A highly respected moderate Muslim thinker and leader, Mohamed Akef is jailed on false charges by the military junta who showed no mercy despite his old age and serious illness.
He was ever a keen pro-democracy supporter of peaceful transfer of power, and the empowerment of young people. In the prime of his youth, he was a fighter for freedom and independence for Egypt, his homeland. Most of his life, he was a prisoner of conscience, a victim of the injustice of the Generals, from Gamal Abdel-Nasser, through Hosni Mubarak, to Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi who threw him in the junta’s dark dungeons on false charges, despite his 87 years of age and his serious illnesses.
That is Mohamed Mahdi Akef, who – as a young man, at Cairo University in the fifties of the last century – chanted: “Long live Egypt, free and independent”; and only months ago – despite his illness and old age, stood steadfast before the merciless, unreasoning and unjust judge. He sent messages of resilience and steadfastness on high principles and moral values to his supporters and all the free people of the world.
Akef was born on July 12, 1928 – months after the founding of the group in March of the same year. He had a definite impact on the Muslim Brotherhood’s chosen path and perspective. Akef was regarded as a new founder of the group in the last ten years, after assuming the chairmanship of the Brotherhood. He bravely moved with the group further into political action, democratic mechanisms and the peaceful popular movement in the Egyptian street.
Amid the suppression of freedoms by the government of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, who remained in power for more than twenty years, Akef surprised both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian political arena by his decision to refrain from re-election for a new term as the groups’ Chairman, which carried a powerful message to the Mubarak regime.
Mohamed Mahdi Akef took the Brotherhood’s highest post (a six-year term) in 2004, after the death of his predecessor Mohamed Mamoun Hudaibi. He was the seventh Chairman of the group after its founder Hassan Al-Banna, then Hassan Hudaibi, Omar Telmesani, Mohamed Hamed Abul-Nasr and Mustafa Mashhour.
In statements quoted by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (the Middle East) newspaper in 2009, Akef – who bore the title ‘former’ leader while still alive for the first time in the history of the group, said: “What’s strange about that? What I’ve done happens all the time in the whole world. There are a large number of ‘former’ officials who have left office of their own volition,” noting that the cause of surprise at his decision (not to run for another term of office as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Chairman) was that “in Egypt there are no former officials, only dead ones”.
Akef’s history and career were never away from activities calling for the independence of Egypt or peaceful resistance against authoritarian regimes that responded with jailing him time after time.
Earlier on, Akef was the head of camping sites for the Ibrahim University (currently Ain Shams University) in the struggle against the British occupier until the 1952 revolution.
Then, in the era of General Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Akef was imprisoned on August 1, 1954. He was tried on false charges of aiding the escape of Major General Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Raouf (a military leader, who oversaw the expulsion of King Farouk). Akef was sentenced to death. Later, this was commuted to life imprisonment. Akef spent 20 whole years in prison.
He was released in 1974 under the late President Sadat.
In the era of General Mubarak, Akef was jailed for three years after a sham military trial, one of many in a series of military trials of Muslim Brotherhood members at the time. Today, Al-Sisi jailed Akef, yet again, on false charges, along with thousands of the best and most honorable Egyptians.
Months ago, Akef stood steadfast, proud before the judge, despite his illness, for which he was an in-patient at Maadi Military Hospital, showing resilience and selfless devotion – the hallmarks of Islamists’ struggle in Egypt against the repressive junta who turned Egypt into a police state and for so long endeavored to demonize Islamists in order to obscure and hide facts about their struggle from the public.
Akef was not only the voice of moderate Islamists in Egypt, but over years of hard work, he was a wise voice that supported Muslim World youths abroad, and who was keen on political work at home, despite the injustice of junta jails and the silence of the world regarding that injustice.
Following his release from prison in 1974, Akef did not seek revenge against the injustice system, but returned to political action with the Brotherhood, committed to peaceful opposition work. He was elected a member of the People’s Assembly (Egypt’s parliament) in 1987, representing the Muslim Brotherhood – under the broad umbrella of the Islamic Alliance.
Akef also participated in the organization of the largest camping expeditions for Muslim youth in many countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Australia, Mali, Kenya, Cyprus, Germany, Britain, and the US, in addition to his work as director of the Islamic Center in Munich.
Heavy with illness and old age, Akef’s voice can no longer reach out from his room in hospital, nor from behind bars, as the illegitimate junta regime endeavors to repeat the brutal Abdel-Nasser scenario against Islamists, targeting them with oppression, murder, persecution displacement and demonization. But the voice of youth is growing within the Muslim Brotherhood. For young members of the group support Akef whole-heartedly, and warn of the consequences of dealing injustice to a great leader with such a great history as Mohamed Akef.
Furthermore, Akef ranked 12th among 500 most influential Muslim figures in 2009, selected by scholars and mentioned in a book issued by the Royal Islamic Center for Strategic Studies, an official research center in Jordan.\