Muslim Brothers Party‘s Platform in Egypt From a Human Rights Perspective
Last year’s Autumn the Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, often simply referred to as the Brotherhood, sent its political party’s draft Platform entitled “Party’s Platform- First Reading” to a number of politicians, academics and intellectuals for their consultation and feedback before drafting its second draft or final version. This initiative came weeks after different drafts of the Platform had been leaked sparking off much dispute in public circles. However, the Brotherhood Leadership declared that the leaked version was not the final draft or was not yet approved, and later issued a “first reading” of its endorsed Platform, meaning it can be followed by either a final draft or a second or third readings, etc…
The Brotherhood has promised to review its Platform in the light of experts’ comments. However, the majority of experts, according to Brotherhood Leadership’s statements, either did not give any feedback, or didn’t address the Brotherhood with their comments and addressed them to the public instead.
Modern Language and Attitude
The Society of the Muslim Brothers is known to be a legally, and starting from last year constitutionally, banned closed religious politically active group, whose activities are mostly underground. It is subject to constant political persecution, political and media pressure and trial of its members lacks the minimum standards of justice.
That a group working under such conditions initiates to present its draft Platform for consultation and feedback is undoubtedly of great positive significance. Never before was such an endeavor made by any of the other political parties though they enjoy legitimacy and are not subject to similar pressures and persecution.
This positive significance is not to be played down by other considerations, e.g. the Brotherhood’s need to fix its relations with the intellectuals and international community after the “militant” student parade made by its wing in al-Azhar University and the naive justifications provide by its leadership concerning this matter.
The language of the Platform was also as modern. Far outweighing the platforms of some ‘non-religious’ political parties, the Platform makes use of the main vocabulary of contemporary democratic and rights-based discourse.
The Platform provides that: “Freedom, justice and equality are granted by God to man, hence they are inherent rights entitled to all citizens regardless of their belief, sex or color” (p.9). “The ultimate goal of democracy in the political regime we calls for is achieving justice and equality.” (p.9) “Citizens’ rights to life, health, employment, education, housing and freedom of opinion and belief shall be safeguarded.” (p.9) It also provides for “political and constitutional reform, and public freedoms, in particular the freedom of forming parties and civil society associations.” Also, “Rotation of power shall be established by the Constitution, to be freely and transparently endorsed by the People. The Nation is the source of power. The People shall have the inherent right to choose its ruler, representatives and the program that expresses its ambitions and aspirations.” (p.10) “Egypt is a national State. All citizens have equal rights and obligations, to be safeguarded by the law according to the principles of equality and equal opportunity.” (p.15) “Legal provisions shall promote the treatment of all citizens on equal footing and without discrimination.” (p.15) “The Shura we believe in, aim to achieve and establish the ruling regime upon its foundations is not a rigid mould. It rather means the establishment of the principle of power rotation and people’s right to self-determination, choice of representatives and rulers, the right to holding them accountable, and secure their adherence to whatever decisions they make. It means running public affairs, with the opinion of the People and its representatives to avoid individual or partisan or any group despotism. Shura is also the source of reference for determination of rules upon which the ruling regime and the Constitution of the State are to be based.” (p. 16) It also provides for “democratic agreement on the fundamental rules of the political regime that shall be the denominator of all political forces and shall maintain the basic interests of all categories and classes of the Egyptian society.” (p.19) “Freedom, as an Islamic asset and humanitarian heritage is an inherent component of the contractual relationship between citizens or various civil society associations on the one hand, and the ruling power on the other hand. It provides for justice and equality between individuals and safeguards their freedom of belief, action, property, freedom of opinion and expression, movement, assembly, association and issuing newspapers.” (p.19) “Securing freedom, and respect for the rights of citizens and various categories of society is the responsibility of the political regime through its systems, associations, administrative and practical measures, and attitude. Freedom is not only restricted to political and religious freedoms, but it also encompasses freedom of all forms and kinds of oppression and despotism that undermine human dignity.” (p.20)
The Platform adopts the Local Government System where “governors are chosen by direct free elections” and “governorates’ security bodies are affiliated to the elected governors rather than the Central Administration.” (p.22) It reiterates that “Access to data and information is necessary for increasing political and societal participation,” (p.22) cancels “surveillance bodies’ affiliation to the executive authorities” and annexes them instead to the legislative authority. (p.23) It also states that “political plurality reflects the variety of interests, concerns and priorities of society. Such difference can be expressed through political parties, economic and cultural groups, civil society associations, workers’ and professional trade unions to enable defense of the interests of various parties.” (p.23) ” Guarantee the unconditional freedom of formation of political parties without interference of the Executive branch, the parties should thus be given the right to be established as soon as they notify relevant authorities.” (p.23) “Respect for international human rights’ covenants, instruments and law4 is an important safeguard to promote man’s rights and protect him against torture and discrimination. Hence, conventions on civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights have to be adhered to and implemented.” (p.29)
These are but few examples.
