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Public Debate on the Political Platform of the Planned Muslim Brotherhood Party in Egypt

By: L. Azuri

MEMRI
December 11, 2007 - No. 409
http://memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=IA40907

Introduction

In January 2007, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef declared that, for the first time in its history, the Muslim Brotherhood movement would publicize its political platform. Since then, the official platform has not been released, [1] but a draft of the platform - sent by the movement to some 50 Egyptian intellectuals for review - has been leaked to the media. [2] Several aspects of the leaked draft proposal have evoked intense public criticism.

First, the 180-page draft proposes the reestablishment of the Supreme Council of Clerics, to whose decision the president and the legislative branch must defer on issues of Islamic shari'a. Second, it states that women and non-Muslims are barred from serving as president of Egypt; and third, it stipulates that international agreements signed by past governments - including the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty - are to be reexamined and brought to a public referendum.

Most of the platform's critics in the government and non-government press characterized the draft as promoting the establishment of an Iran-style Islamic state in Egypt. The clause referring to the Supreme Council of Clerics was characterized as an attempt to take legislation out of the hands of the parliament and transfer it to the clerics; the clause excluding women and Copts from the presidency was called discriminatory; and the reexamination of the 1979 peace treaty was seen as a step that would harm Egypt's prestige in the world and might lead to sanctions against it.

The platform was also criticized by senior Muslim Brotherhood officials, including Political Bureau head Dr. 'Issam Al-'Arian and member of the Supreme Guide's office Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh, who objected to the clauses dealing with the religious character of the state and the peace treaty with Israel. Muslim Brotherhood leaders outside Egypt, such as Sheikh Rashed Al-Ghanushi, head of the Tunisian Islamist movement Al-Nahdha ("Revival"), and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide 'Ali Sadr Al-Din Al-Bayanouni, criticized the clauses referring to the Supreme Council of Clerics and to the status of women and Copts, and demanded that these be revised.

The top Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt leaders, including Supreme Guide Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef, his first deputy Dr. Muhammad Habib, and Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Mahmoud 'Izzat, promised to review the intellectuals' feedback before releasing the final version of the platform. However, despite the criticism of the movement from within and from without, they appear to be insisting on retaining the controversial clauses. Responding to the criticism, they stated that the Supreme Council of Clerics was meant to be an advisory body only, aimed at ensuring the implementation of the shari'a as demanded by the Egyptian constitution. They stated further that the clause relating to the presidency was based on an interpretation of the religious sources and would therefore remain as it was, and that international law permitted a referendum on the peace treaty with Israel.

The publication of the official platform has presumably been delayed pending reviewers' comments, and because of the disagreement within the movement over the phrasing of the platform and over the question of whether and when to announce the establishment of a Muslim Brotherhood party.

The postponement may have also been caused by the wave of arrests of senior Muslim Brotherhood officials, including Mahmoud Al-Ghozlan, who headed the Platform Committee, and the Egyptian authorities' ban on the movement's traditional rally at the end of the Ramadan fast, during which many believed the platform was to be officially announced. Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide 'Akef has stated that the final version of the platform will be publicized after all feedback is received and considered.

This report will review the controversial clauses of the platform, the criticism voiced against them by Egyptian columnists and by Muslim Brotherhood members inside and outside Egypt, and the movement's responses to the criticism.

The Controversial Clauses of the Draft Platform

The draft platform, as posted August 25, 2007 on www.islamonline.net, includes six parts: an introduction, and five sections dealing with (a) the movement's principles, (b) the state and the political regime, (c) education, development, and economic policy, (d) social justice, and (e) cultural revival. The following is a review of the controversial clauses of the platform:

The President and Legislative Branch Will Be Advised by the Supreme Council of Clerics

The religious character of the state is an issue dealt with extensively in the platform. The draft states: "We present this reform plan to all sectors of the Egyptian people... in accordance with the constitution and with the [principle of] freedom of expression, opinion and thought, and in accordance with the second article of the constitution, which states that Islam is the official state religion and that the Islamic shari'a is the main source for legislation... [p. 5]. The Islamic state is, by its very nature, a civil state, because appointments to [public] office are made on the basis of qualifications, experience, and expertise, while the [holders of] political positions are elected by the people... [p. 14])"

The draft platform states further: "The authority of the shari'a will be implemented in a manner that conforms to the [will of the] nation, by means of a parliamentary majority elected in free, clean, and transparent [elections]. The legislative branch must consult with the nation's Supreme Council of Clerics, which will likewise be freely and directly elected from among the clerics, and will be completely independent of the executive branch - procedurally, financially and administratively. It will be assisted by neutral and reliable committees and advisors with knowledge and experience, including in the secular sciences. [The duty of consulting with the Supreme Council of Clerics] will also apply to the president when he wishes to implement decisions based on law and in the absence of the legislative branch. In these circumstances, the Supreme Council of Clerics decision will be final and will best serve the interests of the public.

