By Aidan Clay
Washington, D.C. April 4 (ICC) – Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has named a contender for the presidency despite previous assurances to not field a candidate in the presidential elections next month. The announcement follows the Brotherhood’s appointment of an Islamist-majority assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution.
The Brotherhood nominated its deputy leader, Khayrat el-Shater, to the country’s top position on Saturday. Until recently, the Brotherhood pledged to not contend in presidential elections on May 23-24. “The Muslim Brotherhood will not support… any candidate,” Muhammed al-Badi, the leader of the Brotherhood, said earlier this year.
Secularists are outraged at the Brotherhood for revoking its promise which, they view, is an attempt to monopolize power and plunder the long-sought ideals of the revolution by preventing future democracy.
“We didn't have a revolution to end up with a dictatorship of the one party,” said the head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, Ahmed Said. “If el-Shater is president, will he rule in the name of the people or according to the orders of the Brotherhood?”
A Brotherhood victory in presidential elections will grant all executive and legislative powers to a single party, which many Egyptians fear will be a repeat of the Mubarak-era’s authoritarian control, but with an Islamic agenda.
A week prior to the Brotherhood’s announcement to run for president, the Brotherhood-dominated parliament, along with other Islamist MPs, packed the constitutional assembly – a 100-member panel tasked with writing Egypt’s next constitution – with their own representatives in what appears to be another move to consolidate power. Rather than consulting other parties, including those representing liberal activists who were largely responsible for ousting President Mubarak from power a year ago, the parliament appointed nearly 70 Islamists to the panel and only six women and six Christians.
About 20 secular appointees have since withdrawn from the body, complaining that the Islamist-controlled assembly does not adequately represent minority groups and political ideologies. Many fear the Islamist-dominated body may now try to produce a constitution that entrenches Sharia law.
Mustapha Kamal Al Sayyid, an elected member who resigned from the body, told the Christian Science Monitor that those who represented non-Islamist groups “very often were people who did not carry much weight within their own constituencies,” particularly with Christians and women.
“It’s ridiculous: A constitution being written by one force and one force alone. We tried our best but there was no use,” said Naguib Sawiris, the founder of the liberal Free Egyptians Party.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Coptic Church stated Monday that they had not been represented in the constitutional assembly from the beginning.
“How can we withdraw from something we have not been a part of?” Yousef Sidhom, editor of the weekly Watani newspaper and a Coptic Church official, told The Associated Press. “We are calling on people to withdraw along with other groups that have pulled out.”
The Brotherhood’s consolidation of power in Egypt’s constitutional assembly and its contention in the presidential elections has become a frightening reality for the country’s secularists and minorities. Until recently, the Brotherhood had carefully campaigned as a pragmatic political party by directing public attention to issues such as land ownership reform and free elections. Not wishing to alarm moderates or Western allies, the Brotherhood portrayed itself as an entity with primarily political rather than theocratic goals. Yet, many Egyptians worried about personal freedoms remain unconvinced. The Brotherhood’s official slogan has long been “Islam is the Solution” and few secularists are persuaded that the group’s sudden rise to political stardom will alter its fundamental Islamic agenda.
“There are genuine fears because the heads of the Brotherhood now and the Salafis who got into parliament, none of them—neither their organizations nor their ideas—reflect that they are people who live in this day and age and understand how a nation can progress,” Gamal al-Banna, the more moderate brother of the Brotherhood’s founder Hassan al-Banna, told Reuters.
“Any nation founded on religion must fail… [Egypt’s revolution] was a popular uprising that succeeded in destroying a system, but not in building a new one,” al-Banna concluded.
Aidan Clay is the Middle East Regional Manager for International Christian Concern (ICC), a Washington, DC-based human rights organization that exists to support persecuted Christians worldwide by providing awareness, advocacy, and assistance (www.persecution.org). For more information, contact Aidan Clay at email@example.com