“The Brotherhood” is an abbreviation for the banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt . How is a political party prohibited when it has headquarters, a banner carrying its name, an administration, a workforce, funds, a newspaper and demonstrations? How can it participate in the elections and win a third of all parliamentary seats?
Someone asked me once, “How can they be banned when they are the best supported party?” My answer was that many government laws are not applied, such as stopping at a red light and prohibiting smoking in government buildings. Rather than discussing what is forbidden, let us examine political developments. The Egyptian regime is not to blame for recognizing fait accompli and accepting the Brotherhood, as a political party and a political current, because it represents a large number of people that cannot be ignored. Allowing the Brotherhood to exist is no danger; in fact, it is an experience that alleviates some of the accumulating pressure.
It is now up to the Brotherhood, which do not lack experience, to showcase their ability and transform themselves into a national party that provides the country what it needs of reform, development and peaceful coexistence. The Brotherhood face a real test. This is why they are wrong to deliver contradicting messages in a public relations campaign aimed at satisfying friends and appeasing enemies at once. In the last few days, the Brotherhood have run a campaign that has distorted their image. On the one hand, representatives indicated they were opposed to all forms of censorship, even religious. They even visited the writer Naguib Mahfouz and announced, in front of a small crowd of intellectuals, their support for his banned novel, The Children of Gebelawi. On the other hand, when confronted during a televised debate, they retreated and told the general public they were neither for permitting nor prohibiting the novel. The group seems to have adopted two messages: one for public consumption by way of the television and the other in private forums and newspapers.
Currently, the Brotherhood are courting the Copts who are still unsure about their stance towards Egypt ’s Christians. When they speak positively about the role of women, we are unable to judge whether this is an official policy or a misguided attempt to reassure the worried ambassadors of the great powers in Cairo . The message claims they are a religious civil organization that follows the Malaysian model not the Saudi one.
The truth behind the Brotherhood and their policies will emerge in future crises, whatever they say and is said about them. Their opponents claim they are Abboud al Zomor (one of the assassins of President Anwar Sadat, currently serving a life sentence) in disguise. Their supporters see them as Hassan al Banna, Jamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Yasser Arafat and other leading figures.
Viewed from the outside, the picture is unclear. If their leaders are in charge, they will have the chance to not only incorporate the Muslim Brotherhood into parliament but also to build a civil society based on the principle of a transition of power, the respect of the basic rights of individuals and minorities and civil liberties. If they choose to, they can become a party for everyone, awaiting its chance to rule. Let us remember that there are those who preceded them to power in Sudan . They participate in the polls and took part in a coup d’etat and failed. Others, such as the Justice and Development Party in Turkey triumphed through the ballot box.