"In the case of controversial [questions] which are not unambiguously [settled] by shari'a laws based directly on clear and applicable texts [from the Koran or hadith], the final decision will be made by the legislative branch. Such decisions, if [approved by] the legislative branch by absolute majority, will be valid even if they contradict the opinion of the Supreme Council of Clerics. In such cases, before the legislative branch makes its final decision, it must appeal to [the Supreme Council of Clerics] and present its position, which it believes better serves the interests of the public.

"The criteria for electing the members of the Supreme Council of Clerics, and the standards they will be required to meet, will be stipulated by law... [p. 10]"

Non-Muslims Are Barred from the Presidency

Another clause that evoked criticism deals with the treatment of Egypt's non-Muslim population. The draft states: "A state is predicated on the principle of citizenship. Egypt is the state of all those who hold Egyptian citizenship, who by law have equal rights and duties in accordance with the principles of equality and equality of opportunity... [p. 12]. The principles of equality and equality of opportunity are essential in obtaining justice and in deepening [the sense of] belonging to the homeland; they can be implemented by avoiding discrimination, in both rights and duties, on the basis of religion, gender, and race, and by granting all citizens an [equal] opportunity to express their opinions; to run for political organizations, to join [such organizations] and to move [freely] from one to another; [and] to study and to work - [providing] that they observe the basic values of society... [p. 23]."

On the other hand, the draft included the following: "There are basic religious offices in the country whose [function] is to protect religion. An Islamic state must protect non-Muslim [citizens] in all things concerning faith, ritual, etc.; at the same time, it must preserve Islam and all matters related to it, ensuring that no ritual, propaganda, or pilgrimage contradicting Islamic activities are carried out. These religious offices include that of the president or prime minister, depending on the political regime [in the country]. Accordingly, we believe that the duty of the president or prime minister - depending on the political regime - runs against the beliefs of non-Muslims. Consequently, a non-Muslim is exempt from this position, based on the Islamic shari'a, which does not obligate a non-Muslim to perform functions that contradict his faith... [p. 15]"

The Role of President Does Not Suit Woman's Nature

According to the draft platform, women, too, are barred from running for president. The document stipulates that one way of ensuring citizens' equality and equality of opportunity is "to grant the woman all rights due to her in a way that does not undermine basic values in society. [p. 23]" It further states: "Women constitute half the population, and they balance the family roles (as wives, mothers, and house owners). Islam has [always] treated woman as man's sister. As for the woman's role with regard to employment, [Islam] stipulates that it should be balanced against the woman's lofty mission at home, with her children, so as to strengthen the basic units of society.

"Our worldview presupposes complete equality in human dignity between man and woman, while at the same time assigning crucial importance to distinguishing their social and humanitarian roles, without affecting the status of either gender. The woman's role in the family invests her with primary responsibility for educating the next generation and for ensuring that the family in our Egyptian Arabic Muslim culture serves as the basic social unit. Our national revival is predicated on the reestablishment of the family unit. Accordingly, we attribute supreme importance to the balance in the woman's roles, [including] the enhancement of her roles within the family and in public life; she should not be burdened with obligations that contradict her nature or her role within the family.

"We believe that offices occupied by women are determined by social consensus that rests on the authority of the Islamic culture. The debate over several offices and the possibility for a woman to occupy them (e.g., as judges) must be carried out as part of the social and religious dialogue with the aim of attaining social consensus, so that both women and men have a chance to participate in the decision-making process. On our part, we believe that the burdens of presidency must not be placed on a woman's shoulders - any more than supervising and leading the army - since they contradict her nature and the rest of her social and humanitarian roles... [p. 103]."

