The problem with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is not sharia

Western media simplistically cast the divide between revolutionaries and the Brotherhood in secular-Islamist terms – Published on The Guardian, by Sara Khorshid, January 21, 2012.

Secularism is not my cause and sharia is not my fear but I am one of those Egyptians who are critical of the Muslim Brotherhood movement – one who made a point of not voting for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party in the recent elections. My cause is Egypt, the revolution, and seeing my country become a true democracy. My fear is the prolongation of military rule, of transformation to a system that gives the military special status above civil institutions, or one that grants the army and its budget immunity against parliamentary accountability. The Brotherhood’s priorities are different from mine, and their objectives have occasionally conflicted with those of the revolutionaries … //      

… Having seen the Brotherhood make a series of compromising stances over the past year, I can’t trust it to be capable of achieving the revolution’s objectives.

Despite all that, it’s absurd to find many western media outlets reducing Egyptian revolutionaries’ anger against the Brotherhood to an alleged fear of sharia law. An oversimplified analysis from some western writers depicts the divide between many young revolutionaries and the Brotherhood as a secularist-Islamist clash.

What they seem not to have noticed is that the key secularist party in post-revolution Egypt – the Free Egyptians party – also opposed November’s demonstrations. And just as protesters kicked senior Brotherhood leader Mohamed Beltagi out of Tahrir in November, they also kicked out liberal figure Mamdouh Hamza in the same week.

The protesters’ rejection of the two men had nothing to do with sharia, and had everything to do with the revolution and its initial objectives, which were neither secularist nor Islamist.

I am not one of Tahrir’s heroes (Tahrir has seen scores of heroes lose eyes and limbs on the battle line) but I am a Tahrir-goer, a pro-revolution opponent of Scaf who does not fall into the dichotomy of “pro-Tahrir secularists versus anti-Tahrir Islamists” that is promoted by pundits.

I don’t claim that all Tahrir protesters are like me, but I can say with confidence that I share some of the stances of one celebrated Tahrir martyr: Azhar scholar Sheikh Emad Effat. Effat didn’t vote for the Brothers’ party either even though, as his widow stated later, he “wanted sharia”.

Sharia, as I know it, tells me to struggle against corruption and tyranny; and to side with those pursuing justice and dignity, be they secularist or Islamist. (full text).


Unfinished business: timeline of a revolutionary year, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Amira Howeidy, 26 January – 1 February 2012;

25 January revisited, on Al-Ahram weekly online, 26 January – 1 February 2012 with it’s picture: Yestereday’s Crowd in Tahir Square;

A chronology of dissent, on Al-Ahram weekly online, 23 – 29 June 2005;

2011 Egyptian revolution on en.wikipedia with its External links.

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