Changes in the Muslim Brotherhood

26 January 2013 | 09:54 Code : 1912027 Interview General category
An interview with Hojjatollah Judaki, an expert on Egyptian affairs
Changes in the Muslim Brotherhood


Why have Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood taken a secularist approach in running the country?

For decades, the Muslim Brotherhood has chanted the slogan “Islam is the solution". Following the downfall of Mubarak, they were still committed to this slogan and it was through this slogan that they gained a high number of votes in the parliament elections. At the same time, when Mr. Erdogan, who is considered as one who thinks similarly to them, made a speech in Egypt and invited them to follow a secular system, they became angry and denied his statements. But they gradually entered power in Egypt and somehow made changes in their thoughts and actions. Their present approach seems secularist. Here it must be explained that the meaning of secularism is different among different nations. In Iran, many describe secularism as being anti-religion or as atheism or separation of church and state. In Turkey, secularism means something else. Erdogan is secular. But he is not anti-religion or atheist. In Egypt, this idea has gradually become more clarified. Therefore, now the Muslim Brotherhood does not chant their old slogan of “Islam is the solution”. Of course, they have not separated themselves from Islam. They still believe that Islam is the solution. But they pursue the present method as their interpretation of Islam. Next to the Muslim Brotherhood, there are Salafi groups who basically consider secularism, democracy, elections … as blasphemy. Of course, some of them have been transformed and approve of taking part in politics and elections. Right now, the Muslim Brotherhood is faced with this objective reality and has comprehended that they cannot run the country with previous methods of power, thus, they have changed their path.

Does the Muslim Brotherhood intend to act pragmatically or are their policies in fact their beliefs?

Their policies are part of their beliefs. They have reached this belief. The criticisms of the Salafis show that this is their belief. The Salafis consider the Muslim Brotherhood to have two factions, one Salafi and one reformist, hence, they believe that what the Muslim Brotherhood is doing right now and its positions are implemented by the reformists of the Muslim Brotherhood, who according to them have gone astray and are bound for hell. Perhaps it can be said that the present policies of the Muslim Brotherhood are pragmatic. 

Every type of government has domestic and international aspects. Could the secularist system of the Egyptian government bring this country closer to Turkey and distance it from Iran?

This model will certainly bring the Islamist rulers of Egypt and Turkey closer to each other. But it will not distance it from Iran. I believe that any secular government in other Islamic countries will establish more logical relations with Iran, for the Islamic Republic of Iran is an ideological system, thus, it will have contradictions with other Islamic ideological systems which have different interpretations of Islam, like the contradiction between Iran and the Taliban.

Morsi has talked about Egypt's commitment to a peace agreement with Israel. Considering Egypt's approach with regard to countries like the US and Israel and the domestic policies of the Muslim Brotherhood (as they do not seek an Islamic government), is there really any difference between the present Egypt and Egypt under the Mubarak regime?

Certainly, the present Egypt is greatly different from Egypt under Mubarak. The first difference is that the people of Egypt have found a new worldview and easily express their demands. Any government faced with these kinds of people will not easily become totalitarian. The Muslim Brotherhood is completely aware of the demands of the US and Israel and knows their power and is active within this framework. Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood has accepted the Camp David accord and Mr. Morsi has even given a medal to Sadat's widow to ascertain Israel! The US basically has no problem with the type of government, whether it be Islamic, democratic, communist,....The important point is that it should not be a threat to it or that it should not create problems for its long-term plan or, in general, that its interests should be provided. 

tags: muslim brotherhood egypt