The Peace Treaty with Israel will be Reexamined

Another controversial aspect of the draft platform concerns honoring ratified international peace agreements, meaning in particular the peace agreements with Israel. The document states: "We honor unwritten laws and treaties, international contracts and agreements, as well all agreements that call for cooperation between the peoples to attain justice and equality... [p. 7] The principle of honoring international treaties and agreements ensures the stability of relations between the countries, and creates a legal framework for settling conflicts between different sides. International law, as well as international treaties and agreements, offers ways to probe the extent of commitment of the sides, while at the same times providing avenues for their revision should any of the sides feel that the agreement in question discriminates against it, harms its status, or undermines its security. Revising bilateral agreements and treaties is [an accepted] practice in international relations, anchored in [special] clauses of these agreements - and is regarded as a routine procedure... [p. 29]"

Tourists Visiting Egypt Must Respect Islamic Laws

The clause dealing with tourists in Egypt is equally controversial. The draft states: "Tourist services comprise religious tourism, scientific tourism, tourism to attend conferences, tourism for [medical] treatment, commercial tourism, and holiday tourism. All activities related to these aspects of tourism must be in line with Islamic principles, values, and laws. A tourist must familiarize himself with Muslim religious boundaries, so as not to transgress them in public during his stay [in Egypt]. As an Islamic state, Egypt must adhere to the Islamic values... Shari'a permits a non-Muslim to do things that are forbidden to a Muslim, albeit not in public but only in the private sphere - and this [regulation] also applies to a tourist... [p. 57]"

This clause infuriated Egypt's tourist agencies, which claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood's aim was to sabotage the Egyptian economy. The director of one such company said in response to the release of the draft: "How can we request that tourists in our country fulfill the demands of the Brotherhood's platform - is that reasonable? Doesn't our Islamic faith prompt us to honor [other] religions, [according to the verse] 'You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion [6:109]'? How can we force our religious precepts and principles on them? Every free individual [should have the right to choose] his faith… The Brotherhood's platform, if implemented, would cause great losses and harm to Egypt's tourism. A tourist travels to enjoy his freedom, and it is not wise to impose constraints - indeed, what, then, is the meaning of the word 'tourism?'..." [3]

Criticism of the Draft Platform

Columnists in Egyptian Media: The Document Advocates Iranian-Style Dictatorship

The draft of the Muslim Brotherhood Party's platform was extensively criticized by the columnists in the Egyptian papers, government and non-government alike. Director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id, who had been asked by the Muslim Brotherhood to give his opinion on the draft platform, published his comments in an article in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. Sa'id wrote: "I was disappointed by the Muslim Brotherhood movement's platform, which tore to shreds every concept of the civil state discussed by the movement's representatives, supplanting it openly and unequivocally by a typical [theocratic] regime...

"Although the platform explicitly stipulates on p. 14 that 'an Islamic state is necessarily a civil state,' this assertion cannot be understood outside the discourse that precedes it on p. 11-12, whereby it is not the constitution but the Islamic shari'a that serves as the basis or the source for legislation. Accordingly, the function of elected bodies... is exclusively the interpretation of the shari'a. In other words, the function of legislation is taken away from the parliament and is made the function of the fatwa…"

Of the Supreme Council of Clerics, Sa'id wrote: "It is a religious body invested with supreme authority to make decisions, at least in matters whose validity and meaning are uncontroversial. [The notion of] such a body contradicts the principle of equality that is a core concept in a civil state. [Its members] are not elected from among the bulk of the population. It goes without saying that members of other religions [are excluded], since [the only] rights that they are granted is the right to [observe their religious] rituals and to participate in limited aspects of the political process. Essentially, the Brotherhood's platform spells the end of the concept of the civil state, replacing it with the idea of a [theocratic] state which precludes the non-Muslims from holding public office... and deprives them of the right to defend their homeland. This opens leeway for the reinstitution of the jizya [poll tax paid by non-Muslims under Muslim rule]...

"All of the above constitutes a huge leap backwards in the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been trying, over the past few years, to persuade us that they had adopted equality as a cornerstone principle, that democracy had become their official line, that the regime they wanted to establish was based on the idea of the 'civil state,' and that their policy was essentially based on the concept of 'citizenship' in the broad and modern political sense of the word..." [4]

'Omar Al-Shobaki, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies who had also received a copy of the draft platform from the movement, expressed his criticism in an op-ed in the Egyptian opposition daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm. He wrote: "This platform astonished me and many others who received a copy... It is the worst [platform] in the history of the movement, even in comparison with its various election platforms, particularly that of the 2005 elections. It is obvious that anyone outside the movement who reads the platform will immediately realize that it was drafted by more than one hand, or more precisely, from more than one point of view, and that it was the religious stream - or the da'wa faction [within the movement] - that prevailed, imposing its view of the world and religion..."

