Muslim Brotherhood newfound freedom met with concerns

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CAIRO: A few months into the January 25 Revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood is taking the political scene by storm. Once a banned group, the party is now expressing its views and plans freely in the absence of Mubarak’s regime. However, this freedom was met with different reservations on the future of Egypt under a potential MB rule.

Concerns on how people’s lifestyles would change were demonstrated after the constitutional referendum results were announced, and an ‘Islamists Invasion Myth’ was brought about after the MB along with other Islamic movements, campaigned in favor of the proposed constitutional changes.

Jokes such as “Gillette will go bankrupt because people will not shave their beards” and “Special offers on galabib and abaya” were widespread on Facebook and Twitter.

However, Abdel Moaty Zaki, prominent MB member and political researcher, quelled some of the concerns, denying some of the Muslim Brotherhood stereotypes and saying that the “political game has rules.”

Zaki denied the MB’s intention to enforce strict Islamic rules, starting with imposing any kind of dress code in Egypt, saying “it is not applicable.”

“We should not focus on the outside appearances more than the inside,” he said, explaining that improving education and developing a person on an individual level, then within the family is more important to achieve a better society.

“We cannot apply Islamic rules to a society that is not ready for it. [Focusing] on looks is not effective,” Zaki said.

When it comes to education, Zaki said that the current curricula in schools need to be revised since it does not build character.

Political vs religious party
Abel Moaty rejected the stereotype that the Muslim Brotherhood is a religious group. “We are a religious group, a political board, a social and sports club … Islam is comprehensive,” he said.

On the other hand, Hossam Tammam, writer and researcher of Islamic movements and ideologies, explained that due to the Muslim Brotherhood’s extensive work in politics and public activities, its aspiration for a comprehensive moral setup for the society has fizzled.

“But deep inside they wish to do that especially due to the existence of a Salafi component among them to a certain extent,” he said.

Tammam claimed that under the old regime, and during parliament discussions, Brotherhood MPs always raised issues like the outfit of an actress in a movie and similar topics. “I do not think it is impossible for them to interfere in the appearance of the society,” he said.

Tammam explained that while the Brotherhood’s approach in the past few years has become more moderate, the situation would be different should they come to power. Tammam said that the promises made by the MB of not enforcing strict Islamic laws might not all be true.

“Islam is comprehensive, in my opinion, by providing vision and insight on all aspects of life, but the Muslim Brotherhood relies on this point to give vague opinions regarding specific matters,” Tammam said, “the problem is that we do not know the MB’s [specific agenda] to be able to judge their intentions regarding such those detailed lifestyle matters.”

Zaki explained that before Jan. 25, the group was politically active in parliament and separated between its religious and public work. However, after the revolution, and with the constitution easing the restrictions on forming political parties, the group opted to establish the Freedom and Justice Party; “a purely political party for all Egyptians whether they are Muslims, Christians, liberals or from any other group only under the condition of commitment to the framework and guidelines of the party,” he said.

“The MB’s Guidance Office will not interfere in the political party’s decisions,” Zaki said, adding that this might emphasize the distinction between a political and a religious party.

However, Tammam said that the distinction is still unclear. “So far, the MB has banned all its members from joining a political party other than the Freedom and Justice Party. I hope the MB can follow the Moroccan example of total separation between political work and public or religious work, and not follow the Jordanian example of failing to separate those two groups. This is a challenge they should step up to,” he said.

The Brotherhood and Israel
Zaki said that while the Camp David peace treaty is still valid, it needs to be revised every 15 years because Israel is violating its terms.

“Liberation of Palestine is a dream for all the Arabs … But the priority now is building a strong Egypt and eradicating corruption,” he said.

“I agree that liberating Palestine is a dream. The challenge is not going through a war with Israel; it is the challenge of establishing a balanced relation thus being an effective part of the international system and not living in isolation as the Iranian example,” Tammam said.



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