Full transcript: Egypt PM Hisham Qandil interview
- 15 September 2012
- From the section Middle East
Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has told BBC Arabic that the US and other nations must do all they can to stop people from insulting beliefs, as protests continue over an anti-Islam film made in the US.
Below is the full transcript of the interview in English, conducted by BBC Arabic's Khaled Ezz El-Arab.
KEA: Obviously the demonstration that took place very close to here, close to the American embassy, have just ended with a successful security mission in Tahrir Square. I'd like to know your reaction to the whole thing and specifically whether there was an overreaction in the Muslim world. You've lived in the US for several years and you know what kind of free speech culture there is there. Was this film… is this angle justified?
HQ: I can start by saying that this event is attached to several unfortunate events. The first unfortunate event of course was this movie. It was disgusting, and insulting the beliefs of many Muslims and, unjustified as well. So that was the first unfortunate event. ... [The film] was that is the work of a bunch of amateurs, wicked - you know they wanted to insult a very respectable religion. That the movie was linked to the US government was another unfortunate event because it couldn't be linked to the US government, and that was clearly mentioned by Mrs Clinton publicly and privately when I spoke to her after this thing started.
The third unfortunate event is that the peaceful opposition turned out to be violent expressions, which is also very unfortunate. But also I have to mention that the Egyptian authorities have taken proper measures to protect the diplomatic missions in Cairo and on Egyptian soil to ensure that people and the missions are safe and well protected.
I visited the compound of the American embassy and talked to the police and the people and encouraged them, and I told them to take the proper measure and apply the law against the people who are attacking them and attacking the buildings.
We need to make sure this series of unfortunate events doesn't happen again. It started with the movie and then the misunderstanding and then the violence, the peaceful expression that turned into violence. And so it's unacceptable to insult our Prophet, peace upon him and it's also unjustifiable to have a peaceful demo turned violent so we need to do a lot of work to ensure that this doesn't happen again.
KEA: What kind of work are you talking about?
HQ: Well I think we're talking about first of all, short term we need to maintain security for these places, to ensure that nothing happens to these places. I hear some positive messages coming from the American side, of course condemning the movie, disconnecting themselves from this kind of work, and the determination to work together to ensure this doesn't happen again.
In the medium term, or in the short term still we need to improve images from both sides. We need to reflect - Egyptians, Arabs, Muslims - we need to reflect the true identity of Muslims, how peaceful they are and really be able to talk to the Western media about the true look and heart of the Muslims, that they condemn violence.
At the same time we need to reach a balance between freedom of expression and to maintain respect for other peoples' beliefs. We need to work on it immediately in the short term but I think the results we will see in the medium to long term. Dialogue is the key word, we need to dialogue about this.
KEA: When you say a balance between freedom of expression and not insulting other people you know there been a lot of calls recently, not from official corners in the Egyptian government but from other public figures, calling for the US to put laws in action that would prevent such a movie, a similar movie taking place in the future. Do you think this is reasonable to ask the US to do this?
HQ: I think we need to work out something around this because we cannot wait and see this happen again. This is a small group number of people doing irresponsible work and everybody's paying the price for these peoples' work and we have to do all it takes to stop this happening again.
KEA: Just so I've got this right are you calling for the US and other countries to take another look into their existing laws and...?
HQ: I'm calling on them to take the necessary measures to ensure that insulting billions of people, one-and-a-half billion people, in their belief in their Prophet, that should not happen, and if it happens people should pay for what they do, and at the same time we need to make sure that the reflection the true Egyptians or Muslims is also well-reflected in the Western media.
KEA: This takes us to the relations between the government of Egypt and the United States government, of course [US President Barack] Obama's remarks that Egypt is neither an enemy nor an ally has stirred a lot of debate. How do you when you hear these remarks? How does the Egyptian government look at his?
HQ: I think we need to maintain the good relationship between the people of Egypt and the people of the United States. This is a relationship that we need to make stronger based on mutual interests and of course respect for sovereignty. I'm sorry to keep repeating myself, but I think dialogue is the best way to overcome what has happened in the last few days. People have lost their lives in this and this is very sad. We need to dialogue more about this.
KEA: Do you feel Obama was justified in making these remarks?
HQ: We need to talk to ensure that it's not about exchanges of remarks it's about work on the ground to ensure people are coming together, understanding each others' culture and needs and concerns about what's happening on both sides.
KEA: In the wider context, are you concerned about relations between countries of the Arab spring which have seen mostly a rise in Islamic political movements and the West?
HQ: I wouldn't call it a concern but we need to really work out the terms of these relationships. The visits we have received, I received I don't know how many, probably 30 or 40 visits in the last month, of course days are long and we carry out many meetings during the same day. People are coming here to learn about us. Who are those new guys? And we tell them the truth, what you see is what you get. This is a moderate system, open for the outside world, looking to work in peace and collaborate. We have our culture, our customs, we also understand the situation around us, we understand the strategic nature of relationships, but we need to set the terms that will be of mutual benefits of Arab Spring countries and the West, and I think it will be worked out very soon because I see a very good intention from both sides to work out such a relationship.