Al-Shobaki also criticized the idea of reestablishing the Supreme Council of Clerics: "The proposal to establish a religious body whose function would be to monitor legislation, the People's Council, and the president is a substantial regression in the Brotherhood's discourse. It lays the foundation for a [theocratic] state, contradicting not only the tradition of the civil Egyptian state but also the entire civil heritage that the Brotherhood has amassed over a quarter of a century. It also stands in contradiction to the active role that [the Brotherhood] has played in political life, in parliament, and in the workers' unions. They have again reverted to discussing explicitly the idea of the [theocratic] state, where the Supreme Council of Clerics is involved in legislation...

"It is clear that the Brotherhood's platform is not that of a political party, but rather that of a religious movement. A grave problem that we have been discussing for years, namely, the need for complete separation between the religious movement and the political party, can be solved only by reform within [the Brotherhood] movement. Since the political regime will never encourage the Brotherhood to evolve [into a political party], and may even penalize it for doing so, we will [be left] with the same stagnant religious movement which will never [be prepared to] change its political discourse and perspective, since it requires them to preserve its unity and solidarity..." [5]

Editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhouriyya and Egyptian Shura Council member Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim harshly criticized several clauses of the platform. In his daily column, he wrote: "Sheikh Mahdi ['Akef] has achieved nothing new with this imaginary platform [of his], apart from the uproar he meant to create. This platform is [merely] a distorted version of the platform of the NDP [Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party], and [an attempt] to rephrase some clauses of the [Egyptian] constitution - which Sheikh Mahdi 'Akef does not recognize and would like to abolish altogether - before incorporating them into his imaginary platform.

"In his platform, 'Akef also proposes to bring the Camp David Accords to referendum, exploiting the vindictiveness and anger felt by the Egyptian public as a result of Israel's stupidity, America's endless support [of Israel], and Tel Aviv's persistent [attempts] to bury and sabotage the peace [process]. But Mahdi, [with] his platform and his illegal movement, does not understand the implications of an Egyptian withdrawal from an international agreement, and does not care that Egypt will lose its credibility in the eyes of the world and will be subjected to political or economic sanctions...

"The most outrageous [idea] proposed by the Muslim Brotherhood in its platform is that a religious body [i.e. the Supreme Council of Clerics] would have power over the president... This body would be like the [Spanish] Inquisition, and would [attempt to control] people's conscience and judge them for their thoughts. Have you ever seen a worse [kind of] religious dictatorship? It would be similar to the Iranian regime, where the Supreme Leader is the top authority, and the president, the parliamentary speaker, etc. are subordinate to him. Egypt will never be Iran. The [Egyptian] president will never be helpless in the face of an angry religious movement that wants to usurp the country and make it hostage to its aspirations..." [6]

Criticism within the Muslim Brotherhood

Within the Muslim Brotherhood itself, disagreements arose, both during the drafting of the platform and after the publication of the criticism against it, regarding the controversial clauses as well as the more general questions of whether to announce the formation of a political party and whether to publish its platform. [7]

According to the Egyptian weekly Akher Sa'a, the draft platform mostly reflects the views of the first deputy to the Supreme Guide, Dr. Muhammad Habib, and of Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Dr. Mahmoud 'Izzat, which differ from those of the Muslim Brotherhood Political Bureau chief Dr. 'Issam Al-'Arian and of Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh, member of the Supreme Guide's office. In fact, the latter posted an article on one of the Muslim Brotherhood websites criticizing the platform - but the article was promptly removed from the site. [8] Following is a review of the argument within the Muslim Brotherhood:

Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General: "The Rule of the Jurisprudent Is Not on the Agenda"

One of the clauses that caused contention during the drafting of the platform dealt with the Supreme Council of Clerics. Political Bureau head Dr. 'Issam Al-'Arian voiced reservations about this clause, describing it as a "negative point that draws attention away from the other [clauses of the platform]." He also said that the duties of the council, [as specified in the platform,] were not the duties set out for clerics in the Sunni shari'a. Al-'Arian demanded that the clause be rephrased, and suggested combining it with the item on religious bodies and the development of Al-Azhar, over which there was no controversy within the movement. [9]

