CAIRO: Regardless of its popularity among the grassroots population, Muslim Brotherhood policies and reform initiatives are still surrounded by controversy, especially among intellectuals; the idea of a constitution derived from Islamic law has given birth to speculation over the group’s political, economic and social policies.
The reform initiative, penned by senior leaders and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, was presented as a “national charter. When it was first initiated (its presentation coinciding with last year’s presidential elections), the Brotherhood called on all political parties and powers to support it. Just a few weeks after its presentation, Essam Al-Arian, group spokesperson, and several other senior leaders were rounded-up from their homes or work, arrested and detained in Tora Mazraa Prison.
According to the group’s supreme guide, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, this initiative should “be met with interest, be discussed and talked over . The duty of this era makes it imperative for all political powers, cultural and intellectual groups, in addition to all those interested in public work, to gather around a wide frame based on the essential pillars of this society.
The initiative not only outlined political and economic reform plans, but also highlighted steps that could be taken “in the field of building the Egyptian individual, believing that “the happiness of man is the target of any development of progress and that “man is also the method of achieving this progress.
One of the main steps the group is taking is to put “a special focus on the younger generations to give them “a base of faith, straightforwardness and good manners. The group also said that in order to achieve this aim, they must urge people to be committed to “worship, righteous behavior and dignified dealings in addition to filtering the mass media by “removing all that contradicts the rulings of Islam and the givens of straight manners.
In the area of politics, the Brotherhood has been most controversial. Many opposition voices have criticized the group’s slogan of “Islam is the Solution.
“It is dangerous to use such a slogan, saying that the Quran should be the source of law and order, George Ishaq, Kefaya head, tells The Daily Star Egypt. “The Quran, above all, is a holy book and a heavenly scripture. We can’t put it to the test by deriving policies from it.
However, according to Akef, “We stand no chance of achieving development in any field of our life unless we return to our religion, apply our sharia (Islamic law), follow the path of science and modern technology and acquire as much knowledge as we can, in light of the great religion’s basics . By this we seek Allah’s blessing and satisfaction.
Not to say that the Brotherhood’s policy restricts freedom; the Brotherhood actually promises freedom and a “democratic, constitutional, parliamentarian, presidential regime “in the framework of Islamic principles. According to their suggested political reform plan, the group is keen on “establishing international relations based on equality, human brotherhood, mutual respect of rights and national sovereignty, respect of international laws and conventions, and stressing people’s right to self-determination.
“The people are the source of all authorities, says their declaration, “Power transfer [should take place] through free, general elections.
The initiative also acknowledges the freedom of establishing political parties, freedom of each individual’s belief and practicing religious rites “for all acknowledged divine religions. The group also claims it upholds freedom of opinion, “expressing it and calling for it peacefully within the framework of the public system, general traditions and the basic foundations of society.
Their “national charter in the field of politics also includes “freedom of public mass meetings and the right of peaceful demonstrations. non-violation of the public security, and forbidding using or threatening to use violence or carrying weapons.
“The army has to be excluded from politics [and] to be dedicated for defending the country’s border, reads the group’s charter. “The police and all security bodies of the state are civic jobs as stated by the constitution. Their mission must be limited to preserving the security of the state and society as a whole, not subjected to preserve the entity of government or taken as a tool to suppress the opposition.
The charters added that the ruler’s responsibility should be limited, whereas the president should not interfere in the executive powers and should not “preside over any political party. The charter also limits the president’s rule to two terms.
“Ill-reputed laws, like the Emergency Law and the laws that restrict the formation of political parties, or restrict the press and syndicates will be revoked, promises the initiative.
In the fields of legal and electoral sections, the Muslim Brotherhood reform plan promises, above all, “independence of the legal system, in all its degrees and measures, making every effort possible to keep it away from any suspicions and doubts, respecting legal rulings and not playing around them.
Changing the laws “and purifying them to be in conformity with the principles of the Islamic Sharia being the major source of legislation is also a priority.
Concerning the electoral process, the group also says that authorities and security forces should be kept away from the process, and elections should be “handled and monitored by an electoral committee . Judges should form such a committee . without the interference of the Minister of Justice.
“All runners [should be] entitled to all sorts of electoral campaigning; holding conferences, distributing electoral publications, holding marches and hanging fliers.
In the area of economic reform, the Brotherhood has outlined specific projects in their charter, for instance, discovering sources of natural resources and using them, linking small and middle complementary industries with large ones to ensure their support, encouraging direct Arab and Islamic investment first then foreign investment (from the rest of the world) and using social funds in establishing small projects owned by workers. As part of their plan, the Brotherhood aims to raise awareness of the idea of “saving, to enlighten citizens “with the rights of the future generations.
In the area of educational reform, the Muslim Brotherhood initiative promises improvements such as raising the standards and the conditions of teachers, developing school curricula, providing continuous training programs for faculty, increasing “scientific missions and raising the rate of funding allocated to education and scientific research from the national income.
The 38-page long charter also outlines reforms in fields like combating poverty, Al-Azhar reform, social reform and women’s issues; such issues have been the subject of controversy and have been questioned by analysts familiar with the policies of the Brotherhood, especially the fact that women are not entitled to high ranks within the Brotherhood’s leadership itself. Most female Muslim Brotherhood members contribute in social areas, including charity and development projects while few have real representation in political and legal areas within the group.
However, according to the group’s charter, women are entitled to “participate in parliamentary elections and to be “a member of parliament in a frame that preserves her decency, neutrality and dignity. They are also entitled to hold public posts, except for that of the grand imam and the president of the state.