The third point of strength in the Platform is that having the international human rights instruments as a reference point is not at all restraint. This in itself is a major development in the position of Islamists in general, and Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in particular. In this context, it is also noticed that the usual disclaimer phrase, i.e. “in condition of consistency with the Islamic Shar’ia,” was not used, nor were any of the Islamic declarations of Human Rights regarded as a point of reference.
The Brotherhood accused the platform’s critics of judging upon the Platform from their own ideological point of view, i.e. liberal, secular, leftist, etc… rather than considering its provisions in the light of its declared Islamic principles. Seeking to avoid such an accusation, although disagreeing with it, this paper confines its scope to considering to what extent is the Platform true to the main principles laid down therein, e.g. the promise of a civil state, and the respect of human rights according to international instruments.
The Muslim Brothers’ “State”
Moving beyond the captivating language in which the introductory parts of the Platform is drafted into its applicative content; unfortunately one cannot find a solid ground for the beautiful phrases just reviewed above. What we find instead is a firm structure and vision of a totalitarian theocratic ruling regime that renders the translation of these beautiful phrases into a living reality almost impossible.
The totalitarian theocratic state is a form of government in which divine power governs earthly human state via religious institutional representatives and through theonomic laws while considering that these religious laws are the sole source of ethics and values in society. An excessive interference is made by such a state in personal and public spheres alike, where it seeks to regulate public and individual behavior. A totalitarian state seeks to impose its ideology to guide the behavior and attitude of the majority of citizens.
The Platform delineates the main features of the theocratic totalitarian state that the Brotherhood seeks to establish, while calling it a “civil state”! Under the subtitle “Civil State,” the Platform defines the State aspired by Muslim Brothers as “an Islamic State of basically religious functions”! (p.17) The state is “entrusted with protecting and guarding religion,” (p.17) which is of course Islam. It has to “guard Islam, protect its affairs and makes sure nothing hinders the Islamic practices like worship, da’wa (the call to follow Islam), pilgrimage and others.” (p.17) Even wars to be launched by this State are of a religious character. “The decision to launch war is a religious decision to be taken in accordance with shari’a (or Islamic Law).” (p.17) Hence, this decision is not based on political, economic, strategic and military power interests and considerations, , but is rather based on “the rules and foundations laid down in Islamic Shar’ia”!
Hence, stipulating that the President of the Sate or the Prime Minister has to be Muslims “according to Islamic Shari’a” (p.17) was more of stating the obvious. By analogy, one expects that the Minister of Defense, and most probably the Chief of Staff and senior commanders of the army, battalions, platoons and squads should be only Muslims. However, we find that not only do they have to be Muslims, but they also have to have studied, at least, Islamic shar’ia to base their critical decisions thereupon.
Still the Platform promises us a “Civil State”!
