No Need to Be Afraid of Us

No Need to Be Afraid of Us

Since the arrest of Khairat el Shater, second deputy chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), we felt it is necessary to republish his article written to the Guardian over a year ago and received a worldwide attention because it eloquently clarified an essential aspect of the MB moderate ideology. El Shater is an influential figure within the MB, charismatic leader and staunch proponent of dialogue who is also known for his moderate views and openness. The voice of moderation el Shater represents is now facing an unknown destiny in a military tribunal which lacks the basic guarantees of a fair trial.

In this article, el Shater clarifies the MB’s stance vis-à-vis democracy, pluralism, among other issues. It is for these views that he is now being imprisoned because he managed to get his message across.

The tyrannical Egyptian regime unjustly portrays the MB-  largest opposition- as a radical organization that does not believe in civil liberties, human rights and democracy and would undermine the rights of non Muslims if it came to power.

The MB is portrayed by the regime as such so as to give the confrontation between the regime and the MB an ideological façade an presented as a confrontation between moderate democrats and radical Islamists, which is completley untrue.

In fact, the “confrontation” between the regime and the MB is merely between tyrannical rulers and democracy activists, between authoritarianism and freedom, and between corruption and reform.

Ikhwanweb is republishing this article, still upholding the principles and beliefs is presents, and sending a clear message to sincere democracy activists all over the globe: reformers in Egypt are being imprisoned one after another. The largest opposition group in Egypt is facing extreme injustice, and the Western regimes are supporting the regime, despite the strategic drawbacks of this support on everyone. Democracy activists should realize that if they intend to move and some point to support human rights in Egypt, it should be now. In fact, the pending question of democracy needs an immediate answer.

Ikhwanweb, Cairo, Egypt

No Need to Be Afraid of Us

Khairat el Shatir

The violence that has erupted across Egypt in recent days is the result of government panic at the success of the Muslim Brotherhood – even in the rigged polls that pass for elections in the Arab world”s most populous country. As the second round of voting opened on Sunday in Egypt”s tightly restricted parliamentary contest, around 500 of our members were arrested at dawn and machete-wielding thugs attacked our supporters at polling stations. But the provocations of a corrupt, oppressive government – backed by the most powerful countries in the world – will not intimidate either our organisation, which has survived for 77 years, or the Egyptian people, who have increasingly come to trust us. 

Despite the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood – or rather because of it – the organisation continues to be banned in Egypt. Nevertheless, by standing as independents whose affiliation is widely known, 17 of our members managed to be elected as the largest opposition group in the last parliament.

Given the pressure for change, we mobilised to win more seats in the hope that these new elections would be more honest and free. We are committed to democracy and to respect fair election results, whatever the outcome. But we have contested only 120 of the 444 parliamentary seats, knowing that standing for more might provoke the regime into fixing the results. The first round of parliamentary elections, in which the Muslim Brotherhood won more than 65% of seats it contested despite large-scale rigging and intimidation, confirm that our movement is seen by the public as a viable political alternative. But in spite of the confidence the Egyptian people have in us, we are not seeking more than a small piece of the parliamentary cake. This decision is dictated by political realities, both locally and internationally: in other words, the possible reaction of a repressive government backed to the hilt by the US and other western governments.

What we want to do instead is trigger a renaissance in Egypt, rooted in the religious values upon which Egyptian culture and society is built; for we believe these values can effectively deal with the obstacles that have hindered reform and development. At present, political life in Egypt is plagued by apathy; only a few parties with puny followings are officially allowed to join the political process. The priority is therefore to revitalise political life so that citizens can join a real debate about the solutions to Egypt”s chronic problems and the sort of future we want for our country. We believe that the domination of political life by a single political party or group, whether the ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood or any other, is not desirable: the only result of such a monopoly is the alienation of the majority of the people.

Our aim in seeking to win a limited number of seats in parliament is to create an effective parliamentary bloc that, in conjunction with others, can energise an inclusive debate about the priorities of reform and development. Not a single political, religious, social or cultural group should be excluded from Egypt”s political life. The objective must be to end the monopoly of government by a single party and boost popular engagement in political activity.

Second, we would hope to contribute to achieving significant political and constitutional reforms: in particular, to remove restrictions imposed by the regime on political activity and give the parliament a much bigger say than it has now. Without real powers to question the executive, parliament will remain a mere facade.

Third, we would hope to contribute to greatly needed social, cultural and economic reforms. Such reforms can take place only once the grip of the state executive is regulated by an independent legislature and independent judiciary.
The success of the Muslim Brotherhood should not frighten anybody: we respect the rights of all religious and political groups. So much damage has been inflicted on the country over the past century because of despotism and corruption that it would be impossible to embark on wider political reform and economic development without first repairing the damage to our basic institutions. Free and fair democratic elections are the first step along the path of reform toward a better future for Egypt and the entire region. We simply have no choice today but to reform.

· Khairat el-Shatir is vice-president of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
[email protected]