CAIRO: Political analyst and commentator Amr Choubeki called on the Muslim Brotherhood to revise its stance against women and Copts running for president, clarify its definition of a “civil state, and allow reform within the group’s ranks.
In a recent lecture, hosted by the Center for Socialist Studies, Choubeki, who works for Al Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, blogger Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, a young member of the Brotherhood, and Engineer Yehya Khalil from the Center for Socialist Studies, discussed the Brotherhood’s proposed political platform. The right of women and Copts to run for president and the suggested establishment of a religious body to monitor the government have dominated criticism of the group’s platform.
The group maintains that what has been circulated is a mere draft sent to different intellects around the country. The final version of the anticipated platform is yet to be released.
Nonetheless, these very intellects and others heavily criticized this platform, whether as a whole or by pointing out specific issues.
In the center’s lecture, all speakers agreed in commending the Brotherhood for releasing the platform. The group has always been criticized of not having a clear political agenda.
“It’s a positive thing. Maybe it will help in opening the door for discussing the brotherhood ideas openly, said Dr Choubeki.
This is exactly what the panelists did.
“The project has a group of ideas. Some of them are positive including the parts on human rights, but I personally disapprove a lot of the other ideas, Choubeki said.
The analyst reiterated what other critics have been saying. He criticized banning Christians and women from running for president and the suggested Hay’at Al Olama (Higher Religious Scholars Council) for monitoring laws.
“The program decided to eliminate 60 percent of the population. From the beginning it decided to remove the majority of the population from running for president, he said.
Choubeki pointed out the contradictions in the written platform that promotes citizenship and equality between all Egyptians regardless of their religion, sex or color while at the same time stipulating that only Muslim men are eligible to become the country’s president.
“I think every Egyptian citizen has the right to run for president, he said, explaining that if he personally did not approve of a certain candidate – whoever he/she is – he would say so in the ballot box.
Choubeki also expressed his concerns about the Higher Religious Scholars Council.
The platform states that the legislature is obliged to ask the council for its opinion. The council will comprise of religious scholars who the platform says will be totally independent from the executive and the legislative bodies. It also states that they will be elected freely, but it’s not clear on how exactly the election process is going to take place.
Although the Brotherhood now says that it will only be for consultation, observers remain concerned. Since the program doesn’t specify the type of authority given to the council, critics did not rule out the possibility that Brotherhood statements about the consultative nature of the council were merely a response to the mounting criticism.
Choubeki said that he doesn’t understand why the platform states that this council “must exist if it’s only for consultancy.
Furthermore, Choubeki says that in a civil state, there is no place for a council that monitors legislation such as this one. Instead, the Supreme Constitutional Court is the only body that can monitor laws.
Mahmoud, who stressed he wasn’t representing the group but was there to offer his understanding of the platform as a young member, said this committee follows the patriarchal nature of Egyptian society. Like the peasant wants all his children and their families to live with him in the same house to maintain control, this committee and others like it would do the same.
Another suggested committee in the platform would “direct the art path to serve society’s causes.
“The idea of a committee monitoring the society’s behavior is a dilemma in its own, he said. “It reminds me of totalitarian regimes where even if those committees were said to be independent, they in reality are a part of the regime, he said. This would be a way to control books, he added.
Commenting on the Brotherhood itself, Mahmoud explained how there are two currents within the group; a moderate stream which is outnumbered by the conservative one.
Nodding in agreement, Choubeki said the majority in the brotherhood is conservative, but so is the Egyptian society in general nowadays.
Choubeki explained that the Brotherhood cannot be separated from this conservative social climate. “Political Islam did not create this appearance but it contributed to it, he said.
Choubeki highlighted the possibility of reform within the group, or lack thereof.
“I was one of the people who thought it might happen, but the interaction inside the group doesn’t allow the emergence of a reforming current that believes in a civil state.
“When their ideology was transformed into a political program, it did so in a totalitarian way, trying to impose its way of thinking on society, he added.
Mahmoud maintained that the group has no intention in imposing anything on the people.
“The group came with a vision that will be released to everyone: Muslims and Christians, women and men. If the people decide and chose it, then they agree with the group’s ideas and the rest of the political group should become the opposition. If the people do not choose our program, then we won’t impose anything from this program on them, Mahmoud said.
Choubeki objected, saying that either the Brotherhood agrees with the foundations of the civil state, or publicly refuse it and announce that they want something else.
If the Brotherhood says that they abide by the constitution, he explained, then they must not deny 60 percent of the population from running in presidential elections. “This way, the Brotherhood is laying a hand on the foundations of a civil state which has been settled down in Egypt for two centuries.
Choubeki advised the group to review those parts in the program.