Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quotable Words: On Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood



As the ascendant Muslim Brotherhood tries to project itself as a responsible actor, including by hosting credulous New York Times columnist Nick Kristof for a home-cooked meal, it is important to recall these kinds of statements. Over the past two weeks, I have interviewed seven Brotherhood parliamentarians-to-be. Far from being moderate, these future leaders share a commitment to theocratic rule, complete with a limited view of civil liberties and an unmistakable antipathy for the West.

The Brotherhood’s theocratic vision presents itself in a number of forms. At the most basic level, the organization’s future parliamentarians insist that all law should be drawn exclusively from the sharia—and they are convinced that this is a goal shared by nearly all Egyptians. “Most political streams in Egypt—liberals, socialists, nationalists, and Islamists – demand that sharia be the main source of legislation,” Saad al-Husseini, the Brotherhood’s top candidate on a Gharbiya electoral list and a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Office, told me. A number of Brotherhood MPs-to-be even claimed that Egypt’s Christian community was pro-sharia. “The Christians are Egyptians, and true Egyptians will take the sharia’s side, and not the side of the French,” said recently elected Alexandria MP al-Mohammadi al-Sayyid.

To be sure, the Brotherhood, unlike Egypt’s Salafists, does not intend to legislate based on a literal interpretation of the sharia. It claims instead to be guided by pragmatic interpretations of the sharia’s true aims—or “maqasid,” as this principle known in the field of Islamic jurisprudence.

More Islamic Winter or a very nasty rainy season.


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