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Future of Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood managed to maintain its organizational existence since it was established in 1928, by late Hasan Al-Banna. Throughout eight decades, it has managed to exist as a religious movement as well as a political and social organization. This, on one hand, helped it to be sufficiently strong to be distinguished from other political powers, but also made it weak and feeble in some other ways.
|Wednesday, June 13,2007 15:41|
The Muslim Brotherhood managed to maintain its organizational existence since it was established in 1928, by late Hasan Al-Banna. Throughout eight decades, it has managed to exist as a religious movement as well as a political and social organization. This, on one hand, helped it to be sufficiently strong to be distinguished from other political powers, but also made it weak and feeble in some other ways.
The Muslim Brotherhood is similar to other Egyptian political movements; it was established during the monarchy and in a semi-liberal era. It clashed with the government during President Abd Al-Nasser"s era, was state-friendly during President Sadats" era, and tended to fluctuate in its relationship with President Mubarak; however, the relationship was based on partial elimination, just like the case during the era of President `Abd Al-Nasser. Moreover, it has been outlawed for most of its history- since 1954 until present time (i.e. more than half a century).
The Muslim Brotherhood has continued to be both a witness and a party in the political and cultural dispute in Egypt and the Arab countries, throughout different historical periods; Egypt during the monarchy and during the three eras of the republic. This dispute was about issues of identity, cultural affiliation, the relationship between religion – on one hand- and politics, the East and the West on the other hand, as well as the future and heritage.
The Muslim Brotherhood had a flexible political and ideological reference that gave it a comprehensive conception of Islam. This conception allowed members of the Muslim Brotherhood to be politicians if they wanted, callers for good behavior if they wished, preachers on the pulpits, parliamentary members, Sufis, or revolutionists. Moreover, some of its leaders were conservatives like Hasan Al-Hudibi, or radical strugglers like Sayyid Qutb.
The Muslim Brotherhood has experienced all these stages; every stage was marked by tribulation more than victory. Therefore, in this study we are not only going to shed light on the status quo of the Muslim Brotherhood at the time being, but we will also see its future. This is especially relevant because the peaceful Islamic movements, topped by the Muslim Brotherhood, may join with the process of democracy in Egypt and the Arab world, like what happened in some Arab countries, except Egypt.
Attempting to study the Muslim Brotherhood experience raises some important questions, which give compound importance to the process of analyzing the reality of the Muslim Brotherhood:
The first question pertains to the issue of stability and change in the Islamic political discourse. Also, the exceptional structure of the holy discourse that isolates it from the social environment and current political issues may be questioned?
The experience of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with other Islamic movements, from Morocco to Afghanistan and from Egypt to Turkey, shows that the discourse is neither closed nor exceptional, and that it does not lack any defects that may prevent it from freely developing or handling democratic issues. The practice of the Muslim Brotherhood in this field- since 1928 until present time- shows how this speech has changed and that it has never been removed from every day issues.
The second question is related to the nature of this change in the Muslim Brotherhood"s discourse. Also, it can be considered a change towards a democratic openness and an acceptance of the rules of political pluralism, or it can be considered a change towards rejecting democracy and political pluralism?
Here, it is difficult to say that the Muslim Brotherhood has changed to a total adoption of the values of democracy. Actually, the Muslim Brotherhood has fully adopted its means and procedures, and has made use of the small space of democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood has preserved the rules of peaceful political laws, and believes in democracy as a political means more than a value or political concept; this does not mean that they have rejected all their values.
Generally, the Muslim Brotherhood tends to distinguish between Islam as a religion and a Divine message, which has principles that organize the way of worship and the way to controlling people"s behaviors and dealings, and between democracy which is a system of rule, a mechanism for participation and a concept that has many positive aspects. Thus, Islam has its own civilized project, and democracy, while taking part in a different civilized project. This may be the reason that made the Muslim Brotherhood believe, on the theoretical and practical level, in the democratic means to reach power without adopting some of its values that the Muslim Brotherhood sees as contradictory to Islamic values and principles.
We can say that the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood towards issues of democracy varied from one age to another. In the 1930s, it rejected democracy as a priciple, considering it as a product of the Western civilization; however, it accepted it sometimes as a mechanism for a specific political action.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Muslim Brotherhood was a revolutionary movement. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Muslim Brotherhood paid close attention to the issues of respecting democracy and human rights in the Egyptian society. Moreover, it effectively participated in the political campaigns that launched by Egyptian opposition groups when facing any government aggression related with democracy or citizens" rights to express themselves peacefully.
The social and political experience of the Movement during this age contributed to their democratic openness to other political powers, and in paying attention to a new political agenda that asserted respect for the rules of democracy and freedom of expression.
The other political powers complained about the Muslim Brotherhood, considering it an individual trend that is not inclined to social work, and depends on its strong organizational power and popularity. Additionally, the Movement offered its initiative for reform in 2004 separately, without consulting other political powers; thus, this step led to increased doubts about its individuality.
The third question pertains to the continual linking between the Islamic political trend and backwardness and violence. Many Egyptian secular intellectuals believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is synonymous to underdevelopment and narrow-mindedness and that it rejects modernism; moreover, it is deeply indulged in its pssivity, and it opposes arts, creativity, culture, and intellectuals. In fact, the Egyptian experience in the 1990s has proved that those who waged wars against intellectuals, artists, and creative people were from those who may be called "Sheikhs of darkness", who are either employees in official Islmic institutions or are "independent Sheikhs" who were miles away from the experience of Islamic political trends, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood.
This does not mean that the Muslim Brotherhood doesn"t back arts and artists, or that it at the head of those who support freedom of expression and the creativity of artists. In addition, the Movement is far removed from the campaigns of filing lawsuits against intellectuals, men of letters, and poets in the Egyptian courts, and those that threatened to kill them. This stance was really due to the Movement"s interaction with social and political cases; as the political mind of the Movement and its modern organizational structure meant that they did not consider the issue of sueing malicious intellectuals in Egypt to be a top priority of struggle in a society full of social and political problems.
Now, we can say that the three previous questions that examine the history of the Muslim Brotherhood since its establishment represent a call to some compound phenomena concerning the discourse and politics of the movement. When examining the Movement"s discourse, we discover the extent of religious, political, and social aspects. Also, it contributed to recognizing the priorities of the Movement. Certainly, the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1930s was a religious movement along with large-scale activities in politics. In the 1950s, it was a revolutionary movement; but in the 1980s, 1990s, and the new millennium, the Movement became a political movement, without scraping its method of Da`wah and preaching.
There is still a contradiction between the general discourse that the Muslim Brotherhood excelled in, and the detailed program and vision which it prefers not to delve deeply in. Also, there is a difference of experience among the Movement"s generations. On one hand, the older generation- which joined the Movement in the 1940s and was detained in the 1950s and 1960s inclined to a discourse of generalization and to moral and religious discourse. On the other hand, the generation of the 1970s was purely political and had a strong effect and activity in Egyptian universities in the 1970s and 1980s; this generation clearly appeared in the parliamentary elections of 2005.
In this study we seek to understand the actual situation of the Muslim Brotherhood. This answer will be free of the exaggerations of the media, aiming to know the actual potentials of the Movement and its ability to become a political organization and a party if the Egyptian regime takes serious steps towards political and democratic reform.
In this way, the study will be divided into three main parts: the first part will cover the historical experience of the Muslim Brotherhood; this experience is divided into two main stages: (1) the founders" stage before the July Revolution in 1952, and (2) the stage of members who advocated a state of isolation and inactivity, which began since the war in Palestine in 1948 and lasted until the end of President Sadat"s era. The second part will deal with the actual and present political, social, and religious situation of the Movement. It will also handle the conditions that the Movement may accept to turn from being a political/religious organization to a political party in the full sense of the word. The third part will cover the future of the Muslim Brotherhood and the expected scenarios related to the future, and the circumstances which may enable the Muslim Brotherhood to be a legitimate political party not posing a threat to democracy. Does the matter of respecting democracy and its principles depend on the Muslim Brotherhood alone, or does it also depend on the nature of the political and legal regime?
First: Founders from the stage of the spread of Da`wah to the stage of clash and isolation
The Muslim Brotherhood is still considered the largest and the most effective trend in Egyptian political life. It is the most varying trend in terms of using different and compound strategies according to the circumstances of each age, as it succeeded in surviving in spite of the tribulations and crises it faced.
