The Brotherhood – Standing Alone in a Sea of Ideologies
For years the Muslim Brotherhood has dominated poor areas of Alexandria and Cairo and now, in post-Mubarak Egypt, they are taking steps to become an official party.
As the world remains confused about the various Islamic ideologies and which group represents which understanding and approach to Islam, the fact that the Brotherhood maintains an ‘Islamic’ identity scares many in the West.
The concept of an Islamic ideology is a point of debate, but for sure the youth of the Egyptian Revolution – many of whom represent the Brotherhood – are considered moderate even by Western thinkers.
The Brotherhood teaches peaceful means of change, utilizing the democratic system and raising awareness. From this mentality emerge young people who are acutely aware of the state of their country, their region and what needs to be done to rectify the damage of decades of mismanagement and neglect by the ruling regime.
Many young activists see that the first thing Egypt should do under democratic rule is to sever all ties with Israel because they see that this has led to their ruin and that Mubarak was simply an agent of Israel. Many also see that America is exactly the same as Israel, as long as it harbours bad intentions towards Egypt. The Egyptian youth do not want aid from anyone; they just want other nations not to interfere with them, confident that they can manage.
Like any other democratic country in the world, the Egyptians want the right to choose who they will support, befriend and ally themselves with. And, they choose not to befriend Israel. However, despite the divergence of opinions among Muslims concerning these issues, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders have renounced violence and signed up to democratic reform, and have said that they will support Egypt’s existing peace treaties, including that made in 1979 with Israel.
Ex-president, Hosni Mubarak used the existence of the Brotherhood and the West’s fears of Islamists to suppress the MB for decades, and made this an excuse of his authoritarian rule. The peaceful protests, however, that began on 25 January 2011, are sound evidence that Mubarak was wrong, and that the West does not need to fear the Islamic platform represented in the Brotherhood movement.
Coming to terms with their new perception of the Brotherhood and realizing they had been duped by Mubarak, the West is now coming to terms with the continued existence of the Brotherhood and bracing itself for the role it will play in new Egypt.
It is at this point that religion and state overlap. The military in post-Mubarak Egypt has demonstrated confidence in the Brotherhood’s ability to make fundamental analysis and changes, and has therefore offered it a seat on the committee to revise the Constitution. This position was taken up by one of the Brothers’ best known politicians, Alexandrian lawyer Sobhi Saleh.
Some Egyptians see that Egypt now follows French law, and this is seen as a remnant of the days of French colonization. With the new political start in Egypt some Egyptians would prefer to see the literal implementation of Sharia as a means of constructive reduction of criminal activity.
At the same time, Egyptians want to be able to form political parties in a pluralist society. Egyptians want their political freedom and the right to choose the political There are differences of opinion throughout the Muslim world on various issues.
One such example is how Islamic law should be implemented and the role of women. The Brotherhood is in no way averse to women serving high up in the political structure; they can become vice-president or prime minister but, the Brotherhood adds, she can not be president because this role entails leading men in prayer and giving the Friday sermon.
This is an opinion that is widely followed in the Muslim world; not just Egypt and is supported by both many men and women. In a civil society where the population is majority Muslim and where the majority vote and decide what they consider best for themselves, the ambiguous role between president and prayer-leader, between civil and religious will be irrelevant if it is based on the people’s free will and choice.
In Western eyes this may well mean curtailment of freedoms. However, the Brotherhood is adamant that it does not want to leave one dictatorship to enter another, religious one and for that reason the brotherhood clearly announced that it won’t run for the presidency and won’t try to take a majority in parliament.
Many young Egyptian activists, who fought for the revolution on the streets alongside liberal, secular protestors, see their ultimate model in Turkey, a country that appears to them to be fulfilling its economic and strategic potential under a proudly Muslim government, and is an ally, but not a lackey, of the West. With strong resolution they do not want to be judged until they have been given a chance to show the world the kind of society and government they want.
Although the West fears Islamic regimes like Iran, Egyptians – including the Brotherhood – are completely different and would never stand for an Iran-like government.