The Islamists’ Party in Egypt…No Hope

When the latest amendments to the Egyptian constitution banned the founding of parties on religious grounds, everyone understood the insinuation to the “Muslim Brotherhood” party known for its extensive activities, overwhelming presence and high number of supporters. But the “Brotherhood” is not seeking to become a party but would rather be satisfied with its former standing during the rule of late President Anwar El Sadat. Back then, they were able to be involved in politics without being confronted by the authorities. In fact, they wouldn’t mind that this standing be revived under the label of party or association or group or even under the disguise of a legal party. This was the case when they waged the parliamentary elections in alliance with the liberal “Wafd” Party and then the socialist “Labor” Party. Moreover, the constitutional amendments did not hinder the operation of the “Brotherhood” or its activities and the party is using the counter-campaigns to solicit more sympathy from the masses.

It seems that there is an underlying agreement between the official circles on the one hand and active political forces that basically oppose the government and the ruling national party on the other hand to rebuff any political presence for the Islamists even under the banner of a civil party. This was evident in the reactions to the Islamist lawyer Mountasir al-Zayat when he announced his intention to found a civil party dubbed “Unity for Freedom” and it sounds logical. After all, the liberals and the leftists are apprehensive of the actions of the Islamists and skeptic about their intentions. They always fear that they might topple the ideas they announce during conferences, forums and seminars. Anti-Islamists constantly brandish the principle of “caution” and affirm that should the Islamists (any Islamists) take over the rule, they will bring down democracy and the constitution. On the other hand, the Egyptian Islamists have always failed to propose views that convince those who oppose them and their intentions. Moreover, they often reiterate a statement that increases skepticism around them or serves the interests of their antagonists or those who oppose their political presence. It is understandable that the Egyptian authorities would remain still vis-à-vis al-Zayat’s statement on the basis that he did not yet submit a request to found his party to the parties committee for review. This is not to mention that the final decision should be issued by this committee and not by the government or the ruling party. The surprising aspect is the stance of the Islamists themselves who started to disavow al-Zayat’s party and raced to announce that they’re not responsible for this move. They even went as far as accusing the man of wanting to be under the spotlight or “riding” the wave of this group or this organization.

The parties committee may consider the “Unity for Freedom” party a religious one and rebuff it. Even if its agenda does not include any religious indications, the committee might not consider it novel and different from other parties and still rebuff it. It might deem al-Zayat’s track record within Islamist movements as worrisome and suspicious and not accept the application accordingly. Reality has proven that the rift between Egyptian Islamists is more prominent than it is around them. Moreover, the contradictions between them as well as the interests’ calculations are continuously threatening any intellectual or political project that one of the Islamists is trying to build. Competition between the Egyptian Islamist groups and organizations seems fierce in the elections of the occupational syndicates. The conflict between al-Zayat and the “Muslim Brotherhood” group during the 2005 parliamentary elections reflected the extent to which each Islamist party rejects the presence of another. The end result is that this rift and these breakups increase skepticism around the Egyptian Islamists and reinforce the belief that that there is no hope in their unity, and raise the following question: If they are not in harmony with each other, how could they be in harmony with others?