When Egypt’s president from 1953 to 1971, Gamal Abdel-Nasser, disbanded the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group in 1954 and imprisoned its members, he feared that they should be seen by the Egyptian street as heroes of Islam
, and he cast in the light of the villain. Nasser understood that risk all-too-well; he had himself been a Muslim Brother, but turned against the Brothers when they tried to assassinate him in Alexandria in 1954. He grasped the fact that, since the foundation of the group in 1928, the MB introduced themselves to the street as synonymous with Islam itself: any support for them was support for Islam, and any criticism of them was criticism of Islam.
Following his clamp-down against them then, Nasser decided he had to outdo them in Islamism, lest he be seen as the enemy of Islam. He thus embarked on a policy of upholding and promoting Islamism: he decreed that the Islamic institution of al-Azhar mosque should be turned into a modern-day university, he established the Holy Qur’an broadcast, he made Religion an essential curriculum in schools, and he always began his speeches with a verse from the Qur’an.
Outdoing the Islamists
Today, it looks like history is repeating itself.
Since the Islamists and the ex-President Muhammad Mursi were ousted on 3 July by the mass protests backed by the army, they have been depicting the move as a war against Islam. Mursi supporters shout: “Come on, Muslim!” and “Fight the conspiracy against sharia (Islamic law)”.
In this light, many analysts in Egypt saw the pro-Islamist articles included in the President Mansour’s constitutional declaration as an attempt to outdo the MB Mursi supporters’ Islamism, and to appease the Islamists on the street.
This opinion was confirmed by the constitutional expert Muhammad Nour Farahat who said that the constitutional declaration came as an appeasement of the al-Nour Salafi political party. This, according to Mr Farahat, despite the fact that al-Nour has taken no clear political stance under the current circumstances. The Salafi party has not supported Mursi outright, but a portion of its members are among the Mursi supporters who have been staging a sit-in in front of Rabaa Adawiya mosque, and the party behaves as though it is backing the MB.
“Submitting to the blackmail of the Salafis,” Mr Farahat says, “places Egypt in a precarious position. The constitutional declaration, albeit applicable for a limited period of time, should be amended.”
The Salafi Sheikh Usama al-Qoussi describes Mansour’s constitutional declaration as “reasonable”. At this point, Sheikh Qoussi, says, it is not wise to aggravate the street, because any aggravation will play in the hands of the MB. The street is still sensitive and religious-prone.
“Besides,” the Salafi Sheikh says, interpretations of the article in question, Article I, by constitutional experts indicate that it is not harmful, and no laws have been enacted basing on this article. I see then that it is best to pass this article to appease the street, then change it in the future.
21 July 2013