By Mohammed Hassan Shabaan
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Statements by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Deputy General Guide Dr Mahmoud Izzat about the implementation of Islamic Shariaa and punishments in Egypt has aroused strong fears among the liberal and left-wing political powers. They consider this to be a dissent from the national unanimity and a violation by the Muslim Brotherhood of its public stance and a wriggling out of the commitment to the civil state.
Statements by a number of Muslim Brotherhood leading members have revealed that the group pursues the establishment of an Islamic government system, and to implement the Islamic Shariaa punishments in Egypt.
Al-Misri al-Yawm last week reported statements by Saad al-Husseini, member of the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, at a popular rally organized by the group in Bulaq District in which he said: “At this period, we would like to lead the society to achieve its Islamic identity in preparation for the Islamic rule.” The newspaper also said that Dr Mahmoud Izzat, deputy general guide of the group, stressed: “The implementation of the Islamic Shariaa punishments comes after owning the ground. The punishments have to be implemented after Islam enters the lives, ethics, and dealings of the people.”
However, Dr Izzat has denied what was published in the newspaper. In a statement, Dr Izzat said: “These words are pure lies, fabrications, and deception.” Izzat stresses that what he said at the rally when asked about the implementation of the punishments was: “The word Islamic punishments [Arabic: Hudud; is the same as borders] is linked to the existence of land, and this land is the society, its ethics, and its dealings.” Izzat emphasizes: “The Muslim Brotherhood members believe that the implementation of the Islamic punishments is the responsibility of the executive authority and the state, and no one else.” Izzat explains that such reports are part of a suspicious campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood Group.
Dr Izzat has rejected the claim that the Muslim Brotherhood Group currently is pursuing the establishment of an Islamic rule in Egypt, and the implementation of the Islamic Shariaa punishments. In exclusive statements to Asharq Al-Awsat Izzat says: “The implementation of the punishments is considered the crowning and the completion of fundamental issues, the most important of which is the fulfillment of the needs and requirements of the people.”
Izzat explains: “Before talking about the implementation of the punishments, we ought to pursue the fulfillment of the basic requirements of the people, guide them to what is good, and support them. These issues require work, effort, and a long time, and cannot be that simple.”
Izzat points out that that these punishments are part of Islam, and we cannot deny this. However, how can we punish someone who has done wrong without preparing for him the environment suitable for implementing these rulings? He stresses that there are many issues and priorities required now for which the Muslim Brotherhood group works; these issues and priorities are related to the way the nation can rise. The Muslim Brotherhood Group is not preoccupied with such controversy [the implementation of punishment] at the current times, and considers it not to be a priority.
Izzat says: “Islam itself has drawn up specific steps so that we can reach the implementation of these punishments. We are very far from these steps.” He says that preparing the conditions and achieving the plan for this rising require effort and a long time that can take years. Izzat considers the talk about implementing the punishments now as media noises aimed at distracting the public opinion from the main concern of building the state.
Commenting on Izzat’s statements, George Ishaq, political activist and leading member of the National Society for Change, of which the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the pillars, says: “These are grave statements. Every time we try to reassure the public opinion about the desire of the Muslim Brotherhood to join a civil movement, we are shocked by statements from here-and-there.”
Ishaq, former general coordinator of Kifayah Movement, continues: “As a national group, we are going through a sensitive and critical stage, and it is not appropriate to hear such comments from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood ought to present immediately a clear and specific meaning of their understanding of the civil state in which they say that they believe. This is so that we can hold them to account if they retreat from such concept.” Ishaq adds that Izzat’s statements represent a threat to the Muslim Brotherhood staying within the national group, which, as Ishaq says, “will be a loss for both sides.”
Izzat’s statements also have been reflected on the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood youths within the Egyptian Revolution Youths Coalition as they have aroused worries of some sides within the coalition. Muhammad al-Qassas, representative of the Muslim Brotherhood youths at the Egyptian Revolution Youths Coalition says that a number of the leaders of the coalition telephoned him to ask for an explanation of the situation, and expressed their concern over the statements of the deputy general guide; however, this concern and question marks will not affect the coalition.
Al-Qassas adds: “We explained to them our viewpoint of the issue, and we said that the implementation of the punishments is not the Islam. Anyway, we stress that such statements have come at an inappropriate time. We ought to read the statements carefully, and ensure their truth, and the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood Group ought to be more careful at this critical stage.”
In his turn, political activist Dr Omar al-Hamzawi says: This stance is not compatible with the public stance of the Muslim Brotherhood Group, which it always emphasizes, namely that it is pursuing the establishment of a “civil state” even if it has religious authority. This indicates the existence of disharmony within the group.
Al-Hamzawi considers this stance as extremely grave, and as a dissent from the national unanimity, which stipulates the establishment of a civil state that respects the citizenship rights without discrimination.
Al-Hamzawi considers such talk as dissent from the spirit of the Egyptian revolution, which raises the slogans of freedom and democracy, and we have not heard that one of the demands of the revolution has been the implementation of Islamic Shariaa. Al-Hamzawi says: These most certainly are statements that worry the other political powers in Egypt. Al-Hamzawi wishes that this is a personal stance far-removed from the official stance.
Muhammad Mustafa Shurdi, spokesman of Al-Wafd Party, also expresses his concern because of such statements at this time. Shurdi says: “We should not talk about things that frighten the people.” He stresses: “The important thing at this stage is to bring out the political face of Egypt first, and there is no objection to the implementation of the spirit of the Islamic Shariaa as seen through a modern vision.”