MB accepts democracy, regime impedes reform, says Habib

MB accepts democracy, regime impedes reform, says Habib

It is the incumbent regime and not the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) that is the real obstacle to reform in Egypt, deputy head of the banned group Mohamed Habib told Daily News Egypt.

Habib was responding to a recent report released by the Oxford Business Group entitled “Emerging Egypt 2008,” which postulated that the MB would constitute an impediment to political reform if it assumed power.

“We have declared from principle that we accept a democracy that allows political pluralism, the peaceful transition of power and the right of the people to choose who rules them,” Habib said.

“When we talk about the state in Islam, we mean a civil state with an Islamic reference, but a state that possesses executive, legislative and judicial institutions that are separate from each other,” he added.

“Those who hamper the implementation of reform are the ruling party, not the Brotherhood,” Habib said, “and they use us an excuse for not implementing democracy.”

The report highlighted concerns that if the MB assumes power, it would mean the end of meaningful political reform and could result in a dictatorship, which would see the end of the democratic process as well as reverse women and minority rights.

The MB are officially a banned group but had been tolerated until recently when they made significant political gains in parliament and syndicates. Last year saw major crackdowns on the group, and many senior members are still on trial before a military tribunal for charges ranging from money laundering to terrorism.

Habib told Daily News Egypt, “This [lack of political reform] doesn’t involve the Brotherhood as much as it is related to the current dictatorship that oppresses its people and the opposition, the Brotherhood among them. The regime is very cautious about retaining power and preventing its peaceful transition.

“And while you can have secularists in Turkey not wanting an Islamic government but accepting it, Arab regimes don’t accept anybody at all, Islamist or otherwise … If communists or leftists managed to gain the same ground that the Brotherhood have, then the regime will treat them with the same harshness they treat us.”

The report also claimed that there are strong indications that President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal is set to take over from his father. It adds that Gamal’s main challenge in attaining power is receiving the support of the military establishment.

Every Egypt president since the country gained independence from British rule in 1952 has been from the military. If Gamal Mubarak or any other non-military figure were to take over, they would be Egypt’s first civilian ruler.

The report offers a comprehensive outlook for Egypt in the year 2008, with an emphasis on the political and economic challenges facing the country in the coming year.

While acknowledging the economic gains made in the past few years, the report stressed that the average citizen has yet to see the benefits of this growth. It also praised Egypt’s political role in regional and international issues.

The Oxford Business Group is a publisher of political and economic intelligence in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.