The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was declared to be “an illegal entity” in 1954, but the decades-long banning order has, it is claimed, been ended by a decision of the country’s Ministry of Social Solidarity. Confusion over the Islamic movement’s official status means that while the State Commissioners’ Board (SCB) has recommended to the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) that it should uphold the order to dismantle the Muslim Brotherhood because it is “an illegal entity”, the group’s lawyer, Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud, told London’s Al-Hayat newspaper that the Ministry of Social Solidarity legalised the Brotherhood last month, ending its 59-year ban.
In 1977, the group’s former General Guide, Umar al-Tilmisani, challenged the 1954 decision made by the then Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) ordering its disbandment; in 1992, the Administrative Court took up the case again. The Brotherhood then challenged the Administrative Court’s decision, taking the case to the SAC, which still hasn’t issued a ruling. Instead, the court has transferred the file to the SCB. The Board believed that it settled the issue on Wednesday on the grounds that “the decisions made by the RCC and its Council of Ministers in January and December 1954 cannot be challenged, according to the 1954 constitution”. Its report recommended that the appeal requests filed by members of the Brotherhood should be considered legally null, since those filing the appeal are not the legal representatives of a legal entity, as the Muslim Brotherhood never had a legal identity in the eyes of the state.
The SAC is expected to set a date soon at which it will announce its opinion. Moreover, on March 26th, the Administrative Court is scheduled to deliver a verdict in 4 cases against the Muslim Brotherhood, demanding that the name “Muslim Brotherhood” be banned as well as freezing its activities and bank accounts and closing down its headquarters in Cairo and regional branches. The reason, said the lower court, is that the movement “carries out its activities without permission from the Ministry of Social Affairs and in violation of the NGO law”; the Brotherhood rejects this.
In response, Mr. Abdel Maqsoud said that the group is legalised by the Ministry of Social Solidarity in accordance with the current law, and that it has a permit numbered 644 for 2013. “The SCB report is meaningless,” he said, “as the Brotherhood has already been legalised.”
The lawyer pointed out that the Brotherhood submitted an application over a month ago to the Ministry of Social Solidarity for its legalisation; this was done under the name of “the Muslim Brotherhood Group”. Abdel Maqsoud added that this was not announced publicly “because we have always considered ourselves to be a legitimate and legal group since our founding in 1928, so why make a media fuss about it?”
When asked about the movement being legalised in accordance with a law that it rejects, he said, “We still reject the current NGO law, but we were forced to use it after noticing more attempts to attack the Brotherhood.” He expressed his surprise that the SCB is issuing a verdict now, after 21 years of deliberating the case. “This coincides with attempts to create chaos at the Brotherhood headquarters,” he claimed, in a reference to the protests scheduled tomorrow in front of the group’s headquarters in Cairo. “The report was publicised to charge the political atmosphere and feed the chaos; nevertheless, we have already been legalised.”