"Islam Is the Solution": Constitutional Visions of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

Article excerpt

Summary

I. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................ 74

II. THE MUSLIM B ROTHERHOOD AS A POWERFUL UNOFFICIAL POLITICAL PARTY .................................................................................................................... 76

III. THE CURRENT PLACE OF ISLAM IN THE EGYPTIAN CONSTITUTIONAL STRUCTURE ........................................................................................................... 80

IV. THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD'S CONSTITUTIONAL VISION ................................ 83

A. Sources for the Views of the Muslim Brotherhood ..................................... 84

B. Acceptance of the Egyptian Constitutional Structure ................................. 87

1. The Constitution and Article Two ........................................................ 87

2. Respect for SCC ..................................................................................... 89

3. Egypt as a Civil State based on Citizenship ......................................... 90

C. Areas of Desired Expansion ......................................................................... 91

1. Definition of Islamic Law ...................................................................... 91

2. An Expansive View of Article Two in Terms of Inherent Meaning, to Whom It Applies, and Who Has Standing ..................... 97

D. Mechanisms of Change ............................................................................... 100

1. Parliamentary ........................................................................................ 100

2. Executive ............................................................................................... 101

3. Council of Scholars ............................................................................... 102

4. Judiciary ................................................................................................. 104

V. CONCLUSION: CHALLENGES OF CLARITY FOR ISLAMIST PARTIES ................... 104

I. INTRODUCTION

Islamist political parties in the Middle East now form an important part of the political landscape.1 Previously operating as opposition movements outside the formal process, parties stemming from these movements have succeeded in recent years in countries including Jordan, Morocco, and Kuwait.2 As part of the national political field, voters can evaluate their accomplishments in office and indicate their approval through the ballot. Political involvement comes at a price, however- to participate, these parties typically have to make some compromises that can involve implicit limitations on the range of criticisms they make of the ruling regimes. Nevertheless, inclusion of these Islamist movements is a crucial step in the development of democratic systems.

Egypt is a significant exception to this trend. The major opposition "party," the Muslim Brotherhood, is considered the parent of many of the Islamist political parties in the region.2 Unlike its progeny, the Muslim Brotherhood does not have legal party status, although its members have managed to run for office as independents. In the November-December 2005 lower house parliamentary elections, independent candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood running with the slogan "Islam is the Solution" gained eighty-eight of 454 seats in those elections, many more than the other opposition groups combined, and even with an election process that has been criticized as involving government-supported fraudulent practices.4 These results, however, should not be seen as indicative of gradual informal participation leading toward formal recognition and inclusion by the regime. Brotherhood officials continue to be arrested and there is no indication that the regime will change its position on the group's legality. …