The Platform considers Islamic shari’a to be equivalent to sanctified divine scripture “as they are formulated by the All-Knowing and Omniscient ” to withstand time and to be applied in all places, environments and civilizations.” Having sanctified shari’a as such, the Platform makes of it an ideological reference for ruling, where “the objectives of Islamic shari’a represent the ruling policy in identifying the priority of goals, policies and strategies.” (p.11) Hence, shar’ia position in the platform far crosses what is stipulated in the article 2 of the Egyptian constitution – as ” the principles of the Islamic Shari’a constitute the main source of legislation” – but becomes itself “the” Constitution or “the Constitution’s main frame of reference.” In this context, one should recall the repeated incidents of Muslim Brothers’ members and supporters lifting up “the Quran (the Islamic Holy Book)” in demonstrations crying out loud “Quran is our Constitution.” Islamic shar’ia in the Platform is more of a “comprehensive” ideological reference for the state and the political regime as a whole. Its influence is not limited to legislation, as already stipulated in the current Egyptian constitution,” or court rulings, exemplified in Egyptian judicial practices, in particular throughout the last few years, or the war and peace decisions, as referred to in the Platform, but it also extends to become “the point of reference for all internal and also foreign affairs decisions and policies to be adopted by the Head of State.’ (p.13)
In this context, the jurisdiction of the Higher Constitutional Court in the Muslim Brothers’ State extends not only to consideration of challenges made by any concerned person, meaning of course Muslim citizens, against the constitutionality of laws in contravention of the principles of shar’ia, as is the case now, but also to challenges made to “decisions and policies that contravene the provisions of Islamic Shar’ia.” (p.13)
This is a major alteration in the role of the Supreme Constitutional Court that the Platform refers to in passing as if this assignment is complementary to its traditional role. In reality, however, this would undermine the role of the Court as it will be subject to a combination of politicization and religionisation because of the flood of politics and Shar’ia business which will dominate its daily work. Moreover, this would cause changing the structure of the Court that would be substantially amended to be dominated by judging “sheikhs” (Muslims of course) who are expert on shar’ia affairs.
And still the Platform promises us a “Civil State”
Some of the Platform’s critics had compared the pattern of State put forward in the Platform to the wilayet el-faqeeh (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists) system in Iran, because of the central role entrusted in the Platform to the so-called “Senior Religious Scholars Authority (SRSA)” within the structure of the political regime. However, the central and dominant status of shar’ia in the Muslim Brothers State might makes it substantially closer to the Saudi rather than the Iranian model.
Government Structure in “The Muslim Brothers’ State”
The Platform adopts what so called the Presidential – Parliamentary system, (p.19) which was adopted in Egypt, and other despotic states in the third world, after July 1952. In this regime, power is centralized in the hands of the Head of the State who is not to be held parliamentary or judicially accountable, while maintaining a decorative Parliament in consistency with the requirements of marketing the State before public opinion and the international community. The judiciary under this system does not enjoy independency and is employed to consecrate the autocratic nature of the State.
The Platform, in consistency with the religious totalitarian character of the Muslim Brothers’ State, adds some governing structures reflecting the specificity of the MB’s State. On top of these new structures comes the “Senior Religious Scholars Authority (SRSA)” The SRSA, totally independent from the executive body, is established to make sure that the State’s daily practices are consistent with the dominant theocratic totalitarian ideology. It has its own structures and functional and technical bodies. It also seems to be a huge authority since it “will be assisted by expert committees, consultants and scientists in all non-religious specialties.”(p.13) Although mainly composed of religious scholars, the SRSA’s role is related to all fields of non-religious affairs.
Members of the SRSA are directly elected from the pool of religious scholars. (P. 12-13) It plays a central governing rule, that places it above the executive and legislative authorities.
