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What Civil State? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There is an odd aspect to the battle that was launched between Mohamed ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after ElBaradei’s interview with the French publication Paris Match. When the Muslim Brotherhood does not like ElBaradei’s comments it uses the same old “foreigner” theory that it used in confronting him after he returned to Egypt and revealed [his] political ambitions. The theory is that he does not know the political reality in Egypt and that he needs time to become familiar with it after spending so many years in international organizations.

Regardless of this theory what calls for reflection is the response of the Muslim Brotherhood to the statements that were attributed to ElBaradei. It was claimed that he said that he had convinced the Muslim Brotherhood of democracy and freedoms and that he requested that they do what they want and wear what they want, such as Niqab, but they must respect the right of others to live differently [if they so wish], in addition to his [alleged] statement that he convinced them of accepting democracy and the secular state.

That was the focal point of the dispute and on this occasion it was expected, as the two sides are radically different in their way of thinking regarding politics, the world, and the way to look at freedoms and the pluralism that exist in society.

The response of the Muslim Brotherhood was that it does not call for a religious state, which is usually the angle from which it is attacked and the main reason people fear it based on the consideration that mixing religion and politics is a time bomb in most cases as demonstrated by political experiences. It also said that it calls for a civil state with Islamic references.

This is all lovely, however these words need to be explained; what does a civil state with Islamic references mean if we want to move away from merely raising slogans that do not contain any real content? What’s the difference between that [a civil state with Islamic references] and what already exists? The current constitution refers to Islamic Sharia a source for legislation. Does it mean that governance of this promised state will be carried out by politicians from the same current selected by a specific religious reference that is considered a more superior authority to them like what is happening in Iran today?

As for talk about the stereotypical Muslim Brotherhood ideology, it is an issue that will continue to exist, as in all the political and electoral battles in which the Muslim Brotherhood engaged its famous slogan that they presented to people has been “Islam is the solution.” It is also the method of dazzling slogans without going into detail, and in reality they are the slogans of men of religion and preaching and not of politicians concerned with the affairs of this world. They must present ideas and programs that reflect their real thoughts on decisive issues such as development, freedoms, education, poverty, improving the standard of living, culture and so on.

Everybody in Egypt is talking about political reform and change, even in reference to the ruler, and the disagreement, it seems, is over the pace [of political reform and change] and striking the necessary balance between stability and the pace of reforms in a world that is full of problems and political and economic tensions. But change and reform should also include political forces that call for change in order to keep up with the times and [new] ideas. The Muslim Brotherhood for example needs to take a look around it and to look at the world to see that the ideas of the 1940s and 1950s are no longer suitable for this day and age and it requires it to work very hard to raise a new generation to replace the Old Guard and present enlightening ideas. It might apply to other political forces that are caught up in political battles of the past and their ideologies. Regardless of his realistic or unrealistic political ambitions, ElBaradei’s rocking of the boat in battles such as these is a positive thing and beneficial in pushing political forces, which have yielded to stereotypical ideas for a long time, towards sharpening the mind and ideology in a non-stereotypical manner and towards developing their ideologies.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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