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Muslim Brotherhood leader calls for "historic turn"

Submitted by martin on 20 February, 2011 - 4:53

According to a startlingly frank interview given by Khaled Hamza, editor of the Muslim Brotherhood's English-language website, to the Swiss-based researcher Patrick Haenni, the upheavals in Egypt have provoked major dissent - with which Hamza plainly identifies himself - in the 80-year-old Brotherhood.

The interview suggests that if secular socialists can organise themselves rapidly and strongly enough in Egypt, and present a sharp alternative to the Brotherhood's historic demand for an "Islamic state", then they can win over sizeable numbers from the Brotherhood's youth.

Hamza says that the Brotherhood was first pulled into the movement by "a certain number of MB dissidents, who had quit the movement following their activity on blogs and Facebook.

"Those dissidents played the role of a link between the student sections of the Brotherhood and the protest movements...

"The young ex-Brothers were the link, and pulled the young Brothers from the universities into the movement while the Brotherhood leadership was hesitating about throwing the Brotherhood into the protests. On the one hand, because they distrusted these protest movements which they knew little about. On the other, because they fear the blows of repression.

"But they did not want to repeat the mistake of 6 April" [2008, when the Brotherhood did not support the general strike in support of the workers of Mahalla].

The dissident and semi-dissident youth threw themselves into the movement. "The leaders of the Brotherhood knew what was happening, and let it go".

Haenni put it to Hamza that the Brotherhood leadership changed line on 28 January.

"Yes, on the 28th, when repression had already begun to appear, the Brothers decided to commit the core of the organisation. They were convinced that this time they would be in the midst of the population, that they would not be alone.

"Besides the numerical mobilisation, we should note a fundamental about-turn: for the first time in their history, the Brothers abstained from brining out their big slogans like 'Islam is the solution' and did not wave copies of the Quran. Instead, they spoke of democracy, bread, and revenge for the martyrs who had fallen. It was a historic shift...

"In their discourse, the Brothers had the good sense not to Islamise the revolution. Our revolution is not Islamist, and we have no Islamic demands, for that is the reality of the Egyptian revolution. We then immediately rebuffed the attempts to Islamise the revolution as manifested in the declarations of Al Qaeda and Khamenei...

"Among the young Brothers, the dominant idea now is that the historic choice of Hassan al-Banna [founder of the Brotherhood] for progressive change in society 'from below' [by changing individuals, families, etc.] was a mistake. The youth understand that they are not trapped in a dilemma between a strategy of transformation from below via the [religious] reframing of society, or a putschist and violent strategy 'from above'.

"Beyond those two alternatives, they are discovering a third way: mass civic peaceful protest, the strategy of 'million-strong demonstrations'.

"A whole debate is now underway within the Brotherhood on the very nature of the state. The youth say: we want a state for Muslims, not an Islamic state".

That historic demand of the Brotherhood is still upheld by the MB English-language website which Hamza himself edits. Despite launching a “Freedom and Justice Party” (21 February), Brotherhood leaders have said that they are not abandoning historic Brotherhood doctrine. Tension and splits within the Brotherhood look more likely than a wholesale move to “Muslim-democratic” politics.

• Interview:
• MB English website:
• Classic Brotherhood doctrine:

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