Although the Parliament is obliged, as per the Platform, to implement the provision of having Islamic shar’ia as a frame of reference, (p.12) the Platform drafters did not find this sufficient. Hence, the Parliament is obliged to seek the opinion of the SRSA in relation to Islamic shar’ia. (p.12) The same applies to the Head of State (p.13). Although the Head of State is obliged in the Platform to seek the opinion of the SRSA in case of issuing “decrees having the force of law” (p.13), the Platform extends the jurisdiction of the Higher Constitutional Court to include “checking the consistency of “internal and foreign affairs’ decisions and policies” adopted by the Head of State with the provisions of Islamic Shar’ia. (p.13) this necessarily requires that the Head of State refers drafts of all his internal and foreign affairs’ policies and decisions, and not only decrees having the force of law, to the SRSA for approval , or else he might risk, occasionally, being a subject of great embarrass in front of the public opinion.
Although some of the phrases employed in the Platform suggest that the role of SRSA is consultative, e.g. “that its opinion is sought,” the confusion is settled in stating that “The SRSA has the preponderant opinion in concordance with the public interest” (p.13) .It is binding on the Parliament and the Head of State as it also reflects the opinion of religion, and embodies the “public interest” that may not be recognized by the Head of the state or the Legislative Authority. This is because the Platform’s concept of public interest does not stem from the realities of life and political, economic, social, cultural, spiritual and value-related variables as much as it is based on religious and astec considerations, with which only religious scholars are familiar.
In fact, regardless of the deceitful phrasings employed in the Platform, the latter’s internal logic, the nature, structure of government of the MB’s State, in addition to a number of statements made by the Brotherhood Leaders before and after the issuance of the Platform, unveil the nature and scope of jurisdictions of the SRSA. It is clear that the SRSA enjoys literary, political, legislative and even executive supremacy over all other structures.
The Platform talks about an Islamic government responsible of “setting required policies to implement the goals of Islamic shar’ia ……………. and establishing institutions and bodies required to achieve all this in society.” However, the Brotherhood Leadership does not think this is enough. The MB General Guide had once declared, before the issuance of the Platform, that a specialized consultative committee composed of senior religious scholars shall be set up in each ministry to inform and guide its work.
Critics of the Brotherhood’s Platform went far in their evaluation of the significance of the Platform’s call for a SRSA and denial of Christians and women’s right to run presidential elections, as they are the root causes of legitimatizing the theocracy in the platform. On further reflection on the Platform, though, one can say that it eventually leads to a theocratic state with or without the SRSA and whether Christians and women are allowed to run elections or not.
In the context of such a Platform, it is impossible to speak of the independence of the three authorities. The latter are separate in form but actually in one ideological pot that constitutes the main sanctified reference point for the Parliament, Head of the State, Islamic government, the military institution and the Constitutional Court.
Main posts in these authorities are pre-assigned according to the letter and spirit of the Platform to not only Muslims but necessarily to experts in Islamic Shar’ia, who according to the Platform, are best qualified to enact legislation and take decisions, including peace and war, and determine goals, strategies and internal and foreign policies. Such experts are to ensure that such policies and decisions are consistency with the provisions of Islamic Shar’ia and render whatever is inconsistent with it unconstitutional.
In this context, the state, with its three authorities, executive, legislative and judiciary structures, are more close to a Sheikhdom, which is presided over by men who are necessarily Muslims, pious (fulfilling of duties) and have expertise in Islamic shar’ia, even without the establishment of the so-called SRSA that plays a supervisory role in relation to these structures. However, the Platform adds such a committee, entrusts it with monitoring institutions’ adherence to provisions of shar’ia and public interest, and equipped with an infinite network of committees and regulatory councils of morals and values at its disposal. All, work to consecrating the theocratic totalitarian nature of the State
The Platform provides examples of the tasks of this spider network whose center is occupied by the SRSA. Such as, “All media material have to be revised and reformed in all mass media to be consistent with “Islamic principles and values.” (p.98). “a higher council for electronic media …….to plan and implement an electronic media plan of an Islamic spirit” (p.108) shall be established. They have to affirm that “creativity has to be regulated by the ethics and morals of society,” (p.98) and that “pathways of literary creativity have to be directed towards serving the issues of society.” (p.100) They also have to draft “a code of honor for creativity based on the ethics and morals of society” (p.101) and “implant values, morals, and virtues in theatrical scripts.” (p.101) “The Egyptian song has to be directed to more creative and moral horizons that are consistent with the identity and morals of society.” (p.102) The State’s required financial resources have to be earmarked to “promoting producing companies that adhere to these principles, “(p.102) “promoting religious songs.” (p.102),
And yet, we have to believe that the Brotherhood’s Platform promises us a “Civil State.”
