Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Women can hold leadership positions in the Muslim Brotherhood and even become a murshid (supreme guide), according to Dr. Makarem al Dayri, the group’s sole female candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Speaking to Asharq al Awsat, al Dayri said that a woman could assume the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood if the current tension between the government and security services on the one hand and the group on the other was overcome. The fact that no woman had yet held a leadership position was not due to attitudes within the Brotherhood but more to do with security concerns and wanting to protect them from harm, she pointed out.
The widow of secretary general Ibrahim Sharaf indicated a number of women were urged to present their candidature for the People’s Assembly (the Egyptian parliament) on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood but declined for personal reasons. Her children had not object to her candidacy but regretted the stress she was inflicting on herself, she added.
Al Dayri revealed she was not running for elections to represent Egypt’s Muslims only but all its citizens, without distinguishing between Muslim and Copt as they were all equal and had similar rights and obligations. Demands to introduce Islamic Sharieh (Islamic Law), the candidate for Nasr city pointed out, were not opposed to the rights of Egypt’s Copt community and its freedom of religion and action; applying hudud laws (punishments for serious crimes) would not be considered as they were not practical for Egyptian society, she added.
Denying the Muslim Brotherhood oppressed women; she said that, “one of the pillars of the Muslim Brotherhood is that it doesn’t oppose the participation of women in politics. In the past, the group used to consider women above these matters to spare them the oppression and intimidation men face. Recent changes in Egypt have encouraged the group to change its viewpoint, especially given the attempts by civil society groups to encourage women to become members of parliament in an attempt to increase their participation in politics.”
The Brotherhood had learned a important lesson from the experience of Jihan al Halfawi, whose candidature was marred by controversy, al Dayri said, adding that this had corrected the erroneous image in people”s mind on the group”s position towards women. It would not, however, be repeated. The candidate expressed hope she would not be intimidated and attacked during the campaigning as had happened to her predecessor.
A grandmother to five grandchildren, al Dayri indicated she would represent the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood in the upcoming elections and believed the group possessed a modern political program that called for reform. Becoming a member of parliament or assuming power was no end in itself but merely a way to publicize the groups’ beliefs since the People’s Assembly was an important decision maker in Egypt, she said. Reflecting on whether she would succeed, al Dayri said she would not regret her decision to stand for elections if she lost but hoped she would win.
On Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood slogan “Islam is the solution” caused controversy at meeting at the journalists’ union headquarters in Cairo after a number of participants believed it was publicity for an Islamic state.
Osama al Ariyan, a Brotherhood figure recently released from jail, explained the slogan contained three interconnected meanings and expressed the identity of the nation whereby the Islamic Arab civilization represents the cultural base of Egyptian society so that any attempt to build another culture had to taken this into consideration. Insisting on this slogan was insisting on the importance of identity, he added.
It also acted a reference point for everyone to agree and disagree. Modern constitutions, he added, always required a supreme authority above all constitutions and laws. The current slogan “indicates that our reference is Islam so we are in no need for imported solutions.”
Thirdly, al Ariyan pointed out, “Islam is the solution” represented a general framework for all policies and the source of all action.
“Applying Islamic laws in one country does not entail mimicking other countries. An Islamic government in Egypt will undoubtedly differ from the experiences of other Muslim countries such as Sudan and Pakistan .”
Participants in the meeting indicating that an Islamic government would represent a defeat for the concept of a modern government based on freedom and citizenship. They reaffirmed that civil society under the concept of a parliamentary republic would not be opposed to Islamic Sharieh or Egypt ”s Muslim character.