile Delta, Abdulmoneim, 41 years old, told his story of defecting from the Muslim Brotherhood, which began two years before the revolution and still affects his life today.

“The approach of Hassan al-Banna—founder of the Muslim Brotherhood—is different from what is stated in the Koran; he created a whole vision and principals for the Brotherhood to regulate the family, society, homeland and world, while the principals of our religion are originally related to the principle of piety,” Abdulmoneim said.

However, when he approached his commanders with these findings, they censured Abdulmoneim: “How dare you question what we have been raised upon for 80 years.”

Do not question Hassan al-Banna

Having joined Al-Azhar Institute 25 years earlier and having been raised by the Brotherhood, Abdulmoneim tried convincing them to allow him to experiment and develop his new critical approach of Hassan al-Banna.  The replied by telling him they were not ‘guinea pigs.’ That was the first time Abdulmoneim considered leaving the Brotherhood, but he thought he might ultimately convince them as he did others close to him. In addition, the companionship of those long years he spent among them constrained him.

Months passed during which time he created a seminar of Muslim Brothers who were convinced of his approach. But the Brotherhood discovered Abdulmoneim’s project, spotted his audience and made them choose either to stay with the Brotherhood or leave with Abdulmoneim. “Twenty members left the Brotherhood for their conviction of my approach being close to the Koran. The Brotherhood deemed me a rebel and disobedient and referred me to investigation before the supreme organizational leaderships.”

Abdulmoneim then presented his doctoral theory to the organizational investigation committee, which, he says saves the Koran from following the principals of al-Banna, which are prone to obsolescence and decay. Until that moment, he believed that the debate would be valued and subsequent arguments and evidence would be decisive, but the investigation recommended his dismissal from the Brotherhood.

Defection, arrest and defamation

“The Brotherhood believed that once I disobeyed their convictions, I would be jailed,” he remembered. They believed that state security would eliminate me since defection means the formulation of a new organization and security forces are often concerned with understanding and manipulation of Islamic organizational structures. Indeed, I was arrested along with 13 members of my new group for 33 days, but when they found me innocent of the three charges (formation of an organization, taking-up arms, and political theorizing), they let us go,” he added.

Since that moment, defected Abdulmoneim turned into an enemy of the Brotherhood. They promoted him as an agent of state security and banned him from entering their mosques, so he became an outcast chased by everyone. When security verified his severance from the Brotherhood or any other organization, they allowed him to work in Khayat mosque near his residence, provided that he did not preach on Friday.

Revolution brought the preacher back to the platform

Abdulmoneim returned to the mosque’s platform only on the Friday following the fall of Mubarak’s regime. The Brotherhood tried to convince him of rejoining them but he refused. “My dispute with them was not personal. I am against the overall intellectual doctrine of Hassan al-Banna. The punishment for my refusal was shocking; they prevented any Brother from attending my mosque and turned the salafists against me on the pretext that I was questioning some hadith versions,” he explained.

His Friday sermon was a headache for all Islamic powers. When worshipers asked him which candidate to vote for, he replied, “Vote for whomever you want, but do not vote for Islamic parities since they will never lead us to true religion.” Worshipers disputed Abdulmoneim, reminding him of the importance of opposing liberals and secularists, as was common in other mosques.

No justice from the minister

When Sheikh Talaat Afifi became the Minister of Awqaf within the government of Hisham Qandil last August, the conflict shifted to higher levels and Abdulmoneim was surprised with a ministerial decision banning him from preaching and assigning him an administrative position. He was summoned to the capital to meet the minister. He believed that the hatred and claims of the salafists against him would be a subject of an intellectual discussion with the minister, but to his shock, the first thing the minister asked him was: “Have you elected Mohammed Morsi or not? And why do you criticize the Brotherhood and the salafists and invite people not to vote for them?”

It is worth mentioning that the elimination movement in the Ministry of Awqaf against preachers opposing to the Islamic current led to – according to press reports – the dismissal of nine directors of Awqaf in the governorates, most famously Kamal Barbary, Director of Awqaf in Suez, who, along with those dismissed, staged a sit-in in front of the Ministry Office in Cairo.

Thus, Abdulmoneim and his group members staged a sit-in before the Directorate of Awqaf in Kafr El-Sheikh Governorate, objecting to banning him from preaching without being referred to a committee to discuss his ideas. He continued his sit-in until the formulation of a formal committee that listened to him and recommended the execution of the minister’s decision.

“I found it imperative to apply for a leave without pay. I was born to mentor. True, being banned from preaching is harsh and my house where I teach is not as big as the mosque, but I will continue with my resistance.”