The first five pages of Chapter Three: The Fifties (HTML text)
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Memories of Jerusalem
In 1954, two important personalities visited Jerusalem. The first visitor was the Second Guide of the Muslim Brothers, Sheikh Hassan al-Hudaybi. His visit took place before events at Manshiyyah and the subsequent crackdown against the Brothers. He also visited Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and other countries before returning to Egypt. In Jordan, al-Hudaybi was given a great reception by the Muslim Brothers there. As his plane landed in the Qalandia Airport in Jerusalem, a large number of the Brothers were there to greet him; at their head was Muhammad ‘Abdul Rahman Khalifah. Ahead of his car, a number of the Brotherhood’s youth rode on motorcycles. He arrived in Jerusalem and visited al-Aqsa Mosque.
I saw a great number of people and personalities greet him in one of al-Aqsa’s courtyards; he is a very dignified personality, having been a judge in the Egyptian High Court. Haj Radi al-Salaymeh, who was then the delegate of the Jerusalem Branch, related to us that he had a shop in Cairo in al-Rawdah district, and that he had played the role of a mediator between Imam Hassan al-Banna and Judge Hassan al-Hudaybi. Thus, he used to convey instructions from Hassan al-Banna and bring back answers from Hassan al-Hudaybi.
For al-Hudaybi had joined the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood without making that move public. Haj Radi al-Salaymeh used to speak regularly on this subject. Hassan al-Hudaybi delivered speeches in Jerusalem, Amman, Damascus among other places. In Damascus, Ba‘th Party members attempted to provoke him during some of his lectures. He ended his tour in Lebanon, and then returned to Egypt. After his return, things started to evolve, as Nasser considered him his primary enemy among the Muslim Brothers. The second visit was that of the Iranian leader Nawwab Safawi (Navvab Safavi), who was the leader of the “Fedayan-e-Islam” Organization—meaning the “Devotees of Islam,” a somewhat strict group. It is said that he was behind the killing of ‘Ali Razmara, the prime minister of the Shah’s government in the early fifties.
Nawwab Safawi came to Jerusalem and met with the Muslim Brothers. He visited the front lines; and while his escorts were with him, he crossed the armistice line and headed for the areas under Israeli occupation. His escorts grabbed him and stopped him from going further. He told them he wanted to see the Jews, so that if he were killed, the Iranian people wouldrise up for the sake of the Palestinian issue. This was Nawwab Safawi. He was very passionate about the Palestinian issue, and he understood the Muslim Brotherhood. This story shows that the relationship between the two Islamic sects, the Sunnis and the Shi‘ites was not always as tense as it is today and the Islamic Conference in 1953 was even attended by Ayatollah al-Kashani, Iran’s greatest religious scholar.
Nawwab Safawi went to Egypt and participated in a celebration convened by the MB early in 1954 at Cairo University. There, a clash took place between the Brothers and the Liberation Rally, manipulated by the Revolutionary Command as an organization pitted against the MB. I heard him deliver an address on Sawt al-‘Arab Radio Station before this station sided with the revolutionaries in Egypt. In this address, he talked about the Muslim Brothers and praised them. After that, the Egyptian regime could no longer tolerate him. So they expelled him from Cairo and he returned to Iran. Two years later, he was executed on the orders of Prime Minister Hussein Fatimi who was loyal to the Shah of Iran. When the decree to dissolve the MB was issued in Egypt toward the end of 1954, the execution of six leading members of the MB took place, and large-scale arrests were made. The Jerusalem branch produced a play in the branch in Wadi al-Joz. I participated in the writing of the play before I went to Egypt to continue my studies.