Dr. Muhammad Habib, first deputy to the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide, said that an error had fallen in the phrasing of this clause, and that the Supreme council of clerics was meant to be an advisory body whose decisions were not binding: "We intended that the council would belong to Al-Azhar or to a body associated with it... We did not mean for it to have any control or hegemony, or the authority to impose [its decisions] on any body whatsoever. We believe that the People's Council has the ultimate authority in [matters of] legislation." [10]

Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh, member of the Supreme Guide's office, likewise said that the clause was poorly phrased and not meant to read as it did. He explained: "We call to reestablish the Supreme Council of Clerics, which was once a part of Al-Azhar. In addition [to its function of electing the Sheikh of Al-Azhar], it will advise the Constitutional Court, the People's Council, and the Shura Council on matters requiring a religious ruling. It will be an advisory council [11] [whose decisions] are not binding."

In a similar vein, Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Dr. Mahmoud 'Izzat said, in an interview for the Muslim Brotherhood website, that the Supreme Council of Clerics was only meant to advise the legislative branch and the president, and to "assist them in implementing the [Egyptian] constitution." He added that "'the Rule of the Jurisprudent' [a guiding principle of the Iranian regime] was not on the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood or of the Sunnis in general." [12]

Another member of the Supreme Guide's office, Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan, assessed that, in light of the criticism it aroused, the Muslim Brotherhood was inclined to exclude the clause from the final draft of the platform. He explained that the establishment of such a council was not mandated by religious sources, which made it easier to give up or revise the clause dealing with it. [13]

Muslim Brotherhood Political Bureau Head: "No Christian [in Egypt] Actually Expects to Become President"; "A Woman is Unlikely to Attain This Position, Given the Patriarchal Character of [Our] Society"

The clause dealing with the presidency aroused controversy within the movement as well. Member of the Supreme Guide's office Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh objected to the clause as it was phrased, stating that Copts and women should be allowed to run for president. In an interview for www.islamonline.com, he stated: "There is no reason why a Copt or a woman should not serve as president - if such are the people's will and choice. We do not object to any citizen running for president, as long as they meet the criteria specified in the constitution, since all citizens have equal rights and duties, and we respect the people's choice..."

"The phrasing [of the clause in the draft] was erroneous. We appealed to Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, [chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood abroad], and to Dr. Ahmad Al-'Assal [a Muslim preacher and advisor to the president of the Islamic University of Islamabad], who confirmed that a woman could submit her candidacy for president, as long as the election [of the president] was up to the people..." [14]

Muslim Brotherhood Political Bureau head Dr. 'Issam Al-'Arian agreed that the role of president should be restricted to Muslim men, but argued that this should not be stated explicitly: "The controversy is not over who should [be eligible for the role of president], but over [the question] of whether this point should be made so explicit, or rather should be left up to custom, which [people] will follow even if it is not spelled out. For in a country whose constitution states that Islamic shari'a is the main source of legislation, and in which 90% of the citizens are Muslim, no Christian actually expects to become president. If this happens, it will be a rarity.

"As for women - a woman is unlikely to attain this position, given the patriarchal character of [our] society. The fact is that women have been allowed to run for the [local] people's councils for decades, but they have never managed to win any significant number of seats." [15] A Muslim Brotherhood source reported that Al-'Arian was excluded from the discussions over amendments to the clauses dealing with the presidency. [16]

In light of the harsh criticism over the presidency clause, an anonymous Muslim Brotherhood source told the opposition daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm that the movement was inclined to remove this clause from the final draft of the platform. [17] However, this claim was denied by platform committee head Dr. Muhammad Mursi, who said that the Muslim Brotherhood leaders had unanimously decided to retain the clause banning women and Copts from the presidency. [18] On another occasion, Mursi said: "Have we ever seen a non-Christian at the head of the Vatican? Has Israel ever had a non-Jewish president?" [19]

Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Dr. Mahmoud 'Izzat likewise stated in an interview for the movement's website that, despite the criticism, the office of the Supreme Guide had decided that Copts and women should not be allowed to run for president, though all other public roles were open to them. [20] First deputy to the Supreme Guide Dr. Muhammad Habib told Al-Jazeera TV that "the Copts were ordinary citizens [who] had all rights - and not second-class citizens..." He added that they could serve in any high-ranking position except the presidency, since the president was in charge of implementing shari'a. [21]

