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The Muslim Brotherhood’s Position on Democracy from their Islamic legal Perspective

Tuesday 25-04-2017 - 12:34 AM
Refuting Ibrahim Mounir’s claims in which he argues: “Democracy for us is called ‘Shura’ in a sense that nothing can be decided without the will and choice of the majority of the people, but not necessarily their unanimous agreement. It is also an endogenous process that starts from within, especially when individuals realize their rights to believe, act and speak under the rule of law in any given society in which they live.”



Here, I will counter this claim by saying that it is undisputed that the Brotherhood has never, ever recognized democracy, as its spiritual leader and as founder Hassan al-Banna once put it, “We accept democracy until we are in power.” This opportunistic, elusive doctrine was originally adopted by the fifth Brotherhood Guide, al-Haj Mustafa Mashhour, more than three decades ago before it became their main component, and a legally-binding law that all group's leadership and decision-makers cannot deviate from.


Even the Brotherhood of today, who are themselves the students of Sayyid Qutb, have followed in the footsteps of their past leaders who had long advocated organizational secrecy, and are unapproachable from all other forces outside of their realm. This is the politics of the Brotherhood since always. It becomes even more crystal clear when they nominate members for the parliament, when they are willing to dialogue with other political forces, or when they demand the formation of their own political party, and when they engage in any other civil practices. They usually do these things not because they believe in the democratic process or want to partake in the political game with honesty, but because, as precisely described by Dr. Hala Mustafa, Editor-in-Chief of the Democratic Periodical, “these are tactical strategies whose main and ultimate purpose is to win authority and wield power, nothing else.


Dr. Refaat al-Saeed, leader of the National Progressive Unionist Party (Ḥizb al-Tagammu), also insists that the Brotherhood rejects and objects to abide by the basic determinants of democracy in terms of the inevitability of the principles of freedom, tolerance and differences with the other, as well as the peaceful transition of power. Quite the reverse, the Brotherhood views democracy as a decadent Western manifestation or even an inherently ungodly process which is entirely incompatible with the principles of Islam. While the Brotherhood accepts no authority but that of God, they install themselves as its guardians, responsible for implementing that authority on the land, and therefore everyone must obey them and adhere to their order and line of action. Therefore, any disagreement or argument against them, according to their own fallacious logic, will amount to opposition to religion and/or collision with its principles.


In this regard, the founding father of the group, Sheikh Hassan al-Banna, dismissed the idea of ​​diversity and difference of opinion, and visions that constitute the very foundation of democracy and characterizes mainstream democratic entities, institutions and parties. This was when al-Banna explicitly stated in his epistle to the 'Fifth Conference of the Brotherhood in 1938 that: “The system of their organization stems from Islam, and that any reduction thereof is tantamount to being reduction of Islam itself.” This bold statement simply mantles the decisions and the announcements of the Brotherhood’s leaders with an aura of sanctity as much as it lends them a strongly legitimatized and moralistic justification to misuse democratic mechanisms such as elections, for example, as a “transitional” tool that is to be conducive to power, their ultimate goal of course. Once in power, they will forget that democracy changes hands. Therefore, they will cling tightly to the helm of power, and start persecuting those who oppose them in the process of doing so. This perhaps harks back to the experience of Hamas, the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, when it overthrew the legitimate authority in the Gaza Strip. In reality, this experience is still the worst in living memory from which we must draw salutary lessons of what things will turn to whenever the democratically and politically immature Islamists reach power, according to Dr. Samir Ghattas, Director of the Maqdis Center for Palestinian Studies.


The Brotherhood's Machiavellian logic in realizing and practicing democracy perfectly accounts for the repeated slip-ups of its leaders, most prominently their guide, Dr. Mohammed Badi, whose actions indicate their malice against the society, the political multi-party system and other partisan or non-partisan forces. Suffice to say that Dr. Badi, for example, not only declared his group's adherence to its sectarian motto that reads: "Islam is the solution,” whether during parliamentary election races or even after their official withdrawal from it. The Brotherhood's approach could be summarized in only one word which is ‘Tuzz,’ (an Arabic colloquial, catchphrase meaning, 'I don’t really care'). The expression, 'tuzz' was very popular with the Brotherhood’s former guide Mahdi Akef.  A few weeks ago, in the presence of a large Brotherhood crowd, Akef described the society and the government as "filth", and also called for the exclusion of all articles in the Constitution that are inconsistent with the provisions of Islam and the teachings of the Qur’an, according to him, in a blatant campaign for a theocracy.


Similarly, such manipulation and maneuvering of the democratic rules that the Brotherhood are disposed to, was very obvious when the Brotherhood’s general guide and the Guidance Office members gave a deaf ear to the demands of boycotting the elections that were recently raised by prominent Brotherhood-loyalists and civil advocates such as: Khaled Daoud, Mukhtar Noah, Hamed Al-Dafrawi, Haitham Abukhalil, and Abdel-Sattar Al-Miliji. These people, however, were literally humiliated and reproached by the Brotherhood leaders, although the Brotherhood themselves did not have any choice in the end but to boycott the election in order to justify their defeat in the ballot boxes.


