The grand question in Egypt’s upcoming elections is the new role of the major Islamist political factions — and whether they are really committed to playing by democratic rules. Chief among the Islamists is the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), an organization whose revivalist doctrine has spawned political movements and terrorist organizations around the world.
Optimistic assessments about the MB have focused on recent propaganda from its websites, the Arabic-language Ikhwanonline.com and English-language Ikhwanweb.com. Limiting one’s view in that way, however, ignores the rigorous educational program that the group mandates — and the content of what the group is telling Egyptian society.
In an editorial for Dar al-Hayat, a London-based Arabic paper, senior Muslim Brotherhood [MB] member Issam al-Aryan (also spelled Essam al-Erian) laid out the group’s full intentions. Although the Brotherhood intends to respect democracy at the present time, al-Aryan’s piece proves that the Brotherhood is still very much attached to the idea of ruling society through Islam, not elections.
Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood wants to spread its ideology throughout the society, and not immediately seize power. Al-Aryan’s editorial shows that the group wants to concentrate on popularizing itself while the weak parties take turns at governing post-Mubarak Egypt. When the MB has achieved public support in this phase, it will ride the wave of popularity into forming a society more in line with its idea of an Islamic state.
The MB also supports creating multiple political parties that can be directed by the central organization and according to its dictates. With many parties, the MB could peddle Islamism to all the various factions of society — even those wary of the group’s power.
In the meantime, the MB’s current “Freedom and Justice Party” would cooperate with democracy and win possibly as many as 1/3 of the nation’s votes.
For those who think that the MB has reformed or embraced new democratic tendencies, al-Aryan draws his conclusions directly from the texts of Hassan al-Banna, the organization’s founder. As al-Aryan’s editorial suggests, the intensive ideological indoctrination of MB members undercuts attempts to alter the group’s fundamental desire for some form of Islamist government. Unable to read Arabic, many Americans lack access to the clearest statements of intent made by MB members. In the spirit of alleviating that problem, my translation of the editorial follows on the next page.