The play was about al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafi and Sa‘id Ibn Jubayr. We wanted to give an impression of what the Muslims who call to Islam faced from some of the tyrants. The play was a success when presented in the Brothers’ branch in Jerusalem. I remember that during 1955, a graduation ceremony for the students of al-Rashidiya School was to be held. The principal of the school, ‘Abdul Latif al-Husseini, came to our class along with ‘Abbas al-Kurd. At that time Mr. al-Kurd was one of the leaders of Hizb ut-Tahrir, as I mentioned earlier. He used to teach us English language and history; and he was an outstanding teacher. He broke away from Sheikh Nabahani because the latter was authoritative in his views. Later, others were to leave the party for the same reason. The principal asked; “Can you plan a graduation ceremony including some activities?” I held up my hand. I presented him with a play called “The Traditions of Our Father Ibrahim,” written by ‘Ali Ahmad Bakthir. It was published in al-Muslimun magazine, issued by Sa‘id Ramadan. The play spoke about Egypt before the era of Saladin and during the Fatimid rule. It tells the story of two ministers who had dealings and contacts with the Crusaders, who are also called the Franks (al-Faranjah in Arabic). One of the ministers was named Dirgham and the other Shawir. The story took place during a bad period in the history of the Ummah. The play spoke about them and about Saladin.
I told Mr. ‘Abbas al-Kurd that the play was ready. He was pleased; and the principal agreed to hold the festival; while Hizb ut-Tahrir was against it because, as I had mentioned earlier, it wanted people to dedicate themselves only to the was made. In al-Rashidiya, we had two classes; each of 35 students. Among these, Hizb ut-Tahrir had a majority of 20 students, the Brothers had 10, while the Ba‘thists had two and the Communists had two; a useful political map of party power at that time. Preparatory work was done for that show, as well as many rehearsals of the play at which all the cadres of the student Brothers in their final and penultimate years participated. The play was a great success. On the day of the ceremony, I was asked to deliver a speech in the name of the graduates. I delivered it on behalf of al-Rashidiya School’s 1955 graduates.
During the play, some angry members of Hizb ut-Tahrir cut off the electricity. There was a number of active Brothers, I remember among them Zakariyya Qneibi, Ibrahim Abu ‘Arafah, and others, who immediately restored the current, and the ceremony continued successfully. It took place in the Umariyyah School in al-Rawdah, close to al-Aqsa Mosque.
Al-Menshiyyah incident occurred toward the end of 1954. I was then in my fourth year of secondary school; the year in which we take the Jordanian matriculation exam; which is the same as the former Palestinian matriculation. George Khamis entered the class. He was our English language teacher and the most capable among al-Rashidiya’s teachers. He used to teach in the Arabic College in Jerusalem, the most prestigious college in all Palestine. Mr. Khamis, looked at me, smiled and moved his hands in the gesture of shooting and said bang, bang… five times. I did not comment, for I knew that he was referring to an incident that took place the day before, which was the attempt to shoot Nasser. For, during my studies, I used to keep close to the radio, at a time when nothing could connect you to the world better than, first, the radio, and second, the newspapers. I was studying, and at the same time listening to the festival being held in al-Menshiyyah Square in Alexandria. And as I had mentioned earlier, we, in Jordan and Palestine in general, and we, the Brothers, in particular, had our attention turned to Egypt where there was a crisis brewing between the Egyptian revolution and the MB.
Suddenly, I heard the sound of bullets being fired, it was a live transmission. Nasser was delivering a speech, and we heard the sound of about five bullets. Then Sheikh al-Baqouri, as I recall, took the microphone. He was one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, but Nasser was able to convince him to work with him as minister of endowments. He started reciting a verse of poetry “I want him alive… he wants me dead…,” immediately after the shots were fired. He directed his thinly concealed criticism at the Muslim Brotherhood before any investigation was conducted, and before the picture of what had happened became clear. As for Nasser, he continued his speech saying; if Nasser gets killed, all of you are Jamal ‘Abdul Nasser. That was all I heard on Radio Cairo about al-Menshiyyah incident.
Later I pursued the incident, and found some evidence that raises serious questions. For example, in the Egyptian newspapers, it was said that Nasser was wearing a white shirt and carrying a red ink pen. When his bodyguards pulled him away, the red ink spilled on his shirt and appeared as blood, adding to the crowd’s agitation. I also read in those newspapers that the gun from which the bullets were fired had disappeared; and that, one or two days later, a person came to Cairo on foot, carrying that gun.