The Platform does not provide members of the society with the chance to develop freely, but rather interferes, in the name of religion, in all aspects of the daily lives of communities and individuals. This attitude was criticized and described by one of the former symbols of Muslim Brothers as an adoption of the model of “the interfering State that is in full control ,” which is synonymous to the “totalitarian” state, rather than a Garden State, whose role is mainly coordinative. The State appears in the Draft, meaning the Platform, as an exhaustive, all powerful state undertaking multiple tasks. This pattern of states are being abandoned in the whole world in favor of more delegation of tasks to community-based and national institutions
What “Human Rights” do the Muslim Brothers Platform speak of?
Defective double standards are not limited to combining a Platform delineating a theocratic totalitarian state from top to toe with promises of delivering a “Civil State,” but they are also the common denominator of the Platform’s philosophy and contents. The Platform follows the example of the same elusive discourse adopted by many of the intellectuals and leaders of political Islamist groups in the Arab world in relation to human rights, in the sense of lip-service recognition of international human rights instruments, principles and universal values that is not matched by adherence thereto and respect, and implementation thereof in practice.
As mentioned above, the Platform celebrates international human rights instruments and mentions no reservations to them. Unlike the discourse of Arab governments, the Platform does not make a single explicit reservation to the possible contradiction of some of these instruments and principles with the prevailing interpretations of the provisions of Islamic Shar’ia in the Arab world, in particular with regard to women’s rights, the status of non-Muslims, physical punishments and religious freedoms.
But, when translated into reality, the Platform, no matter how elusive its language is, is far from being consistent with the human rights principles.
For example, the Platform promises the application of physical punishments “ALhedood” in the MB State, like limb amputation and stoning to death. Justification of application is made on the basis “of their decisive and deterring character” (P.81) and for their “being the most effective tools to control and deter crimes in various societies, including non-Muslim societies.” (p.82) However, the Platform does not express reservations in this regard to relevant human rights provisions, nor does it state that this contradicts the letter and spirit of those conventions that it unreservedly celebrates, in particular the International Convention against Torture. And as many prominent Arab and non-Arab human rights experts had declared in various occasions, such punishments are contradictory to human rights principles because of their extreme cruelty and degrading character.
The unspoken-of in the Platform of the Muslim Brothers Party is no less, if not more, important than the clearly stated in relation to issues which the Brotherhood is ashamed to express its opinion. On top of which comes the major tangible issues in the Egyptian society relating to the position of Muslim Brothers vis-à-vis the rights of women and non-Muslims, in particulars those who do not believe in heavenly religions and the freedom of belief in the scope of Islam itself in general and the Sunni school in particular.
The phrase “fundamental values of society” or in other words “Islamic values” is the password to unveiling many of the substantial matters that are unspoken about in the Platform. However, no definition is given in the Platform for this smooth magical phrase set as a ceiling for all the generously-provided rights and fundamental freedoms mentioned in its introductory parts.
Let’s try to come closer to a practical definition of these values. Let’s see whether the rights and freedoms provided under the ceiling of these values are consistent with the universal human rights principles, or whether the Platform is providing a new lower conception of human rights that it would not explicitly declare not to lose the desired support of international and national public opinion.
