Numerous media reports have indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has made public its first detailed political platform which would bar women and Christians from becoming president and establish a board of Muslim clerics to oversee the government, said to be reminiscent of Iran’s Islamic state. According to the Associated Press:
The platform has dismayed secular reform activists who have cautiously hoped the Brotherhood was becoming more moderate and who supported the movement in the face of an unprecedentedly tough government crackdown against it. The document also complicates the debate in Egypt over how to deal with the Brotherhood, which proved its widespread popularity in 2005 parliament elections. The Brotherhood in recent years has increasingly touted itself as a pro-reform movement, insisting it wants a democratic playing field and an end to the autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Some secular reformers increasingly have said that, given the Brotherhood’s popularity, there can’t be real democracy in Egypt unless the group has a seat at the political table. But the platform illustrated the dominance of a more hard-line trend in the Brotherhood, known as the Daawi ‘“ Arabic for preaching ‘“ over a minority of moderates who seek to reform the group and call for a civic government that respects Islamic principles.
A previous post has discussed the recent trip to Egypt by U.S Professor March Lynch who indicated that one of his goals was to discuss this platform with Brotherhood leaders. Dr. Lynch, known to be sympathetic to the Brotherhood, says that while he was “shocked” and “taken aback” by the platform, he asserts that the Brotherhood leadership is divided about it with some saying it will be changed:
After my conversations, it is clear to me that the Brotherhood”s leadership is divided about the party platform, with some defending it as written and others bluntly stating that of course it will be changed. The draft party platform isn”t the “true face” of the MB, but it is one face of the MB and it is profoundly unclear whether it is a more powerful trend than the more pragmatic political trend which had produced earlier documents…..They were all keen to explain to me that the controversial Higher Ulema Council would only be advisory, not compulsory, and that sovereignty would still rest in the elected Parliament and the Constitutional Court. They argued that their purpose had not been to create a new religious authority, but rather to create a new body which would be elected and independent of the Executive Branch – taking power away from al-Azhar rather than imposing Shia-style religious authority. … But most seem to recognize that they have a problem, since one of the main objectives of the platform was to reassure other Egyptians about their intentions – something which has spectacularly backfired and left them open to all kinds of attacks from skeptics. It will be very interesting to see if it really does change – and an important test of the internal balance of power in the MB and the depth of their interest in responding to the concerns of their fellow citizens (and, of course, the West).
Any change in the platform at this point would, of course, raise the question of whether or not any such change would be in fact a public relations effort rather than a true reflection of the Brotherhoods intent.