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The problem with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is not Sharia

January 25, 2014 at 4:34 am

Western media simplistically cast the divide between revolutionaries and the Brotherhood in secular-Islamist terms

Secularism is not my cause and sharia is not my fear but I am one of those Egyptians who are critical of the Muslim Brotherhood movement – one who made a point of not voting for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party in the recent elections.

My cause is Egypt, the revolution, and seeing my country become a true democracy. My fear is the prolongation of military rule, of transformation to a system that gives the military special status above civil institutions, or one that grants the army and its budget immunity against parliamentary accountability.

The Brotherhood’s priorities are different from mine, and their objectives have occasionally conflicted with those of the revolutionaries.

There were striking examples of that in November and December. As revolutionaries were asserting their demands and thwarting the violent attack on their sit-ins by the army and interior ministry, official press releases from the Brotherhood and the party called for stability, expressing concern that such violence could hinder the electoral process.

Stability is the antithesis of revolution, and Egypt’s revolution has not ended. Not as long as thousands of civilians are being tried in military courts and the emergency law is still in place. The murderers of the revolution’s martyrs have not been sentenced.

The interior ministry, which has a history of using torture and brutality against citizens, has not been restructured. Protesters continue to be beaten, tortured and killed.

The “social justice” measures that the revolution called for have not been enforced. The assets of Hosni Mubarak’s family and their associates have not been restored to the country’s budget. Governmental bodies have not been cleansed of corrupt leadership affiliated to Mubarak’s time.

Above all, the revolution must continue as long as the military and its leaders (who were part of Mubarak’s regime) still enjoy authority over civilian leaders and have their economic assets shrouded in secrecy.

In their pursuit of “stability”, the Brothers have occasionally sided with the ruling military council – the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) – in defiance of the demands from Tahrir and other squares in Egypt. They say stability will benefit the revolution, and holding elections will lead to peaceful transition of power to civilians.

But revolutionaries disagree, on the grounds that the regime’s remnants – many of whom are still in power across the hierarchies of governmental bodies (including the army and Scaf) – will not relinquish their power easily and peacefully. Elections are not a magical solution when it comes to making powerful, corrupt figures let go of advantages they have enjoyed for decades and instead face justice.

In the midst of their conflicting and vague statements, the Brothers have given some disturbing signals. Last November, for instance, during the Mohamed Mahmoud street battle, in which tens of protesters were killed and hundreds injured after the army and interior ministry attempted to forcefully disperse a sit-in, the Brotherhood said it would stay neutral. Yet, some of its leaders made statements against the protesters and their demands.

Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan rejected the protesters’ demand that Scaf steps down: if Scaf leaves, chaos will prevail, he said. Even more shockingly, on 3 January Ghozlan said his group might agree to granting members of Scaf immunity from prosecution in return for the peaceful transition of power, and families of martyrs could be compensated financially instead of seeing their sons’ murderers being brought to justice. Widespread uproar at this caused him to pull back his statements later.

Having seen the Brotherhood make a series of compromising stances over the past year, I can’t trust it to be capable of achieving the revolution’s objectives.

Despite all that, it’s absurd to find many western media outlets reducing Egyptian revolutionaries’ anger against the Brotherhood to an alleged fear of sharia law. An oversimplified analysis from some western writers depicts the divide between many young revolutionaries and the Brotherhood as a secularist-Islamist clash.

What they seem not to have noticed is that the key secularist party in post-revolution Egypt – the Free Egyptians party – also opposed November’s demonstrations. And just as protesters kicked senior Brotherhood leader Mohamed Beltagi out of Tahrir in November, they also kicked out liberal figure Mamdouh Hamza in the same week.

The protesters’ rejection of the two men had nothing to do with sharia, and had everything to do with the revolution and its initial objectives, which were neither secularist nor Islamist.

I am not one of Tahrir’s heroes (Tahrir has seen scores of heroes lose eyes and limbs on the battle line) but I am a Tahrir-goer, a pro-revolution opponent of Scaf who does not fall into the dichotomy of “pro-Tahrir secularists versus anti-Tahrir Islamists” that is promoted by pundits.

I don’t claim that all Tahrir protesters are like me, but I can say with confidence that I share some of the stances of one celebrated Tahrir martyr: Azhar scholar Sheikh Emad Effat. Effat didn’t vote for the Brothers’ party either even though, as his widow stated later, he “wanted sharia”.

Sharia, as I know it, tells me to struggle against corruption and tyranny; and to side with those pursuing justice and dignity, be they secularist or Islamist.

Source: Guardian

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.