Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Muslim Brotherhood Shows Its True Colors

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Muslim Brotherhood Shows Its True Colors

Article excerpt

If Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were alive today, he would celebrate the expansion of his Islamist vision. As evidenced by the latest version of the Muslim Brotherhood's recently released political party platform, the late Iranian leader's dream of spreading the ideology of Islamic revolution is gaining ground in Egypt, the largest Sunni Arab country.

The draft is just that - a draft still open to adjustment, reflecting ongoing debate within the Brotherhood itself about its stances before it publishes the final version of the platform. Still, the preliminary program that it outlines doesn't herald the democratic values the Brotherhood has claimed to hold in previous public statements and addresses. Instead, it calls for the adoption of a "Civic Islamic State."

Perhaps the most alarming feature of the draft platform is the call to create a Majlis Ulama, or Council of Islamic Scholars, that could end up being elected by Islamic clerics, not through free and fair elections. Reminiscent of Iran's Guardian Council, this undemocratically selected body could have the power vested by the state to veto any and all legislation passed by the Egyptian parliament and approved by the president that is not compatible with Islamic sharia law.

The Muslim Brotherhood, established in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, has been outlawed by the Egyptian government since 1954. Today, it packages itself as a moderate organization, and its members hold 88 seats (about a fifth) in the Egyptian parliament as independents. Many Egyptians have long sympathized with the Muslim Brotherhood in its struggle against an increasingly authoritarian regime. It was hard not to feel for the banned organization when its members faced the harsh treatment of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's military tribunals.

Still, having gone since 1928 without releasing any official party platform, the Muslim Brotherhood has escaped an honest and critical review - until now. In publishing this draft, it missed a golden opportunity to prove its pro-democratic stance.

The Muslim Brotherhood should have looked to Turkey as a model for how to integrate Islam into a secular system. The Turkish parliament's recent election of the Justice and Development Party candidate Abdullah Gul to the presidency produced a proudly Muslim president committed to guarding Turkey as a secular state. In stark contrast to President Gul, Mohamed Habib, the Muslim Brotherhood's second-in-command said in an interview in August, "Islam is the state religion. No secular citizen is allowed to publicize his secularism, and no laws against the sharia. …

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