The Platform does not include a special section for women’s rights, and rather understandably include them under “Family and Women.” Although equality lies at the core of women’s rights, whether nationally or globaly or in the international conventions on which the Platform is built on, the term is not employed at all by the Platform in the three-page section of women rights (p.88-91). Demanding women’s rights is placed under the cloak of values, e.g. “to enable women to exercise all their rights in accordance with the fundamental values of society,” (P. 24) the values being determined by Islamic “fuqaha’a” (Islamic experts). Hence, it can be concluded that the drafters’ conception of fundamental values necessarily excludes women’s enjoyment of the right to equality. This is probably the case as “equality” is only mentioned once, not in relation with women rights, but in the context of an awareness-raising campaign, “to disseminate the culture of equality between both sexes,” again provided that the campaign is based on “the principles and moral values drawn from Islamic teachings.” (p.89)
Inequality is not restricted to deprive women from running for presidency of the State (p. 24 & 88) as “”fuqaha’a” agreed that it is impermissible for women to hold such post.” (p.24) hence, it is clear that it is “fuqaha’a” who determine the fundamental values of society which in itself is an indicator on how deep is the gap that separates the Platform not only from human rights but also from the nature of modern age. It seems however that the drafters of the Platform were not alarmed by what can be interpreted as a racist position against Egyptian women compared to other women round the globe. It is well known that women are elected to the President of State, Parliament and Prime Minister not only in non-Islamic countries, but also in major Islamic States with high population density e.g. Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Women have successively led the main opposition parties in Bangladesh, as well as the post of prime minister at the same time, the fact that rise a vital question: is this a problem of “Arab Islam” versus “Asian Islam” or is it a problem of discrimination based on the racial origin of Egyptian women?
Some critics of the Muslim Brothers’ Platform reduced religious discrimination in the Platform to excluding non-Muslims from election to the post of the President of the State. (ps.23-24). However, the problem of legitimizing discrimination on the ground of religion is more profound, and extends beyond presidency of the State, or even occupying the posts of ministers in “Islamic Government” specially Minister of Defense, or senior military command posts as per the Platform’s philosophy and logic.
Again, the Platform avoids declaring explicitly its non-adherence to international human rights instruments with regard to non-discrimination, and has it included under the cloak of values. The Platform calls for “non-discrimination against citizens with regard to rights and duties on grounds of religion or sex or color………..while maintaining the fundamental values of society.” (p.23)
Accordingly, we may conclude that the values of society, according to the Platform’s conception, contradict with the universal principle of non-discrimination. This seems to be the case since the Platform restricts areas of non-discrimination to only the right of “property, movement, education, employment, exercise of political activities and expression of opinion.” (p.23) No mention is made of the other closely related right to this area, that all parties are waiting for the MB’s opinion on it, i.e. religious freedom and non-discrimination on basis of religion, and the subsequent equal right to practice of religious rituals, or the equal right to build and maintain churches or other places of worship.
The Platform dedicates one and half a page to the role of churches under an indicative subtitle that has nothing to do with religion, i.e. “The Egyptian Church: a Social Pillar” (ps.75-76). The section is restricted to the duties of the church, and no mention is made of its rights, in particular the chronic and volatile problem of discrimination, in law and practice, against non-Muslims with regard to denying them their equal right to build and maintain places of worship.
The Platform does not identify its position on another no less heated issue, i.e. discriminating against Egyptian nationals who believe in the non-heavenly religions (like Baha’i) and depriving them from necessary legal documents in contravention of the international right to enjoy a legal personality.
