The Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian Parliament
By: Magdi Khalil
To read the Arabic version of this article click here: الأخوان في البرلمان المصري
In November 2002, the Saudi Prince Nayef ben Abdelaziz made the following statement about the Muslim Brotherhood: “The Muslim Brotherhood is to blame for our current predicament, they have ruined the Arab World ... they are the root cause of our problems in the Arab World and perhaps in the Islamic World as well.” Coming from the veteran Minister of Interior, this statement holds much weight.
On May 18, 2004, Mr. Otto Schily, the German Minister of Interior stated that: “Islamic terrorism poses the biggest danger to the German society.” He warned against the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which, according to the German minister, is a group that promotes violence and seeks to influence the Muslim youth in Germany.
A few months ago, Mr. David Welch, the American Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, answered a question about an American dialogue with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood by saying: “we do not hold a dialogue with a banned, terrorist group.”
Furthermore, seven out of the twenty-two dangerous terrorists that are being haunted by the United States happen to be Egyptians who, at a certain point in time, have operated under the umbrella of the Muslim Brotherhood (Carl Murphey, researcher, American Council on Foreign Relations – Obsession with Islam: The Egyptian Experience). The remaining fifteen terrorists have been influenced to one degree or another by the group’s philosophy, and its key ideologists, whether Said Qutb from back then, or Yusuf al-Qaradawi in our present time.
In 2003, the November issue of the American magazine, Atlantic Monthly, featured an article written by Ms. Mary Anne Deaver – author of the book “A Journey Through the World of Militant Islam” (1999), where she stated the following:
“In the last few years, we can say that the Islamists, and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, have come close to attaining their supreme goal: to seize power either by force or through the elections, if the regime makes it possible for a free and honest election to take place.”
Clearly this statement suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood will either take advantage of a state of chaos to jump to power, or will take power via an honest election—the end result in both cases being the same. The results of the recent parliamentary elections in Egypt seem to confirm this scenario, as the Muslim Brotherhood candidates have achieved tremendous success in some districts, in spite of being victims of blatant forgery in some electoral districts such as “el-Dokki” and “Damanhour.”
All those who monitor Egyptian affairs are well aware that the late President Sadat is responsible for introducing the Muslim Brotherhood to public action, and that by resisting all attempts at a genuine reform, President Mubarak will end up effectively handing power over to the Muslim Brotherhood. The recent voting in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood is, in big part, a protest at, and a rejection of, the current regime.
The Muslim Brotherhood claims to have changed, and the truth is it has not .. not at all! They have only added a soft layer to their speech for political consumption. Behind this ambiguous and misleading layer lies the same rigid, ideological and militant speech. Talking to “Al Arabiya” channel, on 18 November 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam Al Erian confirmed this fact when he said: “our goals and values remain the same, (unchanged) since 1928 and till the present time.”
The argument made against the Muslim Brotherhood was seriously weakened by the fact that it usually revolves around the movement’s origin, its first years and secret organization; and while these issues were over-analyzed, almost drowning us in a deluge of information, little attention was paid to the movement’s political conduct ever since Sadat gave them access to public action.
Therefore, I am deliberately focusing on their political conduct during the last three decades. What are their beliefs and where do they stand vis-à-vis the following important issues:
The relation between the state and religion, women’s rights, citizenship and how it relates to the status of non-Muslims in a country with a Muslim majority, art and creativity, monuments and tourism, economy, banking, interest rates and foreign investment, the relation with the West and with the United States in particular, the peace with Israel, terrorist operations and organizations, globalization, international institutions, international law and international treaties, Islamic khilafa (Islamic rule where the ruler is regarded as a successor of Prophet Muhammad), Islamic Ummah (nation), and what they think of the daily life problems faced by the Egyptian citizen.
The Muslim Brothers have been members of the People’s assembly in Egypt since 1984, but their presence was clearly felt in the last term, where they became an influential power. Let us study a sample of the requests for information that were presented by the Muslim Brotherhood in the last parliamentary term (2000 – 2005), to recognize the approach they take in serving their fellow citizens in Egypt, which, by the way, doesn’t differ much from the approach of the Muslim Brotherhood in the National Council of Kuwait or the Jordanian Parliament.
· On 1 Jan 2001, Mr. Gamal Hishmat – a Muslim Brotherhood deputy – presented a request for information concerning three books: “kabl wa baad” (before and after); “abnaa el-khataa el-romansi” (sons of a romantic mistake); and “ahlam moharama” (forbidden dreams), the request created an uproar at the time, and, as a result of that, a number of senior officials in the Ministry of Culture lost their jobs.
· Several members presented a request for information asking the government to remove the ban imposed on the newspaper Al-Shaab, which was known for its extremist attitude and support of terrorism, they also wanted the Egyptian Labor party to resume its activities (Asharq Al-Awsat, 1 Jan 2001).
· A request for information concerning the agricultural normalization between Egypt and Israel, and other aspects of cooperation between the two countries, as to put an end to all forms of normalization with Israel (Asharq Al-Awsat, 13 April 2001).
· A request for information questioning the Minister of Justice regarding the charges against Ragab Rizk el-Swirki – known as Egypt’s Shahriar – for having married more than 4 wives simultaneously, and marrying 21 women over the years. Swirki is the owner of a chain of well known Islamic stores “el-nour wa el-tawhid”, and the Muslim Brotherhood accused the government of framing him (Asharq Al-Awsat, 15 May 2001).
· Another request for information presented by Gamal Hishmat about the discrimination against veiled women, citing two specific incidents: an Egyptian University professor who was not admitted into the American University’s library because she was wearing a “nikab” (a cloth that covers the whole face except for the eyes), and refused to reveal her face to the security officer; and the second incident about an assistant-pilot working in a private company who was fired after she started wearing the veil (Asharq Al-Awsat, 17 March 2002).
