Egyptians want rule of law in an Islamic democracy, not rule by clerics in a theocracy: Muslim brotherhood

by B.Raman

Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters are seen behind barbed wire as they arrive at Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011. Egypt's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, said it would begin talks Sunday with the government to try to end the country's political crisis but made clear it would insist on the immediate ouster of longtime authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak. - AP Photo
(February 06, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) The following extracts from two statements issued by Dr.Mohamed Badie, Chairman of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB), on the protest demonstrations since January 25,2011 and from some commentaries on the developments carried by the web site of the MB give an indication of how it views the mass protests and what would be its role in a post-Hosni Mubarak era. The MB projects the mass uprising as a people’s revolution and not an Islamic revolution. It describes the objective of the people’s revolution as a rule of law in an Islamic democracy and not a rule by clerics in a theocracy. It seeks to assure the American people that they have nothing to fear from the success of the revolution. While expressing its readiness to participate in talks to bring about the end of the Mubarak regime, it says it has no desire for political power for itself. It does not want to contest in the elections for a new President. Nor is it interested in joining any interim political set-up. The only demand of a religious nature it makes is that the clerics should have a role in vetting all laws to be passed by the Parliament. It says that what Egypt needs is democracy moulded by historic and sacred values. It points out that the religious faith of the people always plays a role in popular movements even in the US and says one should not worry about any role of the religious faith of the people in the Egyptian revolution.


Mubarak should resign immediately if there is to be any constructive dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood. The state of emergency should be abolished and the Shura council and the parliament should be dissolved. They are both illegitimate institutions. The people no longer trust the regime or the ruling party and have had enough of hollow promises and lame speeches. Despite promises that there would be freedom of speech, thugs have taken to the streets attacking peaceful protestors and raiding press and media headquarters in an effort to intimidate the press to prevent coverage. The regime imposes only violence and does not understand the concept of mature and civilised dialogue. Its only solution to the people’s uprising is violence. The MB welcomes dialogue with all political opposition. In fact all groups have agreed on uniting in a call for peaceful political reform that would serve the Egyptians as a whole. The current uprising is not an Islamic Revolution but an Egyptian People’s revolution that included all Egyptians from all sects, religions and political trends. The MB does not seek power and has no intention of nominating any of its members for the presidency or for being part of any interim government.
------- From a statement issued on February 4,2011, by Dr.Mohamed Badie, Chairman of the MB.

2. The January 25 Day of Rage protests have instilled an incredible sense of pride among Egyptians as the world witnesses Egyptians rise from their apathy and fearlessly voice their dissent against a 30-year dictatorial regime. The turnout of over seven million people nationwide on Friday’s Day of Departure will be recorded in history. People continued their call for their most basic rights of living in freedom and dignity, The people have the right to call for the ousting of Mubarak and his corrupt regime. The MB does not seek power and authority nor does it intend to field any of its members for presidency. It welcomes constructive and equal dialogue with all Egypt’s political opposition and respects all sects, demanding that all be treated equally and that the people’s will be unconditionally respected and their demands met. Since the group’s establishment, the MB has worked to achieve comprehensive reform in all fields of political, economic and social development and seeks to restore the people's sovereignty and rights through peaceful strategies. Hence, it is on this note that the MB welcomes open dialogue on the condition that it is genuinely in the best interests of the country and is in accordance with the will of the masses. There should be an outlined agenda and it should be implemented. The people’s and nation’s interests must remain the first and foremost priority. The people are the legitimate decision-makers of their future.

--- Statement of the MB President after the massive demonstrations of February 4.

3.Western analysts and media outlets are deciding whether Egypt 's uprising is a secular demand for democracy, which they would support, or a religious revolution that they believe should be feared and stopped. However, the uprising is complex and if the US is to support the Egyptian people, as it promised, policymakers must first increase their understanding of Egyptian aspirations. The protests are fueled by the Egyptians’ greater sense of self worth and it is based on the people's belief that they should no longer have to endure the daily humiliation of economic and political stagnation. The protesters come from a wide cross section of Egyptian society and they are all demanding justice, calling for Muslim-Christian solidarity. Religiosity is also playing a role in the development and continuance of the demonstrations, just as other uprisings throughout history. Egyptians say that moving toward greater democracy would help Muslims progress, and that attachment to spiritual and moral values would similarly lead to a brighter future. Surveys show that Egyptians prefer democracy over all other forms of government. They also say that religion plays a positive role in politics. The majority of Egyptians wants democracy and sees no contradiction between the change they seek and the timeless values to which they adhere. More than 90 percent of Egyptians say they would guarantee freedom of the press if it were up to them to write a constitution for a new country. Moreover, most Egyptians say they favor nothing more than an advisory role for religious leaders in the crafting of legislation. Egyptians choose democracy informed by sacred values, not theocracy with a democratic veneer. Similarly, from abolitionists to the civil rights movement, American leaders have been inspired by their faith as they pursue justice. Nowadays in the US, many of those who are calling for environmental preservation, an end to torture and eradicating global poverty, are faith leaders as they draw on their ethical traditions and beliefs for the common good. The US is a natural partner to the Egyptian people in their struggle to attain a brighter future because of America 's unique history and struggle for social justice. Surveys have revealed that the majority of Americans and Egyptians believe it is a benefit, not a threat, for Muslims and the West to interact. Although they seek the rule of law, most Egyptians do not support the rule of clerics. US policy makers should not make the mistake of alienating the Egyptian movement by failing to understand its complexities. ---From the MB web site