Throughout more than 80 years, the Movement led a life that was full of rich variation concerning generations, thought, and politics. It witnessed many aspects of argument both internally and externally. Also, the movement became very widespread, especially during the period of its establishment until the eruption of the war of Palestine in 1984. During this period, it was widespread throughout different Egyptian governorates and had a large number of members from villages and hamlets. However, it was not effective in the field of politics, in a way that contradicted its status. It was not in parliament during the semi-liberal era, as it did not have a single parliamentary member before 1952 Revolution.
The Movement clashed severely with Nasser"s regime; thus, many of its members were imprisoned, and then they isolated themselves and withdrew from participating in political life during the era of president Sadat, who set them free at the beginning of his era and detained them later.
1. The earlier members: Da`wah before politics
In 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded by Sheikh Hasan Al-Banna, in Ismailia. From that time until now, it has become one of the largest political organizations in Egypt and the Arab countries. This organization succeeded in using different tactics in conformity with each stage, varying between action and inaction, attack and defense, and debating and confrontation. It has showed special organizational potential that have enabled it to exist during the royal era and the republic stages.
Sometimes, I am so amazed at the reasons behind the survival and steadfastness of the Muslim Brotherhood until the present time, and at how the contemporary members coexist despite the difference in thoughts among the Movement"s generations.
The Muslim Brotherhood has retained its organizational structure for many reasons. The most outstanding reason is the nature of the structure formed by Sheikh Hasan Al-Banna in 1928. This organization has lasted and remained steadfast despite the assassination of Al-Banna, the founding father, more than half a century ago. The death of the Imam, on February 12th, 1949, did not end either his thought, or heritage in terms of ideology, organization, politics, and structure.
2. A group, not a party
Sheikh Hasan Al-Banna, along with the founding members, were committed to considering the organization as religious and not just a normal political party. This concept lasted throughout the first stage of forming the movement; but in the final stages, political interest emerged without neglecting the role of Da`wah. This new interest joined the religious aspect to form the current form of the Movement.
The late founder, Hasan Al-Banna, was keen to classify the Muslim Brotherhood in a general framework. He said, "O Brothers, you are not a charity, a political party, or an authority with limited aims. Rather, you are like the spirit which creeps into the heart of this nation; since it helps to revive the people with the Qur"an. You are a new light that should end the darkness by returning to Allah, and a constant voice that should call to Islam. Without excessiveness, you should feel that you will carry the burden, which was abandoned by most people."
The late `Umar Al-Tilmisani, the third Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1970s, emphasized the previous concepts upheld by Hasan Al-Banna. Responding to a question made by a Canadian newspaper about the opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood concerning allowing the government to publish the Movement"s magazine, Al-Da`wah, although it refused the matter of giving the Muslim Brotherhood the right to form a party, Al-Tilmisani said, "This question should be directed to the government. However, I would like to say that Al-Da`wah magazine started in the 1950s, and the government does not want to legalize the Movement again. As I have said before; the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic authority, not a normal party. We call for Islam, building and reform, not destruction and slander. Some people may not understand this noble way; however, we do not seek people"s satisfaction, but we aim to attain only the satisfaction of Allah, regardless of the consequences."
Hasan Al-Banna refused the idea of forming parties, and didn"t prefer it during pre 1952 stage. He believed that Islam does not allow pluralism or forming parties, as he said, "I believe that Islam is the religion of unity in everything; sincere intention, purity of hearts, true brotherhood, and sincere cooperation among all peoples to be a united nation. A united nation does not accept the system of forming parties. What will save it is the dismantling of all these parties, then forming a national authority to lead to success according to the teachings of the noble Qur"an."
3. Multi-forming and level movement
Some of the tactics we see nowadays is an expansion, to a considerable extent, of what was established by the late Hasan Al-Banna, especially his creedal and organizational views, since the 5th conference of the Movement in 1937. They depend on the attitudes and their antithesis at the same time, and on a very clear stance and very vague attitudes that can be used in some cases especially during times of crises.
The founders of the Muslim Brotherhood maintained a peaceful stance, and they renounced violence. However, there was another small branch, which inclined to use violence in some cases; this branch was known as "the Special Group". From this point, the choice of the Muslim Brotherhood to construct a huge and varying organization was not out of chance or eagerness to have a huge number of advocates; rather, it was an integrated view in terms of organizational structure and political understanding.
Opposite to the wider image - sometimes some people consider it ineffective - which portrayed the Movement, some specific ways and directions already existed to allow every member to play his role perfectly. The Muslim Brotherhood observed the structure of their organization on compound and very precise bases which contained many levels and each had its special program to teach religion and doctrine. Thus, this distinguished the Movement from other political and religious organizations.
There were three main dimensions that helped to distinguish the Muslim Brotherhood from others:
The first dimension pertains to the levels of the organization, as the Muslim Brotherhood was keen to achieve the process of recruiting on more than one level. This was mentioned clearly by Hasan Al-Banna when he wrote that it was necessary for the offices and formal authorities of the Movement to raise the members righteously and to qualify them to live in harmony with their principles. To achieve this end and purpose, joining the Movement should be on three levels:
However, there is a fourth level, that the founder - Sheikh Al-Banna - did not intentionally place with the previous three levels; it is "Jihad membership". Actually, it is not a general level; rather; it is devoted only to the "Active Brother" who proves his commitment to the previous duties before the Guidance Bureau (Al-Irshad). The duties of the Brother in this level are- in addition to the previous duties - adhering to the Sunnah and night Prayer, turning away from trivial and passing desires, abstaining from non-Islamic acts of worship and unauthentic dealings, financing the Guidance Bureau and the Da`wah Fund, allocating a sum in his will to the Movement, enjoining good and forbidding evil, carrying a copy of the Qur"an to remind him of his duties towards the Qur"an, and attending the education courses of the Guidance Bureau. Then, the member will be called Mujahid.
The hierarchy of recruitment inside the Movement is significant. Undoubtedly, there is a huge difference between developing the Junior Brother and the Active Brother on one side, and the Mujahid, on the other side. This difference already exists even if both kinds declared their loyalty to the same peaceful authority.
The second dimension pertains to the creedal formation of the members of the Movement. For instance, as the organization had various levels concerning recruitment, it also had various levels of formation. If we examined the monthly and weekly program of the Movement mentioned in the Fifth Conference of 1938, we will find that it expressed the compound view of the Muslim Brotherhood concerning the creedal construction of its members. The Guidance Bureau suggested that Brothers should allocate some days every month to execute the following program:
This peaceful, social, and moral activity goes side by side with another activity, which is more intensive, and represents the three weekly activities of the Brothers:
However, the Guide Bureau"s leaflet commented on the previous activity on that day, saying, "The Brothers should give more attention to this activity; as they should make a parade each week, or make a trip to visit neighboring cities to be a good example that may be followed by others. Thus, they may be rewarded by Allah.
The third dimension may be considered a practical implementation of the two previous dimensions, or as the real product of them. This dimension is represented in the dual trend of the special and the general, which ruled the Movement since 1938, immediately after the outbreak of the revolution and fighting in Palestine, until the end of Nasser"s age. Clearly, this duality was crystallized in "the general organization" and "the Special Group" that was called by those who were outside the Movement as "the secret apparatus".
Throughout a period of about eight years, the Movement managed to put the members of the Special Group aside, despite of their strictness in terms of creed, which was inconsistent with the majority of members. Mahmud Abd Al-Halim, a founder of the Special Group, said in his biography that the Special Group was ordered to be established in 1940, but the social and political changes following the outbreak of war in Palestine raised disputes among "the special cadre" and "the general cadre" of the Movement.
In the first volume of his book, Mahmud Abd al-Halim said that the program of the members of this group was based on:
Richard Mitchell, a US researcher, said that in late 1942 and early 1943, the group, which was known in the Muslim Brotherhood as "the Special Group" and for the others as "the secret apparatus", emerged. This time is more likely to be the start of this group. Members of the Movement set the time of the beginning of the Special Group to between 1930 and 1947. This clearly means that most members knew nothing about the Special Group.
Keeping secrets was a method adopted by this group concerning targets of the existing formations. Many members of the Special Group participated in the war of Palestine in 1948, which emphasized the military power of the Muslim Brotherhood. As for their activity inside the country, they bombed many places in Cairo, especially the places of Egyptian Jews.
