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
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. …