CAIRO: Only seven episodes in, and television series “Al-Gama’a” is already rubbing Muslim Brotherhood members the wrong way. The group claims that the series, which is meant to narrate their story, is aimed at marring their image while portraying the government in a positive light.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood were initially wary of “Al-Gama’a,” which translates into “The Group,” especially after their request to review the script and validate certain facts was turned down before production started.
The Muslim Brotherhood argues that the series portrays them as a violent, fundamentalist group, whose leaders are deceptive businessmen, hungry for authority.
The series also implies that the group brainwashes young college students, who blindly follow its leaders, oblivious to the group’s objectives and agenda.
Statements such as “The group is going to be violent,” or “Let female students take part in the demonstration so that security forces don’t attack,” are common in the dialogue.
“The attempts of defaming the Muslim Brotherhood and distorting its history is nothing new, and it will not distract or deter the group in any way or form from their peaceful path calling for reform and political change,” Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Bade’a said in a statement on the group’s official website.
In its first episodes, the series, written by renowned scriptwriter Wahid Hamed and directed by Mohamed Yassin, takes viewers back to 2006 when Muslim Brotherhood students at Al-Azhar University held a military-style parade, complete with martial arts demonstrations, to protest restrictions on student political activities.
This has led to state security crackdowns on the university dormitory and the arrest of tens of students as well as 16 prominent leaders of the banned group which included Deputy Chairman Khayrat El-Shater, and some of the group’s most successful businessmen, who are referred to as the “financiers” of the group.
Parallel to the interrogation of these detainees, the show also introduces viewers to the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan El-Banna, starting from his childhood, presenting his upbringing and all the factors that led him to create one of the largest opposition political groups.
The big-budget series has been in production for two years and is currently airing on Egyptian terrestrial television during Ramadan, during which viewership rates skyrocket.
Head of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc at the People’s Assembly, Hussein Ibrahim, said that it is all about timing, and having the government endorse this series is all about showing the Brotherhood in a negative light two months before the parliamentary elections.
“The government is taking advantage of its media in order to tarnish the image of one of its main political adversaries,” said Ibrahim.
“The timing is obvious to everyone and whether the series is successful or not I’m sure the Egyptian people are smart and they can read between the lines and know that it’s all about elections as they fear what happened in 2005 will be repeated,” he explained, referring to the 2005 parliamentary elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood won 88 seats in the People’s Assembly.
On the other hand, former deputy chairman of the group, Mahmoud Ezzat says the series is getting more attention than it deserves especially since it is clear the writer is “fabricating events.”
Ezzat referred to El-Banna’s early education, as the series claims that he wanted to leave the Kottab, a traditional school where students memorize the Quran, and transfer to a secondary school.
“What people don’t know is that there weren’t any secondary schools at the time of Hassan El-Banna, they started later, so it’s clear that the writer is making up events for dramatic purposes,” Ezzat said.
While Ezzat believes that the series will definitely have an effect on the group’s image, he explained that “[the group’s] presence among the people is the biggest response to such claims.
“Through our relationships, people can see that all that’s being said about us is not true,” he said.
Former Supreme Guide, Mohamed Mahdi Akef, who has also been depicted in the show but with a different name, commented in a statement saying, “History has shown that attempts to defame the Muslim Brotherhood only help in promoting the group’s ideology and attracting more sympathizers to its cause.”
He noted that the group represents a perfect model for democracy, highlighting that it accepted his resignation although they wanted him to remain in office.
Akef called on Muslim Brotherhood members to focus on their responsibilities and strive to achieve the best for themselves and their nation.