Additionally, two members of the Special Group assassinated a famous judge called Al-Khazindar following his passing a ruling against a Brother who had attacked a British group in a night club. This operation raised violent reactions, since the two members were sentenced to penal servitude, and Hasan Al-Banna was imprisoned for some time, but he was set free due to lack of evidence.
During the same period, specifically in 1948, the Egyptian government discovered a secret store of weapons in Ismailia in the manor of Muhammad Farghali, the leader of the Movement"s battalions in Palestine. Also, in the same year, Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi Al-Nuqrashi was assassinated by a young member of the Special Group.
4. The lost battle with the Revolution
The Muslim Brotherhood continued in the same way after the 1952 revolution. In 1954, an attempt to assassinate `Abd Al-Nasser at the hands of one of the members of the Special Group emphasized to all political parties, even the Muslim Brotherhood itself, the independence of the Special Group from the body of the Movement. After this incident had taken place, six members of the movement were executed on December 9th in addition to the imprisoning thousands of members; the movement - as Richard Mitchell records - was completely defeated.
The incident revealed, on the one hand, the large variance between the Movement"s secret and general work. On the other hand, it emphasized the Movement"s inability to overcome its internal contradictions during times of crises and confrontation. This was a new experience which the members of the Movement at the semi-liberal time were not used to encounter. It seemed as if the ideological alternatives of the founding phase were designed to be applied efficiently during times of political tranquility, but failed to survive during phases of confrontation. These same alternatives could have-ironically speaking- contributed to creating an atmosphere of confrontation.
These new circumstances led to increasing the dispute within the Movement between the trend of reform and that of violence, even if both parties continued to remain within the Movement. From this moment on, the Movement started a phase of isolation that took on many forms until the assassination of President Al-Sadat in October, 1981.
The Movement did not carry out any political, social, or religious activities during the 1970s except for student activities inside Egyptian universities. In addition, this political isolation caused the formation of an ideological cocoon around the Movement, which put it behind an intellectual cordon that prevented the Movement from having any social interaction with the community.
The Muslim Brotherhood acted with indifference to the significant incidents that were taking place in Egypt at that time; they did not participate in the incidents of January 18-19th that broke out in protest against the high price hikes in key commodities. Furthermore, it did not comment on the incidents in the Movement"s magazine, i.e. Al-Da`wah. In other words, the Movement seemed isolated from any political or civil activity during the reign of President Al-Sadat.
It can be concluded that the "Unity and Cohesion" and "Obedience" speeches - adopted by Hasan Al-Banna during his leadership - failed to maintain the unity of the Muslim Brotherhood under the shade of major local and regional challenges.
Thus, the change that occurred in the construction of the political environment caused confusion in the organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, in spite of the success of the Muslim Brotherhood"s dualities that presented an organized structure, and which managed to satisfy both fanatic and reforming parties at the same time, while tempting Sufi and revolutionary parties as well to take part in political activities. Also, some of those who called for virtuous morals and were active on the social level attached their names to the Movement.
The efforts of Imam Al-Banna were successful in uniting all these dualities within one crucible to build a united political structure during the time of tranquility, like what happened from 1928 to 1948 (i.e. around two decades). Nevertheless, the political discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood failed to deliver its message in the same previous efficiency especially during the phases that witnessed clashes with the ruling authority when these reconciliatory dualities failed to maintain the unity and cohesion of the Movement.
Second: The modern Muslim Brotherhood - The beginnings of transformation and its limits
1. The crisis of the stagnant status of Islamic movements
It may be difficult to perceive one of the most remarkable manifestations of Islamic culture, political Islamic attitudes, as some stagnant historical texts do not change from one historical period to another. It may also be difficult to confine these attitudes within some ideologies that prevailed in an era or stage which disregarded other epochs and stages. It is certain that contemporary Islamic movements, since they started in early 20th century, contained moderate parties and extremist ones (i.e. peaceful patrons and other violent ones). In addition, their political speeches were not the same throughout all stages; they changed in accordance with the prevailing political and social circumstances.
Some people believe that the contemporary Islamic movements are fundamental in both their ideological and theoretical basis, and that the political aspect merely dominates the intellectual, religious, and cultural sides. Therefore, they described them as being more than fundamentalists; as these movements share common features with fundamentalism, and go even deeper to be involved in the political arena seeking their justification in the first image of Islam - that of the Prophet"s Companions.
Indeed, it is difficult to take it for granted that these fundamentals are isolated from the social ambience, and that the political dimension can never be changed so that it might influence many fundamental aspects of the phenomenon, that would place it under the shade of democracy. Herein lies the importance of understanding the peaceful Islamic dialogue taking place in Egypt, represented in the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has reacted with more than one political experience that the country has undergone since the move from the monarchy to the republican model. Through the Brotherhood"s reaction, we can clearly identify the extent of transformation that has taken place and the consistency that its dialogue has witnessed.
Islamic texts, including their codes of values and ideological speeches, represent the cultural dimension of reading the Islamic phenomena. This dimension affects, and is affected by, the surrounding social environment. Consequently, under the shade of a political democratic environment, we can look back over this "cultural text" in a manner that highlights its stand as positive elements of democratic evolution. In other words, the cultural dimension can also change, even though this might take a longer period of time than economic or political dimensions. It can be given life even if it is done by extracting it from traditional culture. On the other hand, the interaction between the cultural and political dimensions is historical in nature and this makes it difficult to perceive the cultural dimension as having constant value that does not change, and also to ignore the social dimension at the expense of the cultural aspect. In spite of the dissimilar nature of both and the dissimilarity of the mechanism that dominates the change within each of them, it is difficult to claim that there is an unchangeable cultural frame.
Ergo, the Islamic culture and civilization, can be a contributing factor in the democratic turnover in Egypt and the entire Arab world. We can also imagine, in the near future, the existence of "A Democratic Islamic Current" wherein there is no contradiction between Islamic culture and democratic civil practices.
In this way, the daily propaganda circulated by secular elements that demand the so-called "Islamic tyrannical powers" to be uprooted, will become meaningless. That is not because we adopt Islamic discourse, but because we are simply facing a phenomenon that is capable - due to the specialty of its cultural heritage - of surviving, taking on various shapes, and being reproduced many times over. It can also take on different shapes according to the age and consequences that prevail.
2. The transformation of the Muslim Brotherhood
It is rare nowadays to find an event, whether major or minor, in the Arab or Islamic world, that the Muslim Brotherhood does not witness by means of opinion or fatwa. It is also rare for them not be active in a syndicate, political body, or student activity. The Muslim Brotherhood even participated in the debates around unethical issues like obscene scenes in movies and books that were considered disrespectful to religion. Finally, the Muslim Brotherhood achieved a record in being hounded by the executive authority throughout its history. It is true that this phenomenon reached its peak after the assassination of Ahmad Fahmi Al-Nuqrashi Pasha- an Egyptian ex-prime minister- at the hands of some members of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1948, and later, after the attempted assassination of Gamal `Abd Al-Nasser in 1954. Afterwards, the security police increased their campaigns against the Movement.
Nevertheless, the 1980s witnessed a new phase in the history of the evolution of the Movement, when it started to involve itself in parliamentary elections, and actively participated in the syndicate elections; in addition to its progressive role in student unions in Egyptian universities since the 1970s. The members of the Muslim Brotherhood, all throughout the 1980s, can be considered as clear evidence of the evolution and democratic transparency witnessed by one of the most expanded political Muslim movements in the entire Arab nation.
The 1980s can be considered the most mature stage in the course of the Movement in Egypt. Although the "1980s Muslim Brotherhood" retained the same complex mentality mentioned previously, they offered new dualities that differed from those of peace and violence that prevailed in the first four decades of the Movement until the mid 1960s. The followers of Hasan Al-Banna cut off relations with all sorts of violence at the beginning of the 1970s, changing the peaceful technique which the founding members followed most of the time and creating an organized body upon which the Special Group was reconstructed.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the members involved in politics went deep into parliamentary and syndicate fields. They joined the legislative elections of 1984 and 1987, achieving satisfactory results. They also managed, on the democratic level, to control more than one syndicate in Egypt during the 1980s.
