Interview: Adviser to Egypt’s late pope seeks US lobby

Maged Riad, former legal adviser to Pope Shenouda, said he sought with a group of Egyptians living in the United States to create an Egyptian lobby aimed at pressuring the US administration to counter moves by the Muslim Brotherhood to distort the image of Egypt and its regime.
He added in an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm that the lobby would include 14 congressmen who support Egypt's stance.
Riad, who is founder of the Egyptian-American Political Action Committee, organized and took part in pro-Abdel Fattah Sisi rallies in front of the UN headquarters in New York during Sisi's visit to the United States to deliver a speech in front of the UN.
The US administration realized recently that Egypt is facing terrorism alone, after the emergence of the ISIL, said Riad.
Al-Masry: How did you prepare for the reception of President Sisi at the UN?
Riad: The Egyptian community has made extensive preparations before the arrival of Mr. President. Gathering areas were determined and buses were sent to take them from the nearby states of New York, as thousands of them have been transported in more than 70 bus, beside citizens who took their private cars and thousands others residing in New York City and the Long Island area.
We got a license for a demonstration at the best place in front of the United Nations, days before the president delivered his speech. Egyptians have answered the call and it was a honorific Egyptian day in New York. The American people and media no doubt understood that 30 June was a revolution and not a military coup as reiterated, and that the Egyptian army led by President Sisi protected the Egyptian people from the Muslim Brotherhood's tyranny, so they approved the roadmap.
Al-Masry: Have demonstrators been harassed by Muslim Brotherhood supporters at the UN or have they tried to ruin the demonstration?
Riad: We haven't been harassed by the terrorist group, although some supporters harassed media personnel. I saw about 12 people, who are a paid minority, attack broadcaster Youssef al-Husseiny at the airport, but the police arrested a group of them.
Al-Masry: The Egyptian-American Political Action Committee has done a lot of preparations for Sisi's reception. What was the committee's plan to face the Muslim Brotherhood?
Riad: I have been working to deliver the true picture of Egypt and its people in America since my immigration to the US 45 years ago and increased my activity after the revolution of 30 June by creating the Egyptian-American Political Action Committee, which is a group comprising Egyptians and American politicians who sympathize with Egypt and the Egyptian regime.
I exerted a personal effort through a series of letters I wrote to President Barack Obama on the revolution of 30 June. I told National Security Advisor to the White House when the US administration is unable to see 30 million Egyptians who went out to protest against the Brotherhood regime, then they needed eyeglasses to correct their vision. I stressed in my letters to Obama that President Sisi has protected Egyptians from the Muslim Brotherhood's tyranny and that the Egyptian army does not seek power or engagement in politics.  
We put pressure on the American administration to learn the true picture because any collective and organized moves succeed.
Al-Masry: What are the objectives of the second conference of the Egyptian-American Political Action Committee held in New York?
Riad: We have succeeded in organizing the second conference which coincided with the visit of Mr. President to New York and we have identified subject headings, which dealt with the media's handling of the Egyptian-American relations, how to attract investments to Egypt, and the counter-terrorism joint efforts. A large number of Egyptians responded to the invitation… But what is more important than the conference is to follow up the implementation of its recommendations and succeed in reflecting the real image of Egypt in western media and attract investments to Egypt.
We seek to bring new generations to work for the committee because continuity means the success of the committee. We already have very positive responses and offers by Egyptian youth to serve their country.
Al-Masry: Has the American stance toward Egypt changed after Obama's visit to the Egyptian president in his residence?
Riad: First, Obama is suffering from low popularity levels in the United States, but the shift in the American position was several months ago, especially after the emergence of the ISIL in Iraq. The West realized then that Egypt is confronting terrorism alone. We focused during our demonstration (at the UN headquarters) on writing in English that Egypt and Sisi are fighting terrorism.
President Sisi was going to attend the second conference of the Egyptian-American Committee as Egyptian Consul in New York confirmed, but he could not attend because he had a sudden meeting, which confirms Sisi's belief in the importance of unified Egyptian efforts abroad to create a lobby in the US.
Al-Masry: How can we have an Egyptian lobby in the US as strong as the Jewish one?
I have been working on it for a long time and thank God in recent years, especially after the revolution of 30 June there have been positive responses from the Egyptians here. I sent letters to President Obama before and I got a call from National Security Adviser to the White House and the US State Department asking about the reality of events in Egypt.
Al-Masry: What were the letters you sent to President Obama after Rabaa and al-Nahda sit-ins dispersal?
I sent my letters as an American citizen. The first letter on 8 July last year in which I expressed rejection of the bias of the American administration towards the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsy without taking into account the will of millions of Egyptians. I wrote to him as follows: "As an American citizen, I ask you to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group."
On 23 July last year I sent a letter to President Obama again where I said it is impossible to trust the Muslim Brotherhood, as the group turned against the American government after endorsing the group.
I published two ads in the New York Times and the Herald Tribune where I objected to describing the Muslim Brotherhood as peaceful demonstrators because they assaulted dozens of churches and public institutions. I also sent two letters to John McCain following his visit to Egypt.  
Al-Masry: Does the Egyptian-Russian rapprochement concern the US?
Riad: Definitely, especially after the obvious convergence. Though the American administration does not show it, but Obama's insistence on meeting the president at his residence and then circulating that Sisi was the one who requested the meeting stresses the importance of Egypt to the US.
Al-Masry: You mentioned that you work on forming a lobby of congressmen to support Egypt?
Riad: There is already a pro-Egypt lobby of 14 congressmen who visited Egypt and met with Sisi. They called for backing Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood and the army against terrorism.
Al-Masry: Why do some human rights organizations back the Muslim Brotherhood and issue reports against the Egyptian state?
Riad: Although we are on the right side, we sometimes do not know how to reflect the real image.
In addition, some organizations receive funds from countries like Qatar and others. 
There are public relations firms in the United States hired from the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood to improve their image. But I did some personal effort in this field and succeeded to have the former Pentagon spokesperson join our public relations team to improve Egypt's image.
Al-Masry: Do you agree on a reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?
Riad: There is no way to reconciliate with a group that committed crimes against the community and homeland.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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