In fact, the Brotherhood - and before their official withdrawal - did not decide to run for the parliament that time according to their newly-minted concept of, “Participation not Domination,” which the Brotherhood’s media outlets have been celebrating and repeating over the past period. This concept was inconsistent with the Brotherhood’s doctrine of “We and Everyone Else”. As a matter of fact, “Participation not Domination,” was a false motto under the veneer of democracy as the Brotherhood is known for its love to steal the spotlight from all others. This fondness has always been rooted in the Brotherhood’s ideology since it was founded by Sheikh Hassan al-Banna some eight decades ago. “Make people always busy with your news,” was a call by the Brotherhood’s third guide, Omar al-Telmassani, addressed to all members of the group, and this call resonates with them to date, and has become their long standing tradition.


Hence, things like arrest, imprisonment, release, military tribunals and charges of massive election fraud, etc - in the minds of the Brotherhood – are considered ‘free propaganda’.


According to them, such propaganda puts them in the spotlight, and creates a kind of an imaginary community around them as much as it generates popular sympathy towards them. It may go as far as turning them into martyrs in front of world public opinion.  It seems that the Brotherhood, according to a former member, has already begun to focus on this tactical strategy by brandishing and threatening to sue the Egyptian government, in front of international courts on allegations of massive election-rigging. What a paradox! The Brotherhood seeks foreign support and international fame at the expense of Egypt’s reputation. This comes as no surprise to many pundits who are well-acquainted with the group’s deceitful history.


When it comes to “electoral activities,” the Brotherhood tends to make the best use of them. By and large, elections or electoral campaigns allow them to have direct contact with the public, to approach them more, and to mobilize more supporters and sympathizers, especially among those with Islamic and conservative leanings or backgrounds (as stated in the document titled: 'Utilizing Elections in Advocacy and Promoting the Urgency of an Islamic Solution'). All of these actions are core elements of the clandestine work of the Brotherhood, and have nothing to do with the mechanisms of Egyptian procedural democracy which aims to inspire the concepts of citizenship, and engender the fundamental aspects of civilization among the people.


Dr. Wahid Abdul Majeed asserts that the Brotherhood is no longer as strong as they were five years ago: "The group won 88 seats at the expense of its relationship with the opposition which provided a solid ground for its clandestine work and activities. However, the Brotherhood tried to showcase their strength by looking down on all other powers out of their inbred superiority complex. Due to that reason, they lost that space and fell into the entrapment of seclusion."


Dr. Amr al-Shobaki, an expert on Islamic movements, concludes that it is difficult to acknowledge, till now, that the Muslim Brotherhood had ever accepted democracy as ‘a value and a polity,’ despite the fact that they have opened up significantly in this direction.


The leader of the Brotherhood, Dr. Essam Al-Arian, had adduced a number of guarantees that would reassure the society of ‘the impossibility of an Islamist coup’ on democracy, particularly from the Brotherhood, in the event of their involvement in the decision-making process, whether in the parliament, in the government, or even once in power would they reached it someday.


Another point of mention is the Brotherhood’s blatant opposition to democracy as reflected in the practices of the group within the organization which is completely controlled by mainstream conservatives and reactionary movements of the Takfiri and Qutbi ideologies. Hence, dismissal, membership-freezing, ostracism, and internal inquisitions are the ultimate fate of any member or cadre who dares to disobey the principles of ‘blind following and obedience’ to criticize the Guiding Office, oppose its leadership or clamor for departing from the tradition of ‘secrecy’ in favor of open public transparency.


This politics of ‘elimination of divergent voices,’ happened, for example, with the Centrist Party of Al-Wasat (still then under formation), led by Engineer Abu al-Ela Madi, along with the Alternative Current Group led by Dr. Ali Abdul Hafeez. This also eventually happened with former Brotherhood’s guide Muhammad Mahdi Akef, who was forced to retire and discontinue in office some four years ago, let alone the disposal of reformist leader Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, and the removal of Dr. Mohamed Habib, forcing him to submit his resignation from all his administrative positions in the group.


All these arrangements actually set the scene for the arrival of one of the cheerleaders of the Qurbi school of thought, Dr. Mohamed Badi, to the helm of the Brotherhood’s leadership as well as his complete control of the Guidance Office, the Shura Council, and the rest of administrative offices.


This is in addition to the deflection of most of the reformist and creative voices from the hell pit of the Brotherhood who relentlessly rule with an iron fist. The case of the well-known trade unionist, Mokhtar Noah, who abandoned the group, may be the most obvious. In the same category is former leader and dissenter, Tharwat Kharabawi, lawyer and author of the book titled, 'The Heart of the Brotherhood,' in where he explains why he deflected from group, saying, “The process of militarization of the organization after the late leader Omar Telmissani, has contributed to the disappearance of the civil character of the group as envisioned by Hassan al-Banna in his notes. Thus, the principles of ‘blind following and absolute obedience’ have triumphed over sound understanding.”

Kharabawi elaborates further, saying, “The Brotherhood’s organization, as it stands now, cannot contain all assimilation into the talents and the capacities that spring out from its smaller community. In the past, the Brotherhood spawned great, talented calibers such as Sheikh Sayed Sabiq, Sheikh Al-Bagouri, and Sheikh Mohamed al-Ghazali, apart from the succession of some talented generations starting from Abu al-Ela Madi up till Mokhtar Noah."


Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh also seems to concur with this statement. In a televised statement, Aboul Fotouh said that “the mechanisms of the Brotherhood, as an organization, do not tolerate the existence of creative thinking or an intellectual critique of its theories. In such a milieu, no good can come out, as the organization lacks the open-mindedness needed for politics depending on freedom of thought, expression and action that all eventually contribute to the success of its enterprise.”





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