Egypt's Islamic edicts authority says Brotherhood plans to reassess strategies long overdue

Ayat Al Tawy , Monday 23 May 2016

Dar Al Ifta
File photo of Egypt's Islamic authority (Dar Al-Ifta). (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Egypt's state-sponsored Islamic authority (Dar Al-Ifta), which issues edicts, said on Monday that an announced plan by the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group to re-examine its political ideology and activities was overdue.

A sub-body of Dar Al-Ifta that monitors jihadist and extremist edicts said that recent remarks by Brotherhood leaders indicating the movement aims to carry out a major reassessment is a result of an "ideology of failure" and its "defeat in the political and religious fields."

The religious unit made the comments days after a senior Brotherhood leader in exile, Gamal Heshmat, said his movement seeks "major revisions," mainly politically, while stressing the group would separate its political and religious work.

The Islamic authority said the announced plan by the group is "inevitable to preserve the security of society and protect individuals from drifting towards violent, militant ideology that characterised the group over the past period."

It urged the once-ruling organisation to review all strategies it had adopted and have contributed to "violence and polarisation" in Egypt.

Heshmat's statement came as Tunisia's Islamist Party Ennahda, a Brotherhood offshoot, made a similar announcement saying that it has learned "there is no future in political Islam."

"All sides within the [Brotherhood] group have stressed the determination to separate the competitive party work from that of preaching and education. This will be announced soon," Heshmat told the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency last week.

He said the move will help develop the organisation and reintroduce it to public opinion in a better shape.

Ill-timed move?

The 88-year-old Brotherhood has worked for decades in the shadows before it was catapulted to the forefront of Egyptian politics following the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The group's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted after a year-long rule that alienated large segments of the Egyptian population.

The group has since been forced back underground, with most of its upper echelons and supporters thrown behind bars.The Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political wing established in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising, was dissolved by a court ruling in August 2014.

On the announced reform efforts, researcher of Islamist movements and a former Brotherhood member Ahmed Ban told Ahram Online "it is a call that will not go any further."

He said that the organisation should have made such efforts while holding legitimacy during its reign. 

"Now they are not part of the state's calculations," he said, explaining that the group would no longer be allowed to combine politics and religion.

"Separation means they will aim to keep both branches of work but segregate them functionally, which they will no longer be permitted to do in Egypt," he added

While some observers say the move indicates a compromise, the group, nevertheless, does not seem to seek a settlement with the state but is rather working towards lobbying against a "regime of coup."

"There must be major revisions... but we first need a sensible organisation to bolster an anti-coup movement... to topple a regime of coup," Heshmat said.

Heshmat made allusions, however, that the re-evaluation of the group's strategies will not be an easy task given that the movement is suffering from what he called a "major administrative vacuum" amid a rising schism of late.

The Brotherhood has been lurching from crisis to crisis, with the recent rise of an internal rift boiling over between chief Mahmoud Ezzat of the group's London office and a youth administration at home.

The split, which came to surface late last year, intensified last week with the group's London leaders sacking eight senior members, including former international cooperation minister Amr Derrag, after more than 240 members signed a document calling for an across-the-board election that would in turn force out long-serving leaders.

Youth leaders at home have snapped back, announcing a list of sackings of long-time leaders of the international bureau.

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