- DemocracyReform Issues
- March 10, 2011
- 8 minutes read
The Brotherhood Has Earned Its Place at the Political Table
With Mubarak now out of the Egyptian political arena, and as the Armed Forces battle to establish a new democratic structure, there is much speculation about whether the Muslim Brotherhood– the largest, most popular, and most effective opposition group in Egypt- will dominate the new Egyptian political landscape.
It is unimaginable that the Brotherhood would not take on a significant role in the new era of Egypt because it has been part of the fabric of Egyptian society for so long. The Brotherhood originated as an anti-system group because in the early days, in the mid 1900s, Egypt was under unjust tyrannical colonial rule; so it was opposing a system that needed to be opposed and changed. Their early stances, however, are now being taken out of context and described as "Islamic tyranny" because they have devoted themselves to Islamic principles and ethics in the formation of a civil society.
The Brotherhood does not apologize for its stance against the Zionist entity and its ongoing oppression against Palestinians but at the same time, it has committed itself to the peace treaties that Egypt made under former governments as well as its committed to the peace process. The Brotherhood is not anti-Semitic; it is anti-injustice, regardless of where and from whom the injustice comes. As the Brotherhood presents its balanced views, there are still those in the West who choose to exaggerate certain features of the Brotherhood, ignoring how the group has changed over time and how much support it has from the Egyptian people.
The Brotherhood is the longest continuous contemporary Islamist group and it was initially established, not as a political party, but as a da’wa (religious outreach) association aiming to cultivate pious and committed Muslims through preaching, social services, and spreading religious commitment and integrity by example. The group also called on Egyptians to unite to confront the forces of Zionism and imperialism and pursue economic development and social justice.
As a variety of autocratic rulers took the helm in Egypt throughout the years, the Brotherhood has been repressed and its members imprisoned and exiled. As years passed, the group has evolved along with political changes and has now settled in its role as an advocate of the people’s voice, seeking to establish a just civil society through democratic means.
Since 1984, the Brotherhood has been running candidates in elections for the boards of Egypt ‘s professional syndicates and for seats in parliament and when electoral laws changed, they ran as independents. The group was able to combine its political advocacy as well as its legacy of preaching and social services and it did so without compromising its principles.
With its flexible, open mindset, the Brotherhood engaged in dialog with members of other political movements, and in this way they all found common ground in their desire for more public freedoms, democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law, which were neglected in the past.
The Kefaya (Enough) movement was established between 2004 and 2005 and is a breakaway from the original group. All parts of the Brotherhood – including affiliated groups – cooperated and hoped for the time when a new democratic government would come to power. They were able to quickly reactivate their networks to form a united opposition front during the January 25th Revolution and will play a key role in drafting Egypt ‘s new constitution as they are essential elements of Egyptian society.
For the last three decades, the Brotherhood has committed itself to electoral competition and representation, developed new professional competencies and skills, and forged closer ties with Egyptian activists, researchers, journalists, and politicians beyond the Islamist camp and this has led to the formation of a solid power structure of united and affiliated groups working toward the same goals of democracy and social justice. The Brotherhood was never a monolith, and its leadership is more internally diverse today than ever before.
Avoiding another crackdown, the Brotherhood kept a low profile during the Revolution and chooses to work and support people who adhere to the Islamic principles and ethics that it follows. Knowing that a smooth transition to a democratic system will require an interim government palatable to the military and the West, the Brotherhood does not seek positions in the new government itself.
Through great effort, the group has attained a reputation among Egyptians as a responsible political actor.
Only through being included in the political process can the Brotherhood demonstrate that it is capable of evolving over time, and strengthen its democratic commitments, making sure there are checks and balances in place to ensure that no group can monopolize state power and that all citizens are guaranteed certain freedoms under the law. The Brotherhood boldly speaks out Zionist domination, and demands the recognition of Palestinian rights, however, it also respects the peace process and the agreements that Egypt made with Israel in the past. It would be wise for the West, particularly the US , to encourage and reward the judiciousness and pragmatism of the Brotherhood and to engage with them on every level as an authentic political group due to its track record of nearly 30 years of responsible behavior and a strong base of support. No democratic transition can succeed without it.
This article presents highlights from the article "The Muslim Brotherhood After Mubarak" by Carrie Rosefsky Wickham Associate Professor of Political Science at Emory University with subtle but important changes that do not reflect the Professors thinking. We attribute and acknowledge the exerpts with many thanks.