· A request for information presented by the Muslim Brotherhood deputies to the People’s Assembly Speaker, asking to be referred to as “The Islamic Mass” (Asharq Al-Awsat, 23 April 2002).
· The Muslim Brotherhood deputy, Hassan Ibrahim, presented a request for information proposing a law to prohibit alcoholic beverages in Egypt, specifying a punishment of 40 lashes for anyone caught consuming alcohol. (Asharq Al-Awsat, 10 May 2003).
· The Muslim Brotherhood deputies rejected a proposed legislation regulating in-vitro fertilization, and organ transplant, claiming that they were in conflict with the Shari’a (Islamic law) (Asharq Al-Awsat, 2 April 2002).
· They led a campaign against the US economic aid to Egypt, and presented a request for information to the USAID assistance, and substitute it with a number of agreements with Arab and Islamic funds (Asharq Al-Awsat, 15 May 2002).
· A request for information concerning the project to incorporate Islamic “Shari’a” in the legal code, seeking to revive the legislations devised by Sufi Abu-Taleb in 1979 (Asharq Al-Awsat, 17 May 2002).
· An urgent request for information about a universe beauty contest for fashion models that was held in Sharm El-Sheikh. The Muslim Brotherhood deputy, Mr. Hussein Hassanin Mohamadeen, was highly offended by that event, and expressed his feelings of disbelief and revulsion loudly: “Aren’t we Muslims? Isn’t Egypt an Islamic state? How come that Egypt is, shamelessly, allowing immorality, unabashed faces and naked bodies to visit its land?” (Asharq Al-Awsat, 28 Feb 2002).
· The Muslim Brotherhood deputies have opposed Egypt’s decision to abide by the UN Declaration of “The Rights of the Child” that forbids the selling and the exploitation of children and sanctions adoption (Asharq Al-Awsat, 27 May 2002).
· They accused the government of undermining al-Azhar’s role and curtailing religious education and Arabic language teaching. The Muslim Brotherhood deputies also stood against reform of the religious discourse (Asharq Al-Awsat, 7 June 2002).
· Mr. Ali Laban, a Muslim Brotherhood deputy, presented a request for information to prohibit mixed-gender schools (Asharq Al-Awsat, 5 Oct 2002).
· Three deputies presented a request for information to forbid the enemies of Islam and those who do not show proper respect to the Prophet from entering Egypt (Asharq Al-Awsat, 20 Oct 2002).
· Mr. Hamd Hassan, a Muslim Brotherhood deputy, presented a request for information to the Minister of Health asking him to hasten the production of Viagra in Egypt to allow them to carry out their marital duties in accordance to Islamic decrees (Asharq Al-Awsat, 5 Jan 2002).
· They presented a request to shut down the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo, deport its staff, and confiscate the center’s documents and records (Asharq Al-Awsat, 1 Nov 2002).
· They have rejected the banking law, claiming that the interests are in fact a form of usury, (direct or indirect forms of usury are not allowed in Islamic Law) (Asharq Al-Awsat, 27 Nov 2002).
· The Muslim Brotherhood deputy, Mr. Mohamed Morsi, presented a request for information to the Minister of culture concerning the ministry’s decision to establish a modern dance school in Egypt.
· The Muslim Brotherhood deputy, Mr. Hassan Ibrahim, presented a request for information to outlaw television contests (Asharq Al-Awsat, 20 Jan 2003).
· The Muslim Brotherhood deputies presented a request for information to reduce the number of foreign schools in Egypt, and to disallow the establishment of new schools. (Sept 2000).
· They presented a request for information to protest the “QIZ” agreement between the United States and Egypt.
· They presented a request for information for a public referendum on the Egyptian – Israeli peace treaty.
· Miscellaneous amusing requests for information that touch on the entertainment industry and vary in their level of absurdity, for example: a ban on kissing in movies, on naked statues and models in Art schools, a ban on the American movie “Air Force One,” a ban on some video clips, and a campaign against female singers such as “Nancy Agram,” “Ruby” and “Alicia” to ban their songs and concerts, and even an extremely nonsensical request to ban the “Barbie” doll because it is a lust-inspiring object!
Given this bizarre track record, it is no wonder that the Muslim Brotherhood blames the “imperial powers” for the terrorist incidents in Sharm El-Sheikh, and that the supreme guide Mohamed Mahdi Akef has actually accused The United States and Israel of murdering Rafik El-Hariri!
During the last parliamentary term, the Muslim Brotherhood has presented a great number of requests for information, and the ones mentioned above serve to give us a fair picture of what the Muslim Brotherhood has in store for the Egyptian society, and how it plans to go about solving the problems that are crushing the Egyptian citizens. This is being just a sample of the requests that were cited in the highly credible newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat.”
I hope that a researcher would take a serious interest in this issue, and conduct a scientific analysis of all the requests for information that they have presented since 1984. A comprehensive study of the Muslim Brotherhood record in the People’s Assembly will allow the Egyptian and Arab citizens to see this group for what it really is, and how it has operated since its early beginnings: the violent streak that has inspired terror in our hearts, their obsession with marginal and trivial matters, their relentless pursuit of a fascist religious state, their attempts to ruin Egypt’s relation with the international community, and how they have failed to touch on real life challenges or to acknowledge the citizen’s rights in a modern state.
Magdi Khalil is a political analyst, researcher, author and Executive Editor of the Egyptian weekly Watani International. He is also a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, London, a free-lance writer for several Arabic language newspapers, and a frequent contributor to Middle East broadcast news TV. Mr. Khalil has also published three books and written numerous research papers on citizenship rights, civil society, and the situation of minorities in the Middle East. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org