Nevertheless, some of the unspoken-of matters in the Platform can be figured out through the daily political, media and field practices of the Brotherhood. The actual position of the Brotherhood on religious discrimination can be inferred from a recent incident, where some MB members of the Journalists Trade Union Board, in collaboration with other members hindered the convening of a seminar on the issue. Despite the approval of the Board to hold the seminar, and after the organizers even paid the rent of the hall in advance. Visitors of the Muslim Brothers website can know more about their position regarding the citizens right in discussing this question in a seminar. Just discussing it! In the light of this position, we might conclude that the “fundamental values of society” do not allow discussion of these issues. Therefore it might be necessary to re-read and re-interpreted many of the sections of the Platform celebrating unreservedly the right to citizenship, meanwhile, representatives of the Brotherhood in the Parliament call for “killing” Egyptian Baha’i citizens, considering them to be “unbelievers.” This could extend of course to other citizens according to how “society’s fundamental values” are interpreted.
Reviewing the Muslim Brothers’ website material over a number of months or years discloses the disparity between the discourse adopted in the Platform- for considerations of international marketing-and the realistic daily discourse reflected in press reports or interventions by MB Members of Parliament on human rights issues, in particular in relation to freedom of thought, and artistic and literary creativity. The latter has been always on top of the concerns of Muslim Brothers MPs in all parliamentarian sessions. Hence artistic and literary creativity has been always the subject of attack by MBs and also by the State-affiliated official Islamic institution.
The Platform does not criticize nor reconsider the practice of Muslim Brothers representatives in the parliament or their statements on the internet. It only makes use of smooth human rights phrasings to suggest that freedoms will be protected, again provided that they are consistent with the “fundamental values of society”. According to the Platform, creativity should be “regulated by the ethics and values of society.” (p. 98) Also, material published in the press or broadcast on radio and television should be based on Islamic principles and values.” (p.98) It is worth-mentioning that having taken these tendencies into consideration, the current ruling regime in Egypt has already confiscated a huge number of artistic, literary and intellectuals works above all the Naguib Mahfouz’s novel winner of the Nobel Prize. Some authors were even imprisoned, and others had to flee abroad.
The Platform does not direct any criticism at all to its current governmental partner in the attack on the freedom of thought and creativity, i.e. Supreme Islamic Research Council. In contrary, it calls for further activation of its role, implementation of its recommendations regarding the confiscation of some literary works, it calls to the “adherence of all civil and official institutions to its opinion.” (p.73) Even academic freedom is subjected by the Platform to values. Scientific research has “to be conducted in the light of Islamic values” (p.36) since these morals are also the most important qualification of researchers. (p.36)
It seems though that in case the Brotherhood seizes power that its goals would not be restricted to censorship and confiscation of works, but would extend to interference in the literary works themselves. The Platform provides that “values have to be ingrained in theatrical scripts” (p.101) and also “Egyptian songs should be mostly religious.” (p.102). This would be the case since “the Egyptian culture is actually based in the Islamic identity and Islamic culture.” (p.97) Hence, intellectuals in general are obliged to “express the comprehensive, profound and Islamic character of ideas.” (p.97) As to the internet, “a network of sites in support of constructive culture and values of society and religion” shall be established (p.108) in the framework of establishing an “electronic media of an Islamic spirit” (p. 108)
The preamble of the Platform promises the respect for freedom of opinion and expression, political plurality, and dignity of human beings. In practice, however, what we find is restriction of the sources of Egyptian culture to one single source. one single dominating ideology, one opinion, one artistic mould, and one tune, all in order to create a one-dimensional “canned” person.
The Platform’s ambition of a monitoring state seems to be overriding, as it provides for a huge network of committees, councils and boards for “moral regulation.” Hence, Its ideal model of the citizen is the one of every fascist state, where citizens are self-monitored and act as monitors on others. This can be done through “implanting and deepening the culture of self-censorship and personal immunity instead of external prohibition and monitoring. These way citizens will monitor themselves through a deeply ingrained system of morals and ethics, and their rejection of anything will be self-motivated rather than externally forced by the authorities or any other parties.” (p.98)
This is the pattern of the ideal person that the MB’s Platform seeks to re-mould.