The accused was a former member of the MB. His name was Mahmud ‘Abdul Latif; and it was said that he was one of those who had fought in Palestine. He was an ordinary worker; but it was said that he was a sharpshooter. Later, a large number of the Muslim Brothers were arrested. Al-Menshiyyah incident was the ideal opportunity for the Egyptian regime to strike the MB, claiming that it was a “terrorist movement” intent on assassinating President Nasser. Thousands were arrested that night. Six of the Brothers were executed later, all of them of the MB’s leadership; and among them ‘Abdul Qadir ‘Awdeh, a very important personality. A year earlier, when the dispute between Nasser and Muhammad Najib occurred and huge demonstrations filled the Cairo streets, the person instigating those demonstrations was ‘Abdul Qadir ‘Awdeh; so he had to pay the price.
Among those executed, there was also Muhammad Farghali, Mahmud ‘Abdul Latif and another person called Hindawi Dweir. Focusing on Hindawi Dweir; it was said that he was a member of the MB and had been temporarily suspended. It looked like Nasser’s secret service was able to recruit him. This is my analysis and that of others as well. This person was told to stage a play; so he gave Mahmud ‘Abdul Latif, who was a very simple person, the gun and the bullets. Were these real bullets or was the firing a mere sound? This was not confirmed by any subsequent investigation. The incident did not have the hallmarks of the teachings of the MB Movement, for it had never sanctioned targeting Nasser. This was further confirmed by what I later read in the book The Game of Nations by the American Miles Copeland. This book appeared toward the end of the fifties and the author points out that the American secret service helped in producing the play, with the aim of justifying the crackdown on the MB Movement, the biggest Egyptian popular movement of that time. I remember that when the six brothers were executed, they all stepped forward with courage. And when Hindawi Dweir was brought to the gallows, he said at the last moment; “I believed that I will be pardoned.” Historically, this is a logical outcome. For sometimes, the one who plans and plots a scheme becomes the one to dispose of, so that all evidence of the scheme disappears forever with him.
The incident at al-Menshiyyah had a major impact on the Jordanian political arena and on the Brothers. A very well-organized campaign began, led by Egypt. I recall the Egyptian Consulate in Jerusalem distributing free of charge a number of Arabic books, among them “The Brothers and Terrorism” and “The Brothers, the Satans of Terrorism.” What is disturbing is that many renowned authors spoke out against the Muslim Brothers in these books, among them Muhammad al-Tabi‘i and Nasiruddin al-Nashashibi. Even Taha Hussein wrote on this subject. Others wrote implying that the MB Movement was “a terrorist movement.” Yet others compared them to the Hashashin (The Assassins), saying that the name of the Hashashin leader was Hassan (Hassan al-Sabbah), and the Brothers’ leaders are named either Hassan al-Banna or Hassan al-Hudaybi. That the Hashashin used to deceive the youth with hashish, and the Brothers deceive them with religion. This fierce campaign continued throughout 1954 and 1955.
The Matriculation Exam and Moving to Egypt to Study
I presented my matriculation exam in 1955 and I had prepared well. However, two months before taking it, I entered the hospital because of an infection in the colon. I remained there for treatment three weeks, during which I read Arabic literature written by Muhammad Hassan al-Zayyat. I used to enjoy in equal measure the subjects of Arabic language, history and the various sciences; I admired the famous poet al-Mutanabbi and memorized many of his verses.
Exam time came and I got good results, thanks to Allah Almighty. I ranked 19th in the Kingdom of Jordan and first in the Jerusalem District. Afterwards, I was called to Amman for an interview. In the Ministry of Education there, I met a short man who interviewed all the students. His name was Khalil al-Salem, (he later became a minister), and there was someone else with him. He told me I could study on a scholarship from the Jordanian government at the American University of Beirut or Baghdad, to study mathematics, which I passed with distinction, physics, which I passed with high grades, or history. I was offered my choice of one of those subjects, so that I could return and become a teacher…