With the beginning of the millennium, they returned to make their existence manifest in the lawyers" syndicate; moreover, two members won the elections in the journalists" syndicate. Throughout that time, the Muslim Brotherhood managed to control the illusion of handling the relationship between their interpretations of the Holy texts and the demands of socio-political life. For the first time, the Muslim Brotherhood formed a coalition with another political party in the elections; this was what happened in 1984 when they allied with their historic rival - Al-Wafd Party. In addition, in 1987, they formed the backbone of what is called the "Islamic Coalition"; then they joined the legislative elections of 2000 and 2005 as independent candidates.
In the elections of 1984, Egyptian citizens voted for seven members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1987, about 35 members won the elections out of 60 members of parliament from the Islamic Coalition. In 2000, the Muslim Brotherhood members reached 17, then jumped to 88 in 2005.
Throughout this period, the Muslim Brotherhood managed to - or had to - acquire new skills due to their well-known coalition with other political parties according to the codes of Republican Work law; they comprehended the meaning of "the people have the upper hand" and "Nation and constitution rule over" which made them emphasize the fact that their agenda is a civil political one having an Islamic reference.
The Muslim Brotherhood managed to control- through democratic channels- some of the most important syndicates; they went through new experiences as a result of dealing with other political parties. Some of the members had the tendency then to formulate some moderate concepts; such as, accepting the other, in spite of the fact that they practically defeated this "other", but they did so through elections and democratic channels, which is another modern phenomenon.
It may be difficult to believe that the 1980s Muslim Brotherhood entirely moved towards accepting democracy and political variety on both the practical and theoretical levels. However, it can never be doubted that politics with the meanings of peace and practice occupied a large space in the minds of the Muslim Brotherhood. This contradicts what took place during the monarchical regime when the Muslim Brotherhood gained their publicity from social activities, calling for religious values and codes of ethics far removed from the modern concept of politics.
On the other side of the coin represented in preparation for violence, it is crystal clear that the Muslim Brotherhood outgrew this stage a long time ago both theoretically and practically. It is hard to compare the Special Group of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1940s of this century to the parliamentary and syndicate sections in the 1980s. The political priorities are entirely different together with the organizational structure that led to acts of violence in the 1940s and 1950s. Their organizational structure differs from that designed for the votes of physicians, pharmacists, lawyers, engineers, and journalists in the different syndicates. Nevertheless, the dilemma that really faced the Muslim Brotherhood is the conflict between what is sacred and what is civil - what is political and what is ethical in a manner that makes it difficult to perceive the Movement as a completely political one.
Although it can be said that politics occupied a large area of the Muslim Brotherhood"s discourse at the expense of sacred discourse, we can never say that the members began to deal with the issue as completely political in nature. Most of those called "the old guards" and the members who joined the Movement only as a means of reform on the ethical level with no political background, still deal with the matter in a strictly religious way, illustrating that they only express religion, and that whoever disagrees with them disagrees with religion. They do not, however, resort to raise arms against those who disagree with them as other jihad movements do.
Consequently, overcoming this misconception between what is religious and what is political does not necessarily mean breaking the link between Islam and politics, or that the Muslim Brotherhood has given up their Islamic reference. Conversely, this means that the interpretation of Islam is comprehended by the Muslim Brotherhood, but not made obligatory on others by the Movement. Therefore, this sort of interpretation can be rejected by the others without them being considered apostates.
Herein lies the problem of the members of the millennium; they fail- and perhaps do not want to- make this distinction between what is religious and what is political in a manner that makes them perceived as a political civil Movement that tries- in a peaceful manner- to attain authority according to the codes of democracy. It is not only a preaching Movement that aims at gathering people around the teachings of Islam even if it uses modern institutions like syndicates and parliaments to reach that religious and ethical goal.
The Muslim Brotherhood considered that their slippery position towards the concept of political identity was simply due to their being rejected as a legal political party according to certain legal regulations that rule all civil political parties in Egypt. Consequently, they considered that their demand to make a distinction between their political and religious speeches, concerns the political environment, and not the Muslim Brotherhood.
Their care concerning the interference between political and religious speech seemed a sort of "protection" for self-defense; they depict any opposition against them as a transgression against Islam, and sometimes against pious Muslims. This helps them to win the sympathy of public opinion.
3. Maintaining the organizational and generational coexistence within the Movement
The Muslim Brotherhood managed to retain the cohesion of their organizational structure in spite of the passing of long periods of time. They also made use of the way the "Founding Members" started the Movement through their various levels and the experiences which they acquired. The Muslim Brotherhood members encompassed, in the first phases, some compound levels that allowed the Movement to attract different kinds of members. Most of these members gathered on a preaching peaceful ground that calls society to adhere to the teachings of Islam while some other members gathered on the ground of jihad that was built upon the members" indulgence in the "jihad level" so as to join the "Special Group" that was responsible for all acts of violence since the war in Palestine broke out until the end of `Abd Al-Nasser"s reign.
The Muslim Brotherhood interpreted this mentality and built a structure having various levels and setups. Their Movement was also dominated by some dualities that sometimes embraced the vision and that of its opposite. It is true that these dualities changed positively from time to time; however, the continuance of this change as an output for these changing dualities remained short-lived for all the ages of the Movement.
Despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood ceased using violence as a technique that was expressed by the Special Group in the war of Palestine controlling the Movement"s work since `Abd Al-Nasser"s assassination attempt in 1954 until the late 1960s, they do have this "historic advantage", and have a structural organization with many levels and a larger capacity to adopt different ideas reflected by the wings factions and the various generational experiences within the movement which have by now a general tendency towards coexistence with the internal variance. This coexistence with the internal variance is credible in spite of the strictness of the hierarchical system that sometimes reflects the "obedience system" rather than the "democratic one".
The Movement retained its ability of possessing a structure that has various levels and setups. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Movement had two parallel bodies: a general one that embraces all members, and the Special Group that was prepared for acts of violence. It, however, turned in the 1980s into a Movement that is predominated by two visions on both levels of comprehension and structure: one cares about preaching and the other about politics. The intersection between them both took place many times which gave the impression of a Movement that is partially religious and partially political; this also led to allowing the Movement to have enough space so as to coexist with many contradictions. This coexistence was tackled successfully by some members like `Umar Al-Tilmisani, Mustafa Mash-hur, Hamid Abu Al-Nasr, and Mahmud `Izzat and with others like Khayrat Al-Shatir, Muhammad Habeeb, `Abd Al-Mun`im Abu Al-Futouh, `Isam Al-`Iryan, and `Ali `Abd Al-Fattah for more than twenty-five years in a manner that arouses astonishment at least because of the political mess that ruled Egypt at that time and the fact that it was full of schisms.
Indeed, the abilities of the Muslim Brotherhood did not only lie in embracing all generational experiences - and sometimes contradictions within. These abilities lie, basically, in their talent to comprehend each stage that the Movement was going through, and to formulate a discourse capable of affecting such a stage. This is what happened in the 1980s when the Muslim Brotherhood offered a precise political discourse expressing a thorough ideology. Their slogan in the legislative elections of 1987 was "Islam is the key solution" so as to confront the formal and secular speeches. After the dissolution of the major ideologies in the world, and after such ideologies failed to affect Egypt politically in the 1990s, the Muslim Brotherhood was keen to join the legislative elections of 2005 in a more diplomatic fashion - and less ideological except concerning their general slogan "Islam is the key solution". They expressed clear organizational efficiency offering social services for citizens as alternatives to the governmental mess!
The Muslim Brotherhood tried hard to formulate a suitable and effective discourse for every historic stage. When they decided to gather around great numbers for the initiative organization in the 1930s, they formulated a general speech that blended both ethics and social activities in order that all believers would agree on one word. If some members wanted to stand against the authority by means of violence, we find that these same peaceful members are capable, in a smooth manner, of breaking out an uprising and maybe carrying arms. Finally, when the Movement wanted to affect the open gate policy in the 1980s, they offered a pacifist speech that strictly rejected violence and that managed to completely change the organizational structure of the Muslim Brotherhood into a pacifist one that created a balance between what is sacred and what is political. In the end, they managed to turn the violence speech into a memory after just forty years.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been governed by a cultural ideology since the very beginning of the Movement that put society, not authority, on top of the agenda. The Movement considered this ideology the only means to attain authority. That is, the Movement perceived the latter as part and parcel of society, not an enemy.