Finally , and regardless of any details relating to position of the MB Platform regarding this or that right, it has to be noticed that never in history was it possible to reconcile the requirements of a totalitarian, let alone a religious, ruling regime with the respect of fundamental human rights.
This may explain the shock that befell public opinion, including the most prominent intellectuals in support of the right of the Brotherhood to legal recognition as a political group or party, after circulation of the Platform. It may also explain the harsh criticism to which the Platform was subject in the press and other mass media. And finally, this may clarify why many of these intellectuals did not limit their platform’s criticism to direct channels with the Brotherhood’s Leadership, and endeavored to also present their critical feedback to the public.
It can be said that drafting the Platform as such has benefited the ruling regime more than the Muslim Brothers, and has indirectly provided the ruling regime with a better cover for subjecting them to subsequent security hits. The latter increased as sympathy for Muslim Brothers declined first after the “militant” parade in al-Azhar University, and lately because of the content of the Platform. Moreover, it is surprising to note that such Platform has contributed to broaden the political base of the ruling regime. If people have been forced to choose between a totalitarian theocratic regime and a quasi-religious autocratic one, they will choose the least bitter which is the second
The Platform’s double standards may be attributed to two contradicted factors. One is the extremist and conservative character of the Brotherhood and its adherence to the formalities of religion. This character places the Brotherhood behind other Islamic groups in the Arab world, even those which are historically belonging to the Brotherhood’s school. This could be explained due to the lack of courage of the Brotherhood’s leadership to come up with creative opinion, in the framework of adherence to Islam, based on a heritage of enlightened interpretative judgments and on contemporary opinions that renovated and introduced fresh thoughts to similar groups and currents inside and outside the Arab world.
The second factor is the increasing recognition by the Brotherhood that succeeding in gaining public support and moral and political influence in Egypt is not enough to seize power, or even to put an end to the continued security crackdown to which it is subject. Unless it gains the support of the international community, or more realistically unless it makes it neutral, the Brotherhood may lose what it has accumulated since its reestablishment in the seventies and go back to square one.
In this context, drafters of the Muslim Brothers’ Platform could not openly make reservations to or declare disagreement with the philosophy, logic or the texts of international human rights instruments. This would give more momentum to the ruling regime’s campaign to end the Brotherhood competitive position, and push it back among the other toothless opposition parties whose only function is to claim a groundless political plurality.
To reconcile both considerations, i.e. the conservative and extremist face at the national level, and the smiling face at the international level, drafters of the Platform combined exaggerated unreserved commitment to international human rights instruments with actual pledge to their members that they will not respect them at the same time.
In this context, it is logical that the drafters of the Platform did not shield themselves with the Islamic declarations of human rights or the so-called “The Arab Human Rights Charter.” The Platform does not refer at all to these declarations although they are totally consistent with its philosophy, logic and principles. It is because referring to such declarations, which are inconsistent with the international human rights standards, would have cost the Brotherhood severe losses, in particular with regard to securing the neutrality of the international community.
The Brotherhood’s Leadership could not abandon its extremist conservative character not to lose its more conservative, literal and extremist members. Nor could it provoke the enmity of the international community not to pay a dear price that is no less painful than losing the support of their members. In attempting to move in two parallel pathways, they negligently dropped out the “Party’s Platform- First Reading,” Along with the less extremist pragmatic minority in the Brotherhood Leadership
One of the most important conclusions to be drawn from this Platform is that the influence of such minority on the decisions making of the Brotherhood is minimal. This is despite the fact that the symbols of this minority have played an active role in engaging with the public debate in the Egyptian society, and have consequently managed to promote the status of the MB among intellectuals and politicians, Leftists and Liberals in particular. Coming to the stage of drafting a program though, the weight and influence of such a minority among the Brotherhood’s members and leadership proved to be of no significance internally. The fact of “electing” 5 new members to the MB Guidance Bureau in June 2008, while, none of them is among this minority of reformists, can be considered as an official adoption of this sad reality
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