Member of the Supreme Guide's office Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan said that the Muslim Brotherhood's position on the issue of Copts and women running for president was not open to discussion, since it was based on a shari'a principle anchored in [sacred] texts, and that ijtihad [independent judgment] could therefore not be applied to it. [22] Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef stated: "This is our decision, and if people choose a different interpretation, they are entitled to it. Our decision is based on a thorough religious study. Our decision is that a Muslim country does not permit a woman or a Copt to be president..." [23]

Recognition of Israel and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty/Camp David Accords

The question of recognizing Israel and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty precipitated a crisis within the Muslim Brotherhood. The Supreme Guide demanded the inclusion in the platform of a clause stipulating that the treaty must be brought to public referendum. [24] In an interview with a Russian newspaper, he said: "The Muslim Brotherhood has refused to recognize the Camp David Accords since the day they were signed, and it opposes all agreements with the Zionist entity... The Muslim Brotherhood declares that it will honor all agreements signed in the past, and that its position vis-à-vis the [Camp David Accords] will be in line with that of the people. The [final choice] will be made by the Egyptian people, who will decide by a vote whether to accept or reject the Accords." [25]

The crisis within the movement was triggered by a statement by Muslim Brotherhood Political Bureau head Dr. 'Issam Al-'Arian to the London daily Al-Hayat: "If it comes to power, the Muslim Brotherhood will recognize Israel and honor the agreements with it, but the Camp David Accords will be amended to suit our [position]. That does not mean that we will declare war [on Israel], but only that we will reexamine the agreements and treaties, [and amend them] so that they comply with Egypt's interests." [26]

Responding to this statement, Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide 'Akef said that the movement never had recognized Israel and never would, adding: "Our lexicon does not include anything called 'Israel.' The [only thing] we acknowledge is the existence of Zionist gangs that have occupied Arab lands and deported the residents. If they want to live among us, it will have to be as [residents of] Palestine. If they want their own state, our only option is to object." [27]

Under intense pressure, Al-'Arian retracted his statement on recognizing Israel, stating: "The Muslim Brotherhood will deal with Israel realistically and politically, according to the existing circumstances, i.e., that the state of Israel exists... The party will honor all the international treaties and agreements, including the Camp David [Accords]. If the [Egyptian] people feel the need to amend [the accords] in any way, this will be done in line with international principles, which permit each side to improve its position so as to derive the maximal benefit from an agreement."

Al-'Arian added: "We will not change the clause pertaining to the Camp David Accords in the final version of the platform. If the [Muslim Brotherhood] party comes to power, it will honor the international agreements, including the Camp David [Accords]… since it would be inconceivable for every new party that comes to power to renege on agreements signed by previous governments."

However, Al-'Arian stressed that it was important to make the distinction between the position of the Muslim Brotherhood party, and the position of the Muslim Brotherhood movement vis-à-vis Israel. The movement, he explained, "regards Israel as an illegitimate state... The existence of Israel is illegitimate, and anything that rests on an illegitimate [basis] is illegitimate [in itself], and cannot be recognized." [28]

In an interview with the Muslim Brotherhood website, Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Dr. Mahmoud 'Izzat said that despite the criticism over the clause on international agreements, the office of the Supreme Guide had decided that its position on the Camp David Accords would remain as is. He explained: "Palestine belongs not only to the Palestinian people, but to the entire Arab and Muslim world, and therefore nobody has the right to relinquish even an inch of its soil. As for the other agreements, we will honor them. The Camp David Accords, like all other agreements, are subject to procedures of amendment or revocation, as stipulated by international law." [29]

Member of the Supreme Guide's office Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan said that there was no chance that his movement would recognize Israel. As for the Camp David Accords, he said that they had been signed "under specific circumstances," and that the platform would stipulate that they must be reassessed and brought to a referendum for their future to be decided. [30]

Disagreement within the Muslim Brotherhood Over Whether and When to Announce a Party

Apart from the controversy over the platform clauses, the Muslim Brotherhood leadership disagrees over whether to publish an official platform at all, and if one is to be published, when this should take place - because releasing an official platform is tantamount to announcing the establishment of a party. [31] The old guard within the Muslim Brotherhood, headed by the movement's mufti Sheikh Muhammad 'Abdallah Al-Khatib, seeks to postpone the platform's publication, since it is a departure from the principles laid down by Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Bana. Al-Bana opposed the establishment of a party, seeing it as an obstacle to achieving reform in Egypt. Another possible factor in the old guard's wish to delay publication is the recent amendment to the fifth article of the Egyptian constitution prohibiting the establishment of religion-based political parties.