Such a kind of understanding led members to find their way in communicating with both the ruler and the ruled. It also led to overcoming the "revolutionary" notion that noble striving is to stand against authority through a coup regardless of the circumstances of society. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood focused, from the very beginning, on the needs of society, not on waging war against authority even if their ultimate goal was to change it. That is to say, their political culture encouraged members to interact with society whether they were governed or those who govern. Their role in mosques and chapels went side by side with their roles in syndicates and the parliament. That is what made them more tranquil in dealing with authority. Originally, the Muslim Brotherhood did not receive training since the revolution is going to take place tomorrow or because they shall resort to exile so as to rule. They considered reform as a slow process that can be accomplished through means of preaching. Therefore, the conflict between generations within the Movement was not dominated by hastiness or radical decrees that might end in a split between generations. It was an accumulative process in which the middle generation made use of the experiences of the elder generations while the latter did not consider new suggestions to be negative. Ergo, the preaching culture remained a middle way between different attitudes unlike the revolutionary culture which never allowed any space to breathe between generations or different wings; the best proof to this fact is the schism that occurred in the left wing.
Being keen on holding onto "the generality of discourse" helped retain organizational consistency – but not necessarily the rest of political power or the process of democratic reform. It is difficult to comment on this kind of speech as to how it determines a clear agenda of political work, because it intertwines what is sacred and what is political, the religious and the social; working beneath the dome of parliament and under the minarets of mosques. Moreover, answering detailed questions about the civil nature of the political system and the rights of communists, Christians, and secularists to achieve authority by means of democratic elections representing the people"s will, as well as supporting litterateurs and artists– like the visit of the eminent member of the Movement, `Abd Al-Mun`im Abu Al-Futouh, to the worldwide famous litterateur, Naguib Mahfouzh, in a meeting that provoked many of the Movement"s members - is still vague. These questions could stir dissention within the Movement.
Despite the fact that the Movement has recently become more liberal towards democracy and respecting human rights, and the rights of women and minorities, it is still difficult to say that it has changed to the clear distinction between the political and religious domain. However, the Movement has continued to preserve this domain within a frame of general language that is usually characterized by refraining from providing details similar to what took place during the last parliamentary elections, in which the Movement used the slogan: "Islam is the key solution".
It seems that this projected criticism towards the Movement has saved it from dissociations considering that providing details will mean more disagreements. Thus, the Movement has been keen on using "general speech" while reading the political environment realistically: That it does not offer a completely democratic horizon that could infuse the Movement into the political process. Therefore, we find that the more liberal middle generation on the whole, perfectly realizes that his political thesis is beyond the Movement for there is no chance of an Islamic democratic party being accepted. In addition, political parties have suffered an internal collapse and semi-total isolation from the public. Therefore, the restriction of staying within the Movement and preserving its unity does not only go back to self conviction, but also to complete awareness of the nature of the political circumstances that are characterized by absolute stagnancy, and the inability of merging liberal and left-winged factions that belong to this generation, into the political arena. This also applies, and to a greater extent, to the middle generation of the Movement which possesses a real capacity for action. The initiation requires a democratic system so that such abilities could be employed for the good of the community, and could be merged within the process of democratic reform.
Thus, a deep schism of the Movement is unimaginable during this stage. It could only be imagined if the political circumstances changed and the Movement was allowed to have a legitimate party. In this case, it would be necessary to set a clear distinction between both religious generalities and detailed political perspectives. This could be interpreted in a division between the middle generation, characterized by political formation and an Islamic background, as well as a current consisting mainly of old ones characterized by a conservative religious formation and an Islamic ideological scope ascribed with generality and comprehensiveness.
4- The Muslim Brotherhood and the 2005 parliamentary elections
Eighteen years after the Muslim Brotherhood innovated the slogan "Islam is the key solution" during the elections of 1987, and after many thought that their progressive civil mottos since 2000 elections had settled their ideological attitude as a civil political Movement rather than a religious one aiming only or fundamentally at the revival of religion and the preservation of the principles of Islam and its teachings, they went back during the last elections to adopt their comprehensive slogan "Islam is the key solution". The usage of this slogan was a significant drawback from their previous portrayals and it represented a strategic understanding of the role of the ideological reference - even the religious - into the mold of the political perspective of any current political work.
The main problem with putting this slogan forward does not only or fundamentally seem to exist because it is religious in nature. This perception was mentioned by the government – because the nominators of the National Party and their officials were among the many who upheld religious mottos and slogans during the last elections, sometimes in a manner that surpassed even the Muslim Brotherhood; however, the real problem in this slogan was that it is evasive. It is so because it turns the attention of the voter towards a total value – general and comprehensive - whereas the practical reality has proved to be incapable of solving the real problems as it is detached within a contrived political program. For "Islam is the key solution" was the Taliban"s slogan in Afghanistan, or using Fahmi Huweidi"s expression "The soldiers of Allah in the wrong battlefield" and no one doubted their true loyalty to fundamental Islam or even their pure religious intentions; however, they made disastrous political deductions that pushed Afghanistan back to the middle ages. Could we also consider that the failure of the Sudanese Islamists (the friends of the Muslim Brotherhood) who ruled in a revolutionary manner, and who played a negative role in the progress of democracy, as the failure of the slogan "Islam is the key solution", or is it due to a limited political experience that lacked democratic and diversified dimensions?
In reality, the era of general slogans and references has disappeared from the political life of the entire world, east and west. For no one in a democratic community says that "Socialism is the solution" or "Liberalism is the solution". Nevertheless, what is posed is how one party or current of Socialism or Liberalism can be inspired by certain political thought for advancement and progress.
It seems that the Muslim Brotherhood presumed that their procession from an "Islamic reference" will guarantee spontaneous success in dealing with reality"s problems as a result of adopting this reference and slogan disregarding the content it contains. So, putting forward the slogan "Islam is the key solution" reflects the outweighing of the general motto that does not present true solutions above the detailed slogans that would represent solid attempts to solve real problems.
In fact, the idea of a civil current with an Islamic reference is being basically disadvantaged by the slogan "Islam is the key solution, because this slogan is related to the Muslim Brotherhood"s reference, which we previously assured to be their right, as it is the right of any political movement to have its own referential source. However, the slogans of the political battlefield must be civil and political even though they might be derived from this Islamic reference; slogans that would examine the Muslim Brotherhood"s ability to be politically mobilized, of struggling for political and economic reform, and abolishing corruption. For within the Islamic and world history, general dogmas and ideologies have never been applied by angels or persons that do not err because they are Muslim or Christian believers. When this happened and those who thought themselves to be guardians of political and religious doctrines, the results were disastrous and were witnessed by the whole world, starting from eastern European countries, the former Soviet Union and eventually Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, and other tyrannical systems.
The Muslim Brotherhood has committed a mistake by raising the slogan "Islam is the key solution" again returning to a way of political understanding that has vanished from the world, especially that everyone, including the Muslim brotherhood members themselves, know that the slogan "Islam is the key solution" is not a solution. Hence, the solution is that the Muslim Brotherhood adopts a modern political, social, and cultural vision which they would be able to defend and present in a democratic manner to the public.
It is certain that the future of the Muslim Brotherhood is tied to their ability to balance their organizational abilities to their reality, and to never enter into an ambiguous endeavor to become the most prominent part of constructing a wide current of reform including a sector of the country"s pioneers along with allowing the new reform opposition, not a mid-stand between all parties.
5- A political party for the Muslim Brotherhood: delayed scenarios
It is decisively accepted that the Muslim Brotherhood may change to a political party according to the bases of democratic and party multiplicity, and it is absolutely accepted to be on an equal footing with other political powers like Secularization and Communism in establishing independent parties. This is so even if the society presents an Islamic program that obtains its legitimacy according to the will of citizens. This shall be a great step towards backing up the democratic experience in Egypt and it will enable the Muslim Brotherhood to bring about a separation between the two fields; the political and the religious into actual practice.
