Egyptian Screenwriter Waheed Hamed


Sherif Awad

Aired in Ramadan 2010, the first part of El-Gamaa came in 28 Episodes retelling the origins of The Society of the Muslim Brotherhood and the fully detailed story of its founder Hassan al-Banna starting with his childhood until the circumstances that yielded to his assassination in 1949. However, in the following year 2011, Egypt saw a revolution and a wide period of instability that delayed the production of the second part as promised by its screenwriter Waheed Hamed. When the Brotherhood finally rose to power and one of their members Mohamed Morsi was elected as Egyptian president in 2012, their minister of information Salah Abd El-Maksoud banned the first part from being rerun on Egyptian media. Another revolution then exploded in 2013 and another instability put the follow-up part yet again in hiatus. Nevertheless, during that period between 2010 and 2017, Hamed was working hard on researching and writing the script of this second part that will see the light finally this Ramadan. The new 30 Episodes will depict the exploits of the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of their second Morshid (General Guide) Hassan El-Hodeiby (Abd El-Aziz Makhyoun) and their conflicts with King Farouk (Mohamed El-Bayaa) then President Nasser not to mention the rise of their figurehead Sayed Kotb (Mohamed Fahim) whose ideologies and books became the bases of violent Jihadism from then until nowadays. An interview with the serials’ creator and screenwriter, the acclaimed Waheed Hamed:
SA: Why did you choose to name the serials al-Gamaa (The Society) and not Gamaa El-Ekhwan (The Society of the Muslim Brotherhood) to make the title more distinctive?
WH: For everyone, if you say al-Gamaa it will immediately refer to the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, I will reveal for you something I did not mention before. Al-Gamaa has the same syllable of Al-Essaba (The Gang) is Arabic and this is the title of the serial indirectly refers to.
SA: In 2010, the first part suddenly ended in 28 episodes without showing the assassination of Hassan El-Banna as it historically happened. Superbly played by Eyad Nassar in the first part, El-Banna was depicted as defeated by the rest of the Brotherhood who take over his power and even regretful for establishing the Brotherhood and whished for going back to teach religion to hundred young ones.
WH: Historically, El-Banna morally died before his assassination. He was powerless against the other members of the Brotherhood who took over. I did not want to close the curtains on the first part with an assassination because it assassination is a crime. What interested me is to show the death of the idea rather the death of its founder. Moreover, I think that if El-Banna wasn’t assassinated and continued live, the Brotherhood would have died with him of natural causes. Although El-Banna showed modesty, he used to be media man who loved the lights and loved to be have names like Al-Imam or Man of the Light.

SA: Before the airing of the first part and the presidency of Morsi, many of the younger generations would have heard of the Brotherhood and the ways. In founding the Brotherhood, it was said that El-Banna was also influenced by non-Islamic ideology.
WH: I can say that El-Banna was influenced by Masonry, Fascism, Zionism and Shia that he studied very well. There are symmetries between the rules of the Muslim Brotherhood and those of Freemasonry: oath, allegiance and, complete secrecy and absolute obedience. El-Banna was also heavily influenced by the order of the Assassins (Hashshashin), a branch of Shia that existed in the eleventh century as founded by Hassan El-Sabbah. The proof: Even before joining the Brotherhood, Sayed Kotb himself used to address Hassan El-Banna as Hassan El-Sabbah. It was Egyptian novelist Abbas al-Aqqad who said that Hassan El-Banna was of Moroccan Jewish descent. But from our side, we didn’t have information about El-Banna’s grandfather. Only we knew of his father who was a mosque teacher and of his childhood where he learned how to fix watches hence he was nicknamed Hassan El-Saaty (The Watchmaker) hence this shows a meticulous character.
SA: The second part of El-Gamaa focuses on the conflict between Nasser and the Brotherhood, especially with Sayed Kotb whose ideologies were said to initiate violence. Can you elaborate on that?
WH: Kotb used to work for years in Ministry of Education, hence with the government, with aims to be promoted as minister. When this seemed to be impossible, he switched sides and joined the Brotherhood where he became chief editor of their magazine. Kotb’s ideas and books were mostly influenced by the ideas of the Pakistani Abul A'la Maududi. Unlike stories about him being tortured in prison, Kotb spent most of his incarceration at the prison’s hospital due his health conditions. Due to their friendship since the days that preceded the 1952 revolution, President Nasser gave orders that books and publications are permitted to reach Kotb during his imprisonment. However, Kotb conspired two times with the Brotherhood to assassinate President Nasser. The first was in the famous El-Mansheya Incident 1954 which resulted in his imprisonment. Kotb was let out of prison at the end of 1964 at the behest of the Prime Minister of Iraq, Abdel- Salam Arif, for only 8 months before being rearrested in August 1965 and accused of plotting to overthrow the state. These events will be dramatically depicted in the second part.

SA: What’s the importance of El-Gamaa serials during our current times?
WH: El-Gamaa is not your regular TV serial. It is a challenge where I must rewrite history in an adequate dramatic form that can be digested by a wide range of viewers, regardless their age or culture. It was an abnormal effort in researching and writing the episodes. The first part of El-Gamaa helped the viewer to get introduced to their origins and the second part will continue to do so. I think that all the first part’s events were brought to real life during the period of Morsi’s presidency (2012-2013). The part of the people who were had delusions that the Brotherhood are good religious people who wanted Islam to prevail finally discovered the truth: They are not a religious group but they are a political and economic group. The Muslim Brotherhood has a very strong economy within Egypt that can compete with the local economy of the country until now.

SA: Speaking of the economy, they are still satellite channels broadcasting from Turkey and obviously funded by the Brotherhood against Egypt.
WH: Although we live in a world of overpopulated media venues, I am sure that in Egypt after two revolutions the people have reached maturity permitting them to differentiate between truth and lies. The media of the Brotherhood cannot change the year when they ruled Egypt whatever lies they spread.

SA: In the aftermath of the 2013 revolution and the dispersal of Rabaa sit-in, many thought that the fleeing members of the Brotherhood could think of assembling a government-in-exile.
WH: Like we witness in the second part, the Brotherhood all the time tried to initiate a state within the state but this wouldn’t happen because we are one country and one system. They want their own state. But the Egyptian people tends to have a civil state rather than the state that the Brotherhood tends to establish: An economic and business state pretending to be Islamic and religious. After 85 years, the Brotherhood has roots and power that is still deceives many people till now. One of the examples in their history that we will see in the second part: when there was a conflict between King Farouk and Al-Wafd party, the Egyptian people were roaming the street and cheering “The People with al-Wafd, The People with al-Nahas”. And so King Farouk went for support to the Brotherhood who roamed the streets cheering “God with the King” …
SA: In previous interviews, you mentioned that you have two other film projects yet related to the Brotherhood. One was historical about the “Assassins” and the other was contemporary about El-Etihadeya incident in 2012. What’s the status of both projects?
WH: The script for the “Assassins” was put on hold due to its forecasted high budget. Another reason of its delay was a serials by Jordanian producer Talal Al-Awamlah who contacted me to ask me to postpone the film for the favor of his serials. However, that was last year and he haven’t started production till now. As for the second film, I think we will shoot it soon.