Conversely, the younger faction within the movement, including first deputy to the Supreme Guide Dr. Muhammad Habib, and members of the Supreme Guide's office Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh, Dr. Muhammad Mursi, Dr. Gamal Hishmat, and Dr. 'Issam Al-'Arian (whose responsibilities have grown since the arrest of second deputy to the Supreme Guide Khayrat Al-Shater), were in favor of publishing the platform, since it is largely similar to the movement's platform in the 2000 and 2005 elections, to the reform initiative announced by 'Akef in March 2004, and to the movement's platform in the 2007 Shura Council elections. Members of this camp also argued that now was the right time to release the platform, since there was a lot of popular support for the movement in light of the military tribunals currently being held for some of its members. [32]

There is general agreement within the Muslim Brotherhood movement that, no matter what is decided regarding the publication of the platform, the movement will not apply to the Parties Committee (the abolition of which the Muslim Brotherhood has demanded) for a license to declare an official party. Dr. Muhammad Habib explained that the Muslim Brotherhood intended to form an official party only when the political climate in Egypt is more suitable for such a move. In an interview with the opposition daily Al-Badil, Habib said: "[Egypt] has reached a state of exclusion and stagnation in political and party life, and the result is the backwardness currently prevailing in the country. Establishing parties is not the issue - because parties do exist, but they do nothing. We do not want to be just another party among the parties already on the [political] scene..." [33]

However, members of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc in the Egyptian parliament have insisted that the movement apply to the Parties Committee for a legal license to form a party, [34] and this disagreement has delayed the publication of the official platform. [35]

Criticism by Islamist Leaders Abroad - Sheikh Rashed Al-Ghanushi and 'Ali Sadr Al-Din Al-Bayanouni

In late October 2007, a symposium was held in London under the auspices of the Al-Abrar Islamic Association to deal with the draft platform. It was attended by Muslim Brotherhood members from various Arab countries. Representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was the head of the movement bloc in the Egyptian parliament, Dr. Muhammad Sa'd Al-Katatni, who presented the draft platform. The draft as a whole was harshly criticized, with particular censure directed against its controversial aspects, including the provision on the establishment of the Supreme Council of Clerics, as well as the clause dealing with the criteria for the presidency. [36]

The clauses stipulating that Egypt's president must be a Muslim male were criticized by Sheikh Rashed Al-Ghanushi, the head of the Tunisian Islamic movement Al-Nahdha who is currently in exile in London. He proposed "ridding the draft platform of this condition, which is not mandatory [from the religious perspective]…" He added that in contrast to the position of the Muslim Brotherhood, the presidency in a nation state is not a "supreme power" (i.e. not equivalent to the position of caliph in a Muslim state, which cannot be held by a woman). [37] Al Ghanushi explained that no shari'a source banned women from any public office.

The Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, 'Ali Sadr Al-Din Al-Bayanouni, who is also currently in exile in London, told the symposium that women may head a government or a state, since the presidency "is not [the equivalent of holding] supreme power." Al-Bayanouni suggested "ignoring this point in the platform, or omitting this clause so as to avoid any implication of discrimination among citizens…"

Algerian Islamic party Movement for a Society of Peace representative "Abd Al-Majid Manasra criticized the idea of establishing a Supreme Council of Clerics, stating that the draft platform was vague about all things concerning the nature of the state and its political regime, and that nowhere did it oppose the use of violence as a means of attaining or keeping power. He argued that this would arouse suspicion among non-Muslims and give the clerics control over the parliament. Manasra suggested that it is the current Egyptian authorities who should carry out the function that the draft allocates to the Supreme Council of Clerics, because the Egyptian constitution names shari'a as the principal source of legislation. He added that the idea of a Supreme Council of Clerics was incompatible with the nature of the civil state." [38]

Egyptian Brotherhood Supreme Guide: Final Platform after Reviewing the Feedback

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef responded to the extensive criticism of the draft platform by stating: "The Brotherhood presented the platform because they wanted as much feedback as possible, hence we heard many opinions. Two sessions will be held to discuss the platform's controversial aspects. We will present our viewpoint, hear the opinions of others, and then present the final version of the platform." Sheikh 'Akef said that all options were open to the Brotherhood, and that the controversial points might be amended. [39]

