CAIRO: “Copts must focus on enhancing their political skills and gaining [enough of the] people’s trust so more candidates can be nominated in elections, said Montasser Al-Zayat, vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
Al-Zayat was one of the keynote speakers at a conference titled “The Future of the Islamic Movements in Arab Parliaments held on Monday.
The workshop was organized by One World Foundation for Development and Civil Society Care as well as the Konrad Adenauer foundation.
Copts have allied themselves with the National Democratic Party (NDP), said Al-Zayat, but are getting the short end of the stick because the NDP does not support as much as it benefits from them.
On the other hand, Samir Morqos, Coptic thinker and researcher, said the lack of Coptic participation in Egypt’s political life should be addressed from the viewpoint of equality and citizenship rights as opposed to religion.
The Copts have not participated in parliamentary elections since 1990, highlighted Morqos, a fact which some journalists and intellectuals attribute to the government’s desire to separate religion from politics.
However, there has been a recent turnaround with the presence of Islamic religious parties in parliament; raising the following question: “Was the lack of Coptic participation in the elections a way to protect them from Islamic Groups? Morqos asked in a memo distributed to participants of the conference.
Morqos said that the shortage of Coptic parliamentary members can also be attributed to the issuance of fatwas indicating that Muslims should not vote for Coptic politicians.
Finally, the issue of citizenship rights is still a major factor because, practically speaking, these rights are not implemented and the government has done little to promote an egalitarian society, he said.
In his speech, Morqos criticized the MB for not publicly clarifying its stance on matters like women and non-Muslims. He also said they have failed to reconcile the old Brotherhood ideologies with the new ideologies of Islamic political movements, a move which would strengthen their political role.
Mohamed Salah, chief of Al-Hayat newspaper’s Cairo bureau, begged to differ, saying in his speech that the MB “has succeeded in reaching the public.
“The MB has managed to do what the ruling NDP has failed to do: provide the public with needed services, which worked to strengthen their bond with the public, said Salah. He also praised the relationship between the group’s parliamentary members and the media, saying that “they [the MB] know how to deal with [the media] very well.
At the same time, Salah suggested that the MB revise their strategies in order to gain the support of more political entities.
However, Cairo University political sciences professor Ahmed Thabet said that the Brotherhood has in fact cooperated with other groups and parties, which has helped in the development of their political status. Still, he labeled the MB’s role in parliament as “ineffective.
“The government has been moving backwards since the time of late president Anwar Sadat, and is still moving in this direction under the authority of incumbent President Hosni Mubarak. It has given more attention to governmental organizations and ministries instead of religious organizations and the public interest, Thabet added.
The ideologies of Islamic movements are also moving backwards, he said.
“The ideology of the MB during the time of Hassan Al-Banna [the group’s founder] was much more open and progressive than the ideology of its current leaders, he said.
Osama Al Ghazaly Harb, vice president of the Democratic Front Party, and Ahmed Kamal Aboul Maged, vice president of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, spoke in the opening session.