The party program declared by Egypt "s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group raised many comments, especially that the draft program was distributed among a considerable number of intellectuals to show their opinion before its final wording is issued. In Egypt at least, the overwhelming majority of comments towards it were passivity. This is because the criticism to the program focused on three issues: Stating in the program that a body of top clerics is formed so that the legislative authority consult it in bills. This made some considered it an establishment of the idea of a religious stat- attitude towards the Copts- the attitude towards women. Focusing in these points, the comments as a whole confirmed the stereotypical image about Islamic movements whose projects are questioned by some. Whenever the Islamic movements are mentioned, accusations from these three issues shower them.
The first point that gained the lion"s share of attention from both those see the Islamic project as a mere cloning of a religious country according to the European experience, and hence, they have in advance deep-rooted convictions regarding this and they are not ready to change them, and those wise men who hastily read the program and were stunned by referring to a Council of Senior Clerics and the role which it is tasked. They then backed critics, and directed their criticism to the program, condemning its attitude and warning from the group"s slipping into adopting a religious state. The outcome was that the program was criticized and defamed by both some dishonest and some honest persons although their motives and purposes are different from each other.
Last week, this homepage published an article giving a type of what we are speaking about. It is entitled: The Muslim Brotherhood (MB)"s religious country in Egypt ". Its writer has clearly defined his attitude when he said from the beginning that combining religion and the state is a new kind of fascism. In the body of his essay, he said that the Muslim Brotherhood program demolished all concepts related to a civil state, and replaced it with a religious country that excludes non-Muslims from public posts and establishes a religious body which has the top authority in making decisions, at least in clear-cut issues.
This idea was expressed by several comments in various styles that differ according to every writer. All of them based their comments on a text in the chapter of policies and strategies in the program. It stipulates that the authority of Islamic Sharia is applied according to the nation"s consensus through a parliamentary majority in a freely elected legislative body…. the legislative authority that includes experts in all specializations... this applies to the president when issuing decisions that have the power of law in the absence of the legislative authority .. The legislative authority has, in any issue other than clear cut decisions, the final decision through a full majority a part from the opinion of the body. It can consult the religious body in what may be considered closer to achieving public interest".
This text raised many eyebrows because it is strange for an MB discourse that lacked throughout all its stages any indication to the issue of a religious authority. The movement itself hasn"t even materialized this idea throughout its history. Except for its founder, martyr Hassan Al Banna who graduated from the Faculty of Dar Al-Ulum, no one of the following MB Chairmen who succeeded Al Banna, was a religious scholar. Three of them were graduates from the Faculties of Law ( Hassan Al Hudaibi, Omar Tlemcenian and Ma"mun Al-Hodeibi) and the fourth graduated from the Faculty of Science (Mostafa Mashhour), the fifth was a farming land owner (Hamed Abul Nasr) and the current MB chairman Mohamed Mahdi Akef graduated from the high institute of physical education. Even the MB Executive Office, 90 % of its members have been professionals and technocrats, while Azhari accounted for only 10 % throughout the second half of the 20th century.
The biggest surprise was when I received two different copies of the Muslim Brotherhood"s party program. The copy was referred to as "the first publication", and it was distributed among a limited number of researchers last August. The second copy- was referred to as "the first reading"- and was distributed last September among a bigger number of intellectuals. I discovered that "the first publication" lacked any indication to issues that stoked debates. I easily noticed that that discourse used in the "first publication" differed from that adopted in "the first reading". The first publication was clearly distinguished by the effect of political experts, while the second copy was clearly bearing the traces of those working in the filed of Da"wa (missionary), those who are suffer from weakness in the political awareness. If this was correct, it may reveal for the first time to the public that there are at least two movements inside the MB group leadership, one of them is an open and reformist while the second is conservative and closed. The second movement has seemingly the upper hand in the decision making process. This has been clarified due to the fact that its elements managed to introduce their views on the program"s second copy that distributed on a large scale, under the title "the first reading". I was informed that the reformists were surprised with what the conservatives added to the program, making us assume that the political vision inside the group is still immature, and a dialogue should be conducted among its leaders to materialize this vision before holding a dialogue with intellectuals and intelligentsia among whom the programs has been distributed.
