April 8, 2011


The Islamist challenge: As Islamists enter post-revolutionary politics, they may not be able to control the outcome as they wish (Ayman El-Amir, 4/06/11, Al-Ahram Weekly)

Muslims in general, including those who live in secular states like Syria, are not opposed to governance guided by Islamic code. Intellectual debate on the merits of the secular state does not go far beyond think tanks and closed circles of political analysts. In this context, the relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood has historically taken the lead in matters of religion and was an influential force in matters of politics and social affairs since it was founded in the late 1920s. That is not to say that it was not, at times, amenable to political pressure or compromise. During the 25 January Revolution it announced in advance that it would not participate in the uprising. It was not until 2 February, during the Battle of the Camel that the Muslim Brotherhood's young elements showed up in force to organise protesters and defend Tahrir Square's tumultuous gathering from pro-Mubarak hoodlums.

The Muslim Brotherhood has recently founded its first political organisation, the Freedom and Justice Party. This proposition has one advantage and two disadvantages. First, it will be able to contest elections like any other secular party but with a religious silhouette that assures it of a huge following of the faithful. However, it will be playing a political game on a levelled field, unprotected by the guiding dictum of "conformity and obedience" -- the controlling principle of the members of the Brotherhood. It will be subject to political challenge, criticism, opposition and internal controversy. Secondly, as a political party with a balanced programme for political, social and economic change it will be the target of theological snipers from other ultra-religious organisations, both public and clandestine. Its religious springboard for a non-religious party, as the newly issued Electoral Code insists, will prove both a liability and a restrictive factor.

Even in decades old secular Tunisia and Baath- controlled autocratic Syria Muslims organisations, usually an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, find in the mass protests and new revolutionary spirit a liberating factor. They are tempted to lead, mobilise and influence the direction of the revolution or rebellious movement. In the current state of revolutionary turmoil religious-oriented mass organisations are stepping into uncharted territory where they will be judged by unconventional political standards they may not be able to control.

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Posted by at April 8, 2011 6:34 AM

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