This progress will not be made without allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to exist legitimately and legally in accordance to specific rules to practice the political game that will decisively determine the process of involving the Muslim Brotherhood as a pacifist trend in the democratic development process. However, it will make the process of separating the sacred from the political one of its conditions, or rather one of the results of attaining legal protection for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The process of merging one of the greatest Muslim political factions- the Muslim Brotherhood- into the operation of democratic development requires a theoretical effort from intellectuals and researchers. In addition, it needs political freedom to elucidate the fact that accomplishing democratic development in the Arab world will not happen without solving the problems of political Islam in general, and the problems of the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. This cannot be achieved through various invented methods of quelling that proved to be an utter failure throughout three quarters of a century to solve this problem.
The importance of the Brotherhood model is due to their keenness to express it in a modern form. One could say that the expression of this model was a reflection of the inner side. It proved to have great potential to influence the political and social factors of the Egyptian society. On the other hand, other legitimate parties and human rights societies had limited influence if compared to the high potentials of the pacifist Islamic political current.
At this point, merging the pacifist political Islamic currents into the process of democratic development is not only a solution for a 75 year old problem but also merging a huge bloc of people inside this process with its different mechanisms, like positive participation in elections belonging to a political movement and showing respect for voting results. This will occur by means of full-fledged democratization of the mother society and the internal foundations thereof, whether they are syndicates or political institutions.
The process of modernizing the pacifist political Islamic current is an attempt to bring the internal power- the major political current in Egypt and the Middle East- to adopt the basis and concepts of democracy. Consequently, the expectation of the democratic political and social context of being the decisive factor in influencing religious interpretations of the Muslim Brotherhood shall be the best way to comprehend the evolution of the Islamic phenomena, in addition to the historical importance of merging Islamists into the process of democratic development.
Accordingly, merging peaceful political Islamic currents into the process of democratic development means the emergence of "Islamic Democratic" projects that are able to face internal confrontations of despotism and corruption represented in the policy of the current US administration and the practices of the Israeli occupation in Palestine. All this is done in a peaceful democratic atmosphere based on international legitimacy to resist these policies. This atmosphere is currently restricted to the US administration that has monopolized it by its bloody thirsty means.
6- The Muslim Brotherhood"s responsibility to establish a civil democratic arena
Great responsibility is laid on the Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, when they are merged into the process of democratic development, which is not related to their plans; whether they believe in democracy or not, as some people say. So, this phobia must be wiped out from all political powers whether leftist or rightist. This matter must be in accordance with bringing the Islamic current towards a political civil performance on the basis of legal and constitutional rules. These rules admit no religious interpretations which may give the Islamic current a successful image compared to others as it is an "Islamic current". For example, we may find some leaders or members of peaceful Islamic currents considering any one who contradicts him as contradicting Islam. This may result in a wave of suspicion, doubt and arrogance over other political currents that may criticize him as a way of criticizing figures that represent Islam.
In fact, the crisis of superiority over other currents is due to the view that the Islamic current sees itself as "the guardian of Islam". This made the Islamic current unaware of the fact that these principles have nothing to do with everyone"s personal choice, and choosing the current should not be allowed with any special or exceptional immunity, as it is a matter of mere worldly motives based on the faculties of political and economic development regardless of the reference and the intellectual basis.
The question is: can Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood be not only a democratic current, but also an effective force towards accomplishing the process of political development? The answer, according to our point of view, is positive, because the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate political party and as religious/political group- as what is currently taking place in the political and partisan process, indicates a parallel shift in the group’s discourse. This may result in inner dissensions among its affiliates. This dissension may take place between two trends; the one that remains in the frame of the old concepts of the group that vacillate between preaching and political society, and moving towards politics without seeking recourse to what is sacred; mingling the preaching religious activity with that of the work of partisan and political activity.
Due to the political inertia in Egypt and the absence of political class and may be politics itself in addition to the regime"s inability to merge new generations- not individuals- from different political trends: liberals, Islamists or leftists, it has become difficult to merge the Muslim Brotherhood into the political democratic game. This heralds the continuity of the current political inertia and excludes the political role and the political cadre from public activities. This is according to the interests of bureaucratic mechanisms that classify the leading notables from the administration without bearing the least political expertise of formulation.
This action makes legitimate partisan powers to lose their efficiency, and confined opposition parties to their headquarters, so that they may not compete with the ruling party that presented a "role model" in an atmosphere of the absence of internal democracy. Moreover, the presence of "eternal leaders" for the said party in their posts affected negatively the performance of other parties who failed completely in the last elections.
The time is now ripe to renew the legitimate legal arena, and make legal partisan power elucidate the power of reality, not the contrary. The legitimate arena included a power that is practically absent, while the banned arena included an effective and influential power, especially the Muslim Brotherhood; this situation threatens the future of legitimacy and democracy.
No one can imagine establishing a real democratic project without merging the points of view of movements of peaceful political Islam. Therefore, merging the Muslim Brotherhood into the process of democratic development means actually merging politics with daily life and the resurgence of other civil parties, among which is the ruling national party. These parties shall be keen to recruit the best political figures and develop their discourse to face the active Brotherhood cadres in the political arena.
Perhaps, the achievements of some currents of Islamist origin in Turkey were attributed to the complete separation between political and religious domains. Since the only standard for evaluating the success of Islamists is their economic and political achievements, not their religious slogans; the final judgment is based on their achievements, not on the slogan or ideological reference.
The example of the Turkish model is that a large number of supposed secular powers became the least democratic and became more conservative in joining the European Union. These societies were the ones who struggled to prove the European face of Turkey. But now, the powers who adopt Islamist references are more keen on democratic reform and are more enthusiastic to join the European Union and adopt European standards regarding democracy and respecting human rights. Now, this democratic environment in Turkey, even if it is not perfect, represents a decisive factor in the Islamists change to a "Conservative democratic" current as they call themselves. Moreover, it recruited all social and political potentials for this current to achieve democratic progress, while others froze behind the whims of secular slogans.
The most important thing nowadays is to find a new way of dealing with the peaceful Islamic current. This starts with agreeing on setting civil legal rules that organize political activity and regulate the process of democratic change that can make good use of the Islamist potentialities, and their organizational and political abilities that motivate other political powers to develop and revise intellectual and political concepts to face the moderate Islamic power.
Third: Future of Muslim Brotherhood … Preacher to society or political party?
The current status of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt looks vague, as the group does not have a legal position. However, the group managed to garner 88 parliamentary seats in the last legislative elections. The group showed great ability to run the elections with high efficiency and organization. This was evident in the high political potentials of the group. The paradox lies in the fact that this outlawed group- as the government calls it- managed to garner 20% of voters as well as about ten folds of what other opposition parties in parliament (6 seats for Al-Wafd party, 2 seats for Al-Tagammu` party and one seat for Al-Ghad party) wished to win.
The propounded question is: If the Muslim Brotherhood is a banned group and it garnered such a number of seats, what would happen if it became legitimate? Would the group sweep the elections? The question can be easily answered if it is related to any other political current, yet, for the Muslim Brotherhood, the answer is merely complicated, because the organizational solidity and the ability to regulate the membership of this society are attributed to the fact that this group is a preaching/ political group that makes good use of its illegal position to maintain its organizational solidity and retain the culture of obedience.
Of course, the group can not clash politically or religiously with the Egyptian government with its army, security services and their abilities to intimidte, but the group managed to protect itself with the ordeal discourse that most of the group members are engaged in, a discourse that all Brotherhood leaders have repeated and stressed on since the detentions were carried out by the revolution command against the Muslim Brotherhood. The ordeal of detentions motivated the group members to be committed to the instruction of their command and as a result the sole aim of the society was to maintain its solidity.
The preaching group played the momentous role of maintaining the solidity and power of the group. For example, the motive of the Muslim Brotherhood member of being prominent in any activity is not political democratic reform, but it is also for the sake of the Almighty. For he does not go to cast a vote for a political current but does so to adhere to the principle of "do not conceal the testimony"; consequently, every step made to support the Brotherhood candidate is a pious act for the sake of the Almighty.
It is hard to ask the Muslim Brotherhood to conduct intellectual, organizational, and political reforms in a non-democratic environment and amid a squeezing political and official siege. This may lead to dissolving the group without establising a political party functioning in a democratic environment. Contrary to the current state of affairs, the government endorsed the establishment of 22 parties while this legal legitimacy caused their collapse. As a result, the ruling regime and the leaders of the current political parties were responsible for the collapse of the political life in Egypt.