MB Wrong Doer
This background information makes me claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is wronged and is a wrong doer as much as the party program is concerned. They are wrong doers because they gave a bad image about themselves and introduced a wording of a program that save efforts of the group"s critics as they aren"t required to seek any ammunition better than this to frighten the public opinion and fuel hatred towards the group. We have previously said that MB sympathizers and friends found themselves forced to condemn the program. They are actually right.
If ask me why they are wronged, I say that this is attributed to two matters: The first is that the texts criticized in the program were not in such a bad image that was shown. The second is that those texts that drew attention covered positive points which no one paid attention to in the program.
Take for example the idea of forming a Council of Senior Clerics that stirred a hot debate, I consider it a naive idea which isn"t needed in the potential Islamic state. This is because preparing laws in any democratic state passes by channels and committees that verify its validity from many angles inside parliament and the State Council. There is no need for establishing a new entity from outside those institutions to carry out the task of verifying there is no conflict between laws and the Sharia. However, it is not right that the decision of this council is binding, and it doesn"t represent a top authority in any think laike claims of some people. The texts clearly say that the council"s opinion is consulting, and that the elected parliament is the only authority that has the right to issue legislations and the Supreme Constitutional Court has the authority to rule whether the law abides by the constitution, including its second article stipulating that Sharia is the main source of legislation, a system which is currently applied in Egypt.
There is also the attitude towards the Copts, an issue which was unfairly misunderstood in a way that makes it very hard to assume innocence. The writer of the last week"s aforementioned essay stated that the program excludes them from assuming pubic jobs, and he added that it nearly denies them the right to defend homeland, an issue that opens the door for the return of the idea of Jiziyah "tribute". This is actually a method of criticism which is full of deception. This because referring to non-Muslims and their chances to assume public posts is mentioned in the part related to the civil state, that openly stated that assuming jobs in the Islamic state is mainly based on efficiency and experience. It was preceded by other signs indicating that citizenship is the basis and that all citizens are equal in rights and duties regardless of religion and race. However, those who prepared the draft excluded both posts of the president and the Prime Minister from jobs that can be assumed by non-Muslims, attributing this to the fact that the Islamic state has religious jobs which non Muslims can"t assume and it may cause an ideological embarrassment to them. They wanted to say that Muslims only are allowed to assume both posts. This means that the claims that they deprive non Muslims from assuming top jobs are completely, and relieving them of the military jobs and restoring the tribute system are untrue claims which have been stirred to distort the group"s image.
By the way, the idea of confining the post of a president to followers of a specific religion is not an innovation in modern constitutions. It is stipulated constitutions of Greece , Denmark , Spain , Sweden , England and some Latin American countries. As for adding the post of a Prime Minister and restricting it to Muslims, it is attributed to the conservative traditional thought expressed by Abu"l-Hasan al-Mawardi in Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah (The Laws of Islamic Governance) as he distinguished between two types. of ministerial positions: plenipotentiary minister (wazir tafwid)- a wone whose post equals that of modern prime minister and executive minister (wazir. tanfiz). H conditioned that the first must be a Muslim, a part from the second. This idea was even ruled out by contemporary Muslim researchers, who considered that there is no similarity between the Plenipotentiary Minister in past times and the modern time"s Prime Minister. Even the post of a state president which most scholars and researchers prefer to keep it exclusively for Muslims in Islamic state, there are several examples of ijtihad (hermeneutics ) regarding it. Many – including Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi- think that this shouldn"t deny non Muslims the right to run for such a job.
As for the issue of women, the program did not object to allowing them to assume jobs, but it called for conducting a dialogue that defines details, to reach " a societal consensus in which women and men take part in the making views and decisions"- although those who drafted the draft program saw that the post of a president should be restricted to men only, because its burdens do not suit women. This is also an issue of ijtihad which hasn"t been fully decided among Muslim researchers.
Moreover, the program has several positive indications, including:
ـ Lifting the contradiction between Shura (consultation) and democracy, and considering democracy (i.e. partnership and interrogation) as the core of Shura (consultation).
Highlighting the power transition- that the state is a civil state- and sticking to political multiplicity and allowing freedom of forming parties without requiring a license from authorities.
ـ Calling for establishing Arab unity before establishing Islamic unity... this actually has so much details which may require reading the text of the program to understand them.