In an article posted on the Muslim Brotherhood website, 'Akef's media advisor Dr. Gamal Nassar elucidated the movement's position vis-à-vis the criticism of the draft platform: "The Muslim Brotherhood values the opinion of others and is not trying to suppress it. They heed it as long as it does not transgress the boundaries of constructive criticism… The movement's insistence on hearing various opinions on the platform proves that, on questions of change and reform, it is not acting on its own in the political arena but in partnership with all honored compatriots, even if their views and ideology are different [from those of the movement] - since they [and we] are working towards the same goal…

"I believe that the publicized platform is only a preliminary draft, and that various opinions might be later taken [into account] and benefited from, as long as they are compatible with the good of the public and do not contradict the movement's conception of its political mission. The Brotherhood adopts an approach to life based on shari'a, which sets it apart from others. It does not compel anyone to share [its opinion], but it does expect everyone to respect its choice…

"Some newspapers and journals reacted to the platform with great hostility, criticizing it in a destructive way [unacceptable by] any standard of academic criticism, aiming to attack, in every possible manner, Islamic thought and the Islamic plan. They resorted to slander, falsely linking the Brotherhood's [ideology] with other Islamic models, Sunni or Shi'ite…" [40]

* L. Azuri is a research fellow at MEMRI.



[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 14, 2007.

[2] The draft first appeared in the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, which published it in four installments from August 10 through 14, 2007. However, senior Muslim Brotherhood officials stated that the version published in the paper was not the final version of the platform. Another version of the draft was posted by www.islamonline.net on August 25, 2007.

[3] Akher Sa'a (Egypt), August 29, 2007.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 26, 2007.

[5] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), September 20, 2007.

[6] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), September 15, 2007.

[7] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), September 20, 2007.

[8] Akher Sa’a (Egypt), October 3, 2007.

[9] Al-Hayat (London), October 13, 2007.

[10] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 16, 2007.

[11] www.islaomonline.net, October 9, 2007.

[12] www.ikhwanonline.com, October 23, 2007.

[13] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), November 7, 2007.

[14] www.islamonline.net, October 9, 2007.

[15] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), October 11, 2007.

[16] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), November 7, 2007.

[17] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), October 23, 2007.

[18] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), October 24, 2007.

[19] Al-Hayat (London), September 24, 2007.

[20] www.ikhwanonline.com, October 23, 2007.

[21] www.ikhwanonline.com, August 16, 2007.

[22] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), November 7, 2007.

[23] Al-Wafd (Egypt), November 2, 2007.

[24] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), August 20, 2007.

[25] www.ikhwanonline.com, November 10, 2007.

[26] Al-Hayat (London), October 13, 2007.

[27] Al-Hayat (London), October 18, 2007.

[28] www.islamonline.net, October 16, 2007.

[29] www.ikhwanonline.com, October 23, 2007.

[30] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), November 7, 2007.

[31] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), August 6, 2007.

[32] Al-Ahram Al-'Arabi (Egypt), July 28, 2007.

[33] Al-Badil (Egypt), August 22, 2007.

[34] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), August 20, 2007. The Egyptian government weekly Al-Musawwar reported that if the Muslim Brotherhood appealed to the Parties Committee for a license, its party's official name would be "Al-Amal" (Hope). Al-Musawwar (Egypt), September 21, 2007.

[35] Another reason for the delay may have been the arrest of several figures involved in the writing of the platform, such as platform committee head Muhammad Ghozlan and 'Issam Al-'Arian. In an August 18, 2007 interview, Dr. Muhammad Al-Habib told www.islamonline.net that the movement was determined to announce its platform "even if each and every one of its members were arrested." On August 17, 2007, the weekly Al-Musawwar speculated that the platform would probably be officially presented at the Muslim Brotherhood's annual Iftar feast (marking the end of the Ramadan fast), but the Egyptian security apparatuses, in an unprecedented move, refused to grant a license for holding the event. www.ikhwanonline.com September 16, 2007.

[36] www.ikhwanonline.com, October 30, 2007.

[37] www.ikhwanonline.com, November 11, 2007.

[38] http://news.bbc.co.uk, October 28, 2007.

[39] Al-Hayat (London), October 18, 2007.

[40] www.ikhwanonline.com, October 11, 2007.



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