MB’s coming task

MB’s coming task

 The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist movement, has chosen Mohamed Badei as its new supreme guide. The 67-year-old associate professor of pathology at Beni Sweif University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine was elected to the post on 16 January. Badei, who becomes the eighth supreme guide since the movement was founded in 1928, succeeds Mahdi Akef, the Brotherhood’s 81-year-old firebrand leader and an outspoken critic of the regime. Akef, whose term as head of the outlawed group expired on 13 January, had said he would not seek another leadership term.

In a press conference on Saturday Akef said “Badei was chosen by a consensus among the group’s 100-member Shura Council.” Badei also won the largest number of votes during last month’s Guidance Bureau elections.

Addressing an audience of Brotherhood members on 16 January, Badei delivered an acceptance speech in which he stressed that the Brotherhood would seek to avoid confrontation with the regime.

“The Brotherhood believes in gradual reform which can be achieved only through peaceful and constitutional struggle based on persuasion and dialogue.” Badei also argued that, “the Brotherhood believes that a regime that honours personal freedoms, espouses democracy, and seeks legitimacy from the nation via general elections is the closest to Islam.”

Badei surprised observers by insisting the “Brotherhood has never been an adversary of the regime even if the regime has pursued a policy of coercion against the group, confiscating its money and jailing its leaders.” He did however say that the Brotherhood will remain firm in criticising policies which, as he claims, have plunged Egypt into crisis and in exposing corruption, and will continue to raise the sons and daughters of the nation on Islamic values and virtues.

“The Brotherhood rejects all forms of violence and believes in a step-by-step democracy,” Badei said in a press conference on Saturday. He went on to urge members to “show the world the true face of Islam, the Islam of moderation and forgiveness and respect for pluralism”.

On Egypt’s Coptic community, Badei said, “the Brotherhood believes that Copts are our Egyptian brothers in the Arabic and Islamic world and our partners in building the civilisation of the nation and defending it.”

“The Brotherhood believes in citizenship and nationhood and full equality in both rights and obligations for Muslims and Christians. The Brotherhood rejects all forms of sectarian violence and calls on the nation to open a frank discussion of incidents that have sown the seeds of sedition between Muslims and Christians.”

Addressing foreign relations, Badei attacked Israel, saying “the Zionist enemy seeks to obliterate Islamic values and culture and wants the destruction of Islam in our countries.”

The Palestinian cause, he added, tops the Brotherhood’s agenda.

“This is the Arab and Islamic world’s most important issue and must be prioritised by all Arab and Islamic regimes until Palestine is free.”

Badei concluded his speech by saying that, “it is God’s will that I shoulder the serious responsibility of my new position and I have no option but to accept it and ask God for guidance.”

Commentators agree that Badei faces an uphill task uniting the group. “First,” says Al-Ahram political analyst Diaa Rashwan, “he will have to resolve the internal disputes and divisions which hit the group two months ago”, and which saw conservative hawks oust a younger generation of reformists in elections to the movement’s guidance office on 27 December. Mohamed Habib, Akef’s first deputy, resigned in protest, arguing that the polls contravened the Brotherhood’s internal rules. Habib, and his fellow reformer Abdel-Moneim Abul- Fotouh, both lost their seats on the Guidance Bureau to conservative hardliners.

“Unless they are quickly resolved these divisions might affect the group’s chances of success in the parliamentary elections scheduled next autumn,” said Rashwan.

Informed Brotherhood sources say Badei’s first major decision will be to decide whether the Brotherhood fields candidates for elections to the consultative upper house of Shura Council.

“The new guide should consult with other leading members to determine whether it is appropriate to participate in Shura elections or save effort and money for the People’s Assembly’s elections, which are far more significant,” Saad El-Husseini, a Brotherhood MP, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Rashwan believes that the internal putsch of 27 December has effectively marginalised “reformist Brothers who call for greater integration into mainstream politics and coordination with legal opposition parties and protest movements like Kifaya.” This coup, he added, has greatly frustrated the young members of the group who are in favour of integrating into political life.

“In his acceptance speech Badei signalled that the group intends to retreat from politics in favour of social and religious activities,” says Rashwan.

“The speech was full of rhetoric but it lacked any clear-cut answers about how the Brotherhood sees the role of women and Copts.”

Though Badei is a devotee of the teachings of the group’s most prominent theoretician, Sayed Qotb, the founder of Islamist Jihadism who called for the Islamic Caliphate to be revived, Rashwan believes that in his acceptance speech he attempted to project a different image. “He tried to look like a reformist who advocates political pluralism and believes in dialogue and co- habitation with other religions,” said Rashwan.

Badei has been arrested twice. He was sentenced to nine years in jail in 1965 after being found guilty of planning a “Qotbist” coup against the regime of president Gamal Abdel-Nasser. He was rearrested in 1999 and spent three years in jail.