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More about the Muslim Brotherhood

Andrew Neil | 18:29 UK time, Thursday, 3 February 2011

Kamal El Helbawy and Douglas Alexander

On today's programme (Thursday, February 3rd) I promised to find out more about the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt) and post it for you.

I did so because I was suspicious that our guest from the Brotherhood, London-based Kamal El Helbawy, was painting a misleadingly moderate picture of what the Brotherhood stood for.

Pinning down the Brotherhood's positions, however, is not easy because they don't put their own materials online and they hardly ever translate anything into English. But here's a very straight write-through of the Brotherhood's 2007 manifesto, from AP, the reliable and authoritative wire service, published in the Boston Globe.

Described as the Brotherhood's "first detailed political platform" the manifesto would "bar women and Christians from becoming Egypt's president and establish a board of Muslim clerics to oversee the government, reminiscent of Iran's Islamic state" -- something Kamal El Helbawy denied today (claiming the Brotherhood would be happy with an Egyptian Thatcher as leader!).

The article states that there were a minority of moderates in the Brotherhood who preferred a civic government which respected Islamic principles but that the "hardline trend" had won out. It explains the manifesto was a draft for a Brotherhood political party, which the Mubarak government never allowed to develop. This might explain why our guest claimed the manifesto was never adopted. But there seems little doubt it sums up what the Brotherhood thinks.

AP reports that the manifesto calls for "the formation of a commission of senior religious scholars, chosen in national elections, to advise parliament and the president ... The commission's position on government and parliament decisions would be the "recommended one," suggesting it could veto those decisions.

The platform says parliament could overrule the board but not in issues governed by "proven texts" of Islamic Sharia law, a vague phrase that could apply to a wide range of issues."

The president cannot be a woman, says the manifesto, because the post's religious and military duties "contradict with her nature, social and other humanitarian roles." The blueprint recognizes the "equality between men and women in terms of their human dignity," but also warns against "burdening women with duties against their nature or role in the family.

Here's another article on the draft manifesto that suggests the Brotherhood is not quite the beacon of Western liberalism that our guest would have us believe.

And finally here's a research paper which suggests the Muslim Brotherhood's attitude toward minorities is not exactly progressive. It reveals that when Alexandria's Administrative Court issued a ruling on April 4, 2006 instructing the Interior Ministry to allow a citizen's identity card to state that the holder was a Baha'i [a religious sect], the Brotherhood reacted with outrage.

In the May 3, 2006 parliamentary debate on the ruling, MB deputies said that the Baha'is were apostates who should be killed. Quoting a hadith attributed to the Prophet Mohammed to support their position, they declared that they would draft a law making Baha'ism a crime and branding the Baha'is apostates.

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