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Sunday, December 23, 2012


CAN THE BROTHERHOOD SUCCEED IN DEVELOPING MODERN, ISLAMIC EGYPT? By Dr. A.U.Tilde Unofficial results of the just concluded referendum have shown about 64% of Egyptians voted "Yes" for the constitution that was drafted by a constituent assembly that was dominated by Islamic reformers from Muslim Brotherhood and other related parties.£££ The opposition which comprises of secular, liberal and christian blocks have, understandably, been against the constitution and wanted one that did not favour shariah in state legislation. It may need to wait a bit, as the end of this article would show.£££ This is a test not only for Egypt but for the entire Muslim world. The long journey of the Brotherhood in the past 70 years and its patience have finally paid off. That experience has over the years also made the Brotherhood more conversant with the need for moderation in its vision of the Muslim society and government. Yet, that experience did not come without some prices.£££ One of such prices is the painful regime of mass arrests, excruciating tortures, long jail terms, and executions of hundreds of thousands of its members and leaders. Its founder, Hasan Al-Banna, was murdered in 1948 when he was returning from his Fajr prayers. His death was greeted with jubilation in Western capitals.£££ It was this jubilation that drew the likes of likes of Sayid Qutb to the Brotherhood after he returned from a two year study in the US. Qutb injected a lot of intellectual energy into the organization. He churned out a number of Islamic books, including a 30 volume commentary of the Qur'an, Fi Zilal. However, his prominence attracted the attention of the Naserite regime, which jailed him for ten years, only to be released in 1965 on the intervention of the Iraqi Prime Minister who pleaded with Naser to release him on health ground. Again, in less than a year, he was rearrested and executed at the age of 60 on grounds of treason, largely drawing from allegations of his association with a militant faction of the Brotherhood.£££ Such was the bitter experience of the Brotherhood since 1951 until last year. That bitter experience has led to the second price, unfortunately: the emergence of militant Muslim organizations like Islamic Jihad and, some say, al-Qaida. The delay in the success of the Brotherhood has also yielded some anti-modern Muslim organizations to emerge and dilute the moderate views that the Brotherhood has been presenting to the Egyptian public with views that can only lead to intolerance and conflict. For example, the Salafi movement accounts for about 20% of votes during the last election and in the constituent assembly.£££ Three things attract me to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Its resilience, its moderate views and vision of a modern Islamic state that will accommodate divergent views and traditions, and its emphasis on social work as an integral part of its commitment to the Egyptian public. These were the same qualities that attracted the Egyptian masses to it over the past 70 years. And when the moment for the masses came to speak, they did so in resounding support for the Brotherhood. They spoke during the elections. They so spoke during the referendum.£££ However, a bigger challenge is ahead of this victory. In their books, the Brotherhood have convinced us that a modern Islamic state is possible, that Islam and modernity are not irreconcilable. President Mursi himself has said that the building of a modern, Muslim Egypt that is based on social justice is his main objective.£££ I am raising this concern because many scholars in the West and many Muslim organizations have posited that modernity and Islam are irreconcilable, meaning perpetual conflict is the logical fate between Muslims and other people; that ideologically Muslims cannot advance beyond their 6th Century achievement, etc. In fact, some commentators say that the democratic vision of Muslim groups is "one man, one vote, one time".£££ When I look around and see the proliferation of hate speech among us Muslims, the mushrooming of what i call groups of 'Pentecostal Islam', the mimicking by many Muslim groups of Catholic doctrines of the Middle ages in rejection of reason and its results like science and other disciplines, I become tempted to lend my ears to such scholars.£££ It will therefore be great if the Brotherhood in government will succeed in its effort to reconcile Islam with scientific and civil rights doctrine. It will go along way to prove those Western scholars and Muslim groups wrong. Egypt then would serve as a good example for other Muslim nations in the Sunni world to follow. From their light, we can also lit our path for coexistence between Muslims and other Nigerians. Our present state of conflict is not tenable.£££ Its failure, I am afraid to say, will lead to the conclusion of Professor Bernard Lewis: that Muslims will return from the support of political Islam as the Christians in Europe turned down the authority of the Church in the Middle ages. The Muslim world would then seek shelter in the same secularism it rejected earlier.£££ The Muslim Brotherhood therefore has a great task ahead. The victory is only a mandate to the realization of the great dream of its founder, Al-Banna: the dream of a Muslim state that is modern, just and - at the same time - shariah compliant.£££ In pursuing that goal, the Brotherhood must not forget that its is democracy - the right of the majority to form government - that accorded it the best chance for the realization of that dream. Would it attempt to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs as some people predict or would it allow its live longer and prosper?£££ 23 December 2012

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