Legal legitimacy became absurd in the face of real political powers. It blocked every means of political power to influence the audience through the media or showing up outside headquarters. The political powers captivated the committee of parties in the absence of the rule of law. As a result, it was painful to see the state of the biggest opposition party as the war on the streets flared up. The State’s authority and law showed no heed for these grievous incidents that seemed to be deliberate.
Legitimate parties did not encourage any rational current that was successful outside this legitimacy.
Therefore, the future of the Muslim Brotherhood can be predicted according to four scenarios:
The first scenario: Continuity of the present situation
This scenario is based upon the constant existence of the movement as political and religious group in an environment of recruiting its members on religious norms, and teaches them some political ideas. However, it is still illegal to practice its legitimate activities.
It is predicted that this scenario would prevail under the reign of President Mubarak; in other words, it is the technique used by the government in dealing with the Movement: its refusal to admit the movement as a civil political party committed to the civil constitution, republican system, and citizenship rights. The Muslim Brotherhood would remain as an illegitimate Movement under the claim that the constitution doesn"t approve establishing a party on a religious basis. This claim was rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood that announced more than once that it would not establish a religious party, but a civil political movement.
On the one hand, the weapon used to fight the Muslim Brotherhood will remain the same: the security and administrative services supported by distorting campaigns accompanied by insults and accusations. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood"s weapon used to confront the ruling regime shall also remain the same: the discourse of crises and predicaments, generalizing, and the image of the "victimized Muslim Brotherhood member" that is persecuted by the tyrannical ruling regime. This weapon used by the Muslim Brotherhood has helped the Movement recruit more members since it has the ability to work for the good of both religion and the worldly life in a more sophisticated fashion than that of the ruling party - the National Democratic Party- and the other opposition parties.
This state of affairs led to maintaing the apolitical treatment to the Movement as an illicit party contributing to create an unhealthy ambience in the Egyptian political arena. Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood had to suggest general view points, some of which are impractical while some others are only meant to stir the public opinion, but are not to be applied practically. The Movement is also keen not to get directly involved in some actual comings and goings in order to create a broad-spectrum political language that guarantees a blurred political image. That is what was mentioned in the latest electoral agenda for the Muslim Brotherhood; it stated that the position of the Muslim Brotherhood towards both relations with the United States and the future of the Camp David Treaty shall be determined by the estimation of the Strategic Research Center. This can never be anticipated within the pages of the electoral agenda of a certain political party or attitude under the shade of a democratic regime.
Due to the fact that the Movement is careful not to start an debate that might cause schisms later on between its members, it left some issues like the Camp David Treaty blurred for the good of some general mottos since the political ideology according to which the Movement takes actions does not require a detailed political curriculum.
It might be further conceived that among the most important achievements carried out by the National Democratic Party - established by President Al-Sadat - is the pacifist attitude towards the United States and Israel and avoiding launching war since 1973 war. This philosophy is supported nowadays by a broad section of the Egyptian society; most of those who oppose US and Israeli policies do not want to launch another war against Israel or the United States. The Muslim Brotherhood rejects issues like the Camp David Treaty and this can effectively urge them to accept some costly options instead of being veiled behind some general mottos. They are forced to take that course by the National Party"s apolitical conduct that stayed for a long period of time uttering some blurred discourse and forming its board out of members of contradicting attitudes; most of them are obedient employees, while the minority consists of politicians and members of parliament.
Another important issue is that of tourism and the cost paid by a large sector of Egyptians that might amount to four million who earn their living from tourism, in case the Muslim Brotherhood rejected the present form of tourism, especially the one displayed on the northern beach, the Red Sea, and Sinai. In Addition, the Muslim Brotherhood would protest against banks and usury as an issue trying to construct a sudden change to the shape of all financial dealings with all the unfavorable outcomes that might result.
As a result of the absence of this political and economic argumentation, the Muslim Brotherhood was confined within the frame of general issues, whereas a great deal of their political discourse was restricted to preaching. It has not been discovered yet that a price shall be paid for every religious or ideological notion based on a shallow comprehension of religious texts.
Thus, the only official way that the ruling regime uses to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood is through the security forces and thuggery. As a result, the severe political criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood"s agenda and its ideology started to crystallize. Also, the limited aptitude of the ruler seemed to be a basic factor behind the absence of a real political competition in addition to the lack of motives for the Muslim Brotherhood and the other reformist parties to establish a comprehensive reform since these reformist movements- including the Muslim Brotherhood- are not desired and since the latest elections proved that this competition requires muscles rather than political sophistication.
The second scenario: Unethical chaos
This scenario is based upon driving the present situation in Egypt into even more deterioration in a manner that leads to the spread of chaos especially with the rise of random protests led by no political attitude, but expressing a profound political and social crisis within the community. In this very respect, a picture is drawn that some political bodies, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, contribute to create, or make use of this "imaginary political chaos" in order to break a lance against the ruling regime.
It is certain that if the Muslim Brotherhood attained authority in an undemocratic way in their present settings, this would have an ill effect on democratic and political reform and on the Muslim Brotherhood"s progress itself.
As a matter of fact, this scenario is the least likely to be achieved among the four ones. This is because the Muslim Brotherhood does not attempt by any means to break a lance against the ruling regime; the Movement does not wish to give up its sublime goal of reviving the Islamic caliphate and liberating Palestine through means of cultural preaching. This goal can be preserved after obtaining the details, balances, and complex calculations of the political arena, and after avoiding ruling the country in unsuitable conditions because "power corrupts" and might lead the Brotherhood to deviate from both "asceticism" and seeking "Allah"s pleasure" that already dwell the hearts of many members of the Movement.
Changing the course of the Muslim Brotherhood into a political body that takes wrong and right decisions requires the existence of a democratic political system and other political entities that reckon the Muslim Brotherhood and compete with it so as to obtain the satisfaction of the people. This necessitates the segregation of the religious section that preaches noble morals and forming practicing Muslims from the political party.
If the Movement attained authority in an undemocratic way, there is a danger that they might give their rule some sort of religious sanctity regarding themselves as ruling with Allah"s word. If there are no powerful democratic authorities (like a parliament, parochial councils, reexamination authorities, and an independent judicial system) the Muslim Brotherhood would consider those who oppose it as apostates. This same danger might occur if any other party attained authority in an undemocratic way.
It is also asserted that the Muslim Brotherhood wishes to remain an inspiring legend that has not yet yielded to experimental fields and a twilight of the dream of salvation for the coming generations that would set the nation free from the shackles of the US domination, international dues, local complications, and the Camp David Treaty, and that would never try to attain authority by means of violence.
That the Muslim Brotherhood could benefit from chaos, even that to which it did not contribute, remains constant. However, in such a case, some political entities that do not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, the civil elites, or the ruling party will be capable of facing these chaotic circumstances.
The Muslim Brotherhood"s involvement in the political arena shall not be by means of a coup, nor will it resort to this approach. If the Muslim Brotherhood attained authority by undemocratic means, this would negatively affect the future of the country and democracy since it is necessary to drive the Movement to join the democratic route as a political civil party that might obtain power through impartial elections under the shade of another scenario.
The third scenario: Inoculating present situation with "new ideology"
This scenario is based upon running a legal fusion - partly or comprehensively - of some Islamic peaceful political movements. This procedure, nevertheless, shall take place while maintaining most of the political restraints imposed upon the political arena and under the same rules (after improving them) set by the National Party that would remain as the ruling party.
This scenario in fact reflects the turn over that took place after amending Article 76 that transformed Egyptian voters from the stage of choosing the president through a poll to that of multi-candidacy. Nonetheless, the restraints placed over these amendments stripped them of their real content so as to guarantee the stability of the present situation in an image that is reformed on the surface, rather than the essence.
If the National Party survived, the ruling regime would likely accept soon the legitimacy of "Al-Wasat" party that represents a split in the Muslim Brotherhood that has been counteracted since 1996. This means that the file of Islamic political movements will have been reopened. On an even more optimistic note, the government of "the New Ideology" may also approve the existence of some Islamic political parties for the purpose of tempting members of the Muslim Brotherhood to join these parties so as to weaken the body of the Movement politically and structurally. In this way, we can be even more optimistic and imagine that the government may also allow a party to be set for the remains of the Muslim Brotherhood. It may also approve the legitimacy of a political entity that embraces some members of the Muslim Brotherhood- even if it is called the Muslim Brotherhood, but not a political party that expresses its current abilities.
