Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is not only at odds with the country’s democratic forces and alienating many of its younger members, its authoritarian impulses are leading it to “micromanage” the newly-formed Freedom and Justice Party.
While the Islamist group insists that the party is autonomous, leading members of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau are drafting its policy platform, selecting candidates, and setting strategy, writes Nathan J. Brown, a professor of political science at George Washington University.
The Brotherhood insists that it is committed to a civil state, but recent statements suggest that it can’t quite shrug off its theocratic leanings.
The group’s general guide recently explained that it only supports democracy and freedom within an Islamic frame of reference, he notes, and that “democracy cannot make permitted what is forbidden, or forbid what is permitted” in Islamic terms, “even if the entire nation agrees to it.”
The new party’s declared aims also give cause for concern, Brown suggests:
The party aims to “reform the individual, the family, the society, the government, and then institutions of the state.” Reforming political institutions is standard stuff. But it takes a very special kind of political party to tell voters that it wants to reform them and their families as well.
Many liberals fear that the Brotherhood will exploit the religious convictions of the country’s rural majority to establish an Islamic state or, at best, an illiberal democracy. Others aren’t so sure.
“Although the religious discourse has had a strong impact on Egyptian society, I believe that the majority of Egyptians would not approve of a religious state,” said Amr al-Shobaki, an analyst with the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, “because the religious state has proven to be a failure.
“Egyptians have seen how the religious state led to secession in Sudan and foreign occupation in Afghanistan. In the meantime, Egyptians do not feel comfortable with the Iranian or Saudi model.”