4.The MB does not and will not accept any efforts at intimidation against any Egyptians. The MB will continue to call for the constitutional rights of men, women, Muslims and Christians alike and for a civil state based on Islamic democracy which respects the freedom of the judiciary, the freedom of speech and the freedom of the media.
—From the MB’s web site

5.A cable of 2007 from the US Embassy in Cairo to the State Department in Washington DC leaked by WikiLeaks said: The US could expect a difficult transition after Mubarak. "Whoever Egypt's next president is, he will inevitably be politically weaker than Mubarak. Among his first priorities will be to cement his position and build popular support. We can thus anticipate that the new President may sound an initial anti-American tone in his public rhetoric in an effort to prove his nationalist bona fides to the Egyptian street." The cable said that any new President will have to bolster his support by reconciling with the banned MB. This is true now that the Egyptians have demanded a say in the matter. The protest is not being fueled by anti-Americanism or radical Islamist sentiments; it's a protest driven by the economic and political needs of Egyptians. Protestors have only showed hostility toward the US because of its longtime support for a tyrannical regime.

Egypt's democracy movement doesn't see the MB as a radical party. "The Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian movement, has nothing to do with extremism as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places," El Baradei said over the weekend. He called the Brotherhood a conservative group that favors secular democracy and human rights and said that as an integral part of Egyptian society, it would have a place in any inclusive political process. Israel remains a living example of how a people live in fear when they take what is not theirs and it is looking on aghast as its most important friend in the region tumbles while the US does little to save him. Israel cannot count on Egypt's continued cooperation in imposing an economic siege on Gaza, aiming at unseating the territory's Hamas rulers.

The demonstrations show an Arab public looking to take charge of its own affairs, rather than have them determined by international power struggles. Even that, however, suggests turbulent times ahead for American Middle East policies that have little support on Egypt's streets.

----From the MB’s Web site.

6.For the past ten days Egypt has experienced fear of autocracy, euphoria and fear of chaos. Starting off relatively small, the protests started with a few thousand people on January 25, then escalated to a thrilling climax on February 1, when millions of people assembled in Tahrir Square demanding the removal of Hosni Mubarak. After this the demonstrations deteriorated into violence as pro-Mubarak supporters attacked demonstrators. Despite the violent scenes during the week, the developments in Egypt are welcome. A nation that has been downtrodden for too long is now tasting freedom. The Arab world is buzzing with expectation, as ageing autocrats are suddenly looking shaky. The West is juggling stability and democracy and as they struggle to attain balance, the Arab pro-democratic movement appears disturbing. Fearing a vacuum due to a deterioration of Mubarak's regime, the West fears the Muslim Brothers, the anti-Western, anti-Israeli opposition. The US feels it must redouble its efforts to secure a prolonged managed transition by retaining Mubarak or getting someone else like him at the helm. Despite the fears of the US and Israel, the popular call for Mubarak to step down offers the Middle East the best chance for reform in decades. The West has been calling for democracy for years and if they fail to support Egyptians in their quest for democratic rule, the arguments of the US for democracy and human rights elsewhere in the world will fall on deaf ears. Egypt is also juggling; it is choosing between risk and stagnation. The Egyptian protests are not an 'Islamic' uprising, but a mass protest of Muslims against an unjust, autocratic regime. The only 'Islam' shown throughout the scenes of demonstrators was the peaceful behavior, prayer, determination and resolution of a nation. The result of these protests will certainly not be a perfectly formed democracy as it is likely that there will be disorder for some time. But on the plus side, Egypt, though poor, has a sophisticated elite, a well-educated middle class and a strong sense of national pride and these are indicators that Egyptians can pull order out of this chaos. Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood is grossly overdone as they are respected for their piety, discipline and resilience. The Brotherhood grows with history and is constantly evolving. The movement at the present time cannot be equated with its past. Calling for democracy, the voice of the people, free and fair elections, while not nominating any candidate, and having no desire for leadership or even a place in the interim government, the Brotherhood is the level-headed voice in Egypt. The past few weeks have proved that the Brotherhood is an integral part of Egyptian society and if democracy is to flourish in Egypt, the Brotherhood must be given a voice. The alternative to democracy is a dead end. Egypt under Mubarak has been becoming increasingly repressive, leaving 85m people to live under dictatorship, burdened by a corrupt and brutal police force, the suppression of the opposition, and the torture of political prisoners. This was sufficient fuse to light the uprising. Despite the obvious difficulties, even a disorderly democracy could eventually be a rich prize—and not just for Egyptians. If Egypt becomes democratic it could once again be a beacon to the region, answering the conundrum of how to incorporate Islam in Arab democracies. An Egyptian government that speaks for its people might contribute to a settlement with the Palestinians more than authoritarianism ever could. The US has lost much of its credibility in pursuing stability above democracy and it could turn this negative image around by making amends now. As America still has influence with Egypt’s political, business and military elite, it could help speed the transition from autocracy through chaos to a new order and improve its standing in the region.
----From the MB’s web site.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

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