Conversely, the ruling regime won"t- with its current or modified capacities, with its old or modern ideology- be able to fuse the Muslim Brotherhood and its political structure since this requires a real political party having a clear vision and effective personnel. Such personnel can face the members of the Movement who are active on the political level, in parliament, student unions, and syndicates. In addition, fusing the Islamic pacifist political movements within the democratic process is never an easy choice. The only solution to set up real democratic reforms to produce a new civilian elite who can compete with the Muslim Brotherhood politically and in the syndicates without resorting to the security forces to allow the success of some elements that do not have popular or political legitimacy.
It is still important to refer to the fact that most Islamic attitudes in Egypt express a modern organizational and political structure. The voting for these attitudes takes place on a religious-based manner; not for money or tribal mentality. They succeeded in occupying positions in many syndicates through democratic mechanisms and integrated elections. Many of their leaders have demonstrated more broad-mindedness towards the issues of women and Christians" rights. They have also displayed more tolerance towards literary and artistic concerns compared with other official sheikhs who stand as part of governmental institutions and the ruling regime.
It seems that the "political status" of Al-Wasat party or the Muslim Brotherhood makes it able to coexist with some other independent Islamic movements and strive for popular and political work. Its interaction with other movements and attitudes have urged the Movement to be more open-minded on the religious, political, and cultural levels more than the "employed" sheikhs who issued prohibition fatwas ( legal opinions), chased intellectuals, and confiscated many publications throughout the last decade.
Thus, the battle between the Islamic peaceful movements and the government in its old or modern form, is not due to the Muslim Brotherhood"s illiberal attitude that opposes modern civilization, as some people believe. It is, in fact, due to the fact that they are political movements that the ruling regime failed - in spite of the huge amount of money spent for that cause; acts of vandalism and security forces - to compete with. Therefore, the battle between the government, in its modern and old forms, and the Islamic pacifist movements is not a conflict between reactionaries and secularists; it is a conflict between bureaucrats and politicians and between dynamism and stagnancy.
The fourth scenario: Complete fusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in the political reform process
This scenario is based upon the complete fusing of the Muslim Brotherhood in the democratic reform. This would ultimately lead to the emergence of a democratic Islamic attitude that believes in partial variety, human rights, the principles of the constitutional system, legal systems, and that does not discriminate between citizens according to religion or race.
As a matter of fact, the success of this experiment requires some stipulations, the first of which is concerned with the ruling regime. Some real political reforms within the Egyptian ruling regime have to be carried out in a way that surpasses the abilities and balances of the present one. Until this happens, we are not able to speak about a real political rectification that is progressive and comprehensive, but real and serious at the same time. In addition, the role of new elites from within the country must be mentioned. These new elites will be capable of starting the course of reform in some certain phase after President Mubarak"s reign and out of the calculations of "the New Ideology" that proved its failure. For the success of this scenario (i.e. running reform from within the ruling regime), all reformist parties will contact some popular reformist attitudes from various political movements so as to make use of the stable status of the country; not deconstructing it through creating so-called "deconstructive chaos". These popular reforming movements shall not only wish to change the present situation, but also be capable of building something new.
This scenario stands as the perfect one for democratic reform in Egypt. It necessitates a gradual transformation from a tyrannical regime into a democratic one. This shall take place in a gradual manner that does not yield to any political purposes that tailors reform to fit the politics committee rendering it a mere formality.
Under the shade of "the Real Reformation" scenario, some warnings are to be taken into consideration concerning merging the Movement into the political process. There shall remain, on the one hand, the problem of merging the preaching wing with the political one and the political wing with the partial one. So far, the Movement sets a condition for a member to be enlisted that the member must be a practicing Muslim (establishes the practical devotions). To be promoted within the Movement, they have to be even more deeply involved in religion. Therefore, no secular or Christian citizen can join the Movement; this point contradicts the constitution, and the laws regulating political work.
Separating the preaching wing of the Movement from the preaching party shall remain as a basic condition for admitting the Movement as a legitimate political party that respects the civility of the political system and plainly declares its rejection for a religious country or any notion that discriminates between citizens on a religious basis. The preaching wing has the absolute right to practice its activities. It may also morally affect the shape of the political regime and the political practices of the civil political party of the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, the same privilege shall be granted for tens of thousands of Muslim and Christian movements to activate their general practices, but they all have to yield to the mentioned conditions in order to join the political arena on a civil background; the upper hand of which goes to the people under the domination of the constitution.
There is no doubt that the political reference for completely fusing the Muslim Brotherhood within the political arena at the beginning, is the existence of ruling elites. Such elites are capable of running a "political conflict" with the Movement concerning the various political, cultural, and economic initiations for building a renaissance in society and for the sake of the general good. This shall never take place through the use of security forces.
The ruling party failed to build a true party on the Egyptian street because of its political attitudes, especially after the image it had after the legislative elections and its responsibility for the violence that took place during those elections. These incidents revealed the absence of a political mentality, and the failure to obtain real competence with any impressive political movement whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood or any other.
The largest of the political movements in Egypt have remained in such manner for a long time - framed within a magic word sentenced by the government: "an outlawed movement". We can never talk about a real reformation unless this movement turns into a political civil party according to the conditions and regulations of Egyptian law.
In spite of the turnovers that the Muslim Brotherhood"s discourse witnessed as a result of the change of the political and social environment, there is still some space occupied by a sense of concern emerging from the separation between what is sacred and what is political. The Muslim Brotherhood failed to make this separation in a critical manner.
Overcoming this blend, on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood, between the political and religious fields does not necessarily mean the absence of its ideological or political relationship with Islam. The Movement adheres to its Islamic ideology in a sense that is governed by the perception that they follow in their understanding of religion, which is not necessarily the only one. Ergo, their point of view can be opposed and voted for by the citizens. It can also be rejected and replaced by another point of view approved by the citizens.
The Muslim Brotherhood"s discourse contains many contradicting dualities such as the duality of religion and politics on one side, and the partial structure and renouncing authority on the other. This delayed the Movement"s chances of progress, and caused their political influence on major turnovers that the country is undergoing much less than their structural power. It can never be doubted that the political side occupied a greater space in their speech than religion. However, it can not be plainly claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood overcame this area in order to approach a civil political structure even if it held an Islamic reference. In other words, judging this point should only take place on political criteria chosen by the citizens themselves without any sort of special religious sanctity.
It is true that separating religion from politics still represents one of the most serious obstacles against the Movement"s progress and its fusion within the democratic system. On one hand, the Movement always expresses itself to be a preaching body that calls people to adhere to Islam"s teachings, and governors to apply the Islamic Sharia regardless of the Muslim Brotherhood"s participation in the reign of power. This discourse seems to be renouncing authority. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood takes part in politics through participating in legislative and syndicate elections. In addition, the Movement directly offered political counsel more than once; the initiation for political reformation offered in 2004 stands as an example of this fact.
The continuity of this overlap between what is religious and what is political in the Muslim Brotherhood"s speech may partially emit from the fact that the Movement is illegal. It is difficult to have an inclusive political speech under such circumstances surrounded by the shade of a political regime that does not grant the Movement the right of seeing light in a legitimate manner.
Here comes one of the most crucial reformation scenarios of the future: accepting the legitimacy of a political party for the Muslim Brotherhood. This is because the future of the Movement"s progress depends on the extent to which the Egyptian ruling regime accepts the rules of democracy in a comprehensive way that allows for the peaceful circulation of authority between political parties. The ruling regime has also to accept all the notions and values that come along with the democratic evolution: integrity, impartiality, and the establishment of law. In such case, establishing a political party for the Muslim Brotherhood shall depend on the step of separating what is religious from the political party that has to declare its respect for the principles of democracy, the civility of the country, and its constitution.
Dr.Amr Al-Chobaki is a prominent and well respected political analyst at the prestigious Al Ahram Center for Political and Startegic Studies and (ACPSS). The entire study was translated from Arabic by Ikhwanweb. Transmitting or copying any parts of the English transaltion is allowed after using Ikhwanweb as a source. All rights reserved.
tags: Hasan Al-Banna / a political and social organization / the government / President Abd Al-Nasser / President Sadats / President Mubarak / human rights / Da`wah before politics / the 2005 parliamentary elections
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