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Muslim Brotherhood and the Internet

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This paper presents an overview of the state of civil society in Egypt today, and the rise of new media and technology, such as the Internet, as a growing form of civic action. The overview was based on the CIVICUS Civil Society Index project, which collected information and inputs from a broad range of civil society representatives, citizens, experts, and researchers on the state of civil society in Egypt over the course of 2004 and 2005; four critical dimensions of civil society, namely, its structure, environment, values, and impact were emphasized. Using Altman’s (1978) accessibility, ownership, and public control, and Velibeyoglu’s (1999) friendliness, and freedom of action as significant characteristics defining the public, an assessment of the Internet as the new public sphere was done. Finally, the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic fundamentalist organization, was used as a case study in this paper, to demonstrate the transcendence of the limits of civil society in Egypt to incorporate new members and areas of work, new forms of political participation, and new forms of civic action. This transcendence is manifest in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood functioning as a civil association in Egypt, and the Brotherhood’s use of the Internet, which carries the potential to serve as a medium for civic action.

Mahmoud Ezzat in a comprehensive interview with Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Mansur

Mahmoud Ezzat

Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat, Secretary-General of the Muslim Brotherhood, in a comprehensive interview with Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Mansour ascertained that the Muslim Brotherhood’s elections for Chairman scheduled to be held in the upcoming period by members of the Guidance Bureau is open to everyone who wishes to submit his nomination papers as a candidate.

In his statement to the talk show Bila Hedood (Without Borders) on Al-Jazeera TV, Ezzat explained that nomination papers generally should not be used for the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidates but rather a complete list of the entire Brotherhood’s 100-member Shura Council is presented to elect the Brotherhood’s Chairman and Guidance Bureau. He denied that the Brotherhood’s General Guide to leadership of the General Shura Council does not allow him the freedom to work on his own in making his final decision. He also revealed that the Council has the authority to hold the Chairman accountable for any failure and if the need arises dismiss him at any time.

He stressed that the movement is ready to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to practice the principle of Shura (consultation) within the ranks of, pointing out that the Shura Council will elect the Chairman and a new Guidance Bureau in the upcoming year.

He commented on the Media coverage of what really happened behind the scenes at the Guidance Bureau, citing that the committee which consisted of leading figures such as Dr. Essam el-Erian and a number of the Guidance Bureau members responsible for printing the Chairman’s weekly statement objected to Mr. Mahdi Akef’s wish a trifle difference of opinion. Akef’s first term will end on January 13, 2010 however he has announced earlier; he will still make a decision whether he will remain in office for a second term as the group’s general guide.

He continued that the 81-year old Akef had informed members of the Guidance Bureau earlier that he intended to resign and will not serve for a second term. Members of the Bureau immediately responded urging him to remain in office.

In his weekly message, Mahdi Akef vaguely referred to his intentions of not running a second term and thanking the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the Guidance Bureau who shared with him the responsibility as if he intended it to be his farewell speech. On Sunday, October 17 the media claimed that the Chairman of the Brotherhood had announced his resignation; however the Chairman has repeatedly denied media allegations where he came to the office the next day and met with members. He later issued a statement disclosing the truth. Media allegations on the Guidance Bureau’s unwillingness to appoint Dr. Essam el-Erian are totally false.

Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat ascertained that the movement is pleased to provide an opportunity to members to share their opinions, stressing it is a manifestation of power matching with its existing large size and leading role, indicating that Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood is very pleased to do so.

He stressed that all issues come back to the Guidance Office for the final decision where its resolutions are binding and satisfactory to all, regardless of the differences in opinion.

“I do not underestimate what has happened already or I’d simply say there is no crisis, at the same time, we should not blow things out of its context, we are determined to apply the principle of Shura”, he added.

It was discussed earlier at the subsequent meeting of the Guidance Bureau that the group’s Shura Council has the sole right to elect membership of the Guidance Bureau to any member, he explained. Dr. Essam himself agreed that it was not suitable to appoint a new member in the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau since the election was near.

Ezzat stated that the episode was presented to the Shura Council on the recommendation of the guidance office amid frequent arrests and detentions waged by state security. We strive hard to involve the Shura Council to choose the next Chairman and members of the Guidance Office. It is expected the whole matter be resolved, Allah’s willing, before January 13.

It was decided at this meeting by the Chairman and members of the MB Guidance Bureau to send a letter to the Shura Council, stressing that the date for these elections will not be later than sixth months. It was assumed that the proceedings would be conducted prior to or during elections in which 5 new members were elected last year. It is the Shura Council’s decision and not the MB Guidance Bureau. Consequently, the general group’s Shura Council finally reached its unanimous decision of holding elections as soon as possible.

He stressed that the Muslim Brotherhood, with the enforcement of the Shura is organized by its internal regulations. Regulations which are adopted and advocated by laws of the Shura Council and are subject to change. The most recent amendment underway with one of its clauses is the duration of the term of a member of the Guidance Office provides that a member must not serve more than two consecutive terms.

Some members of the Guidance Office were accused of their adherence to stay in office for many years; Dr. Ezzat claimed that frequent arrests which did not exclude any one the Executive Bureau prompted us to modify another article in the internal Regulation that provides a member maintain his membership even if he was detained. The absence of the honorable working for the welfare of their country and the sublime mission led us to insist on them maintaining their membership. Engineer Khayrat Al-Shater will remain as second deputy chairman of the MB and Dr. Mohammed Ali Bishr a member of the MB Executive Bureau. It is expected Bishr will be released next month.

Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat completely denied rumors about internal conflicts within the opposition group with regards to leadership, stressing that the mechanisms, regulations and terms are paving the way to select the movement’s leaders. He also noted that Egypt’s geographical situation and considerable moral weight within the Muslim world justifies the need for the MB Chairman to be Egyptian.

“The Guidance Office is currently exploring the general tendency of the Brotherhood’s 100-member Shura Council with regards to nominating a suitable candidate eligible to take charge as Chairman”, he said.

“It is extremely difficult to predict who will be the next chairman, noting that 5 minutes ahead of appointing Mr. Akef as Chairman nobody knew, the ballots only decided who would be the new leader”, he said.

Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat attributed the Media’s apparent conflicting reports on their allegations towards remarks about the Brotherhood top leaders to the same inconsistencies of media reports on senior leaders that vary from newspaper to another.

Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat shed light with figures upon security raids that led to the arrest of some 2696 members of the group in 2007, 3674 in 2008 and 5022 in 2009. This resulted in the Shura Council’s inability to hold meetings and contest elections.

He also emphasized that the Muslim Brotherhood is extremely keen on maintaining Egypt’s national security and its’ interest in achieving peaceful reform in the society. “We are well aware that the meetings of the Guidance Office are surveilled by security although we intend only to practice democracy. In fact, we do not want to provoke the hostility and animosity of others”.

He also stressed the differences within the organization are not motivated by hatred or personal differences since the decent temperaments encouraged by the sublime teachings of Islam encourage us to tolerate difference of opinions. He added that history has proven that the Muslim Brotherhood movement has encountered much more difficult circumstances than the existing crisis.

The media has projected a negative image of the Muslim Brotherhood where they relied on SSI investigations for information. It is imperative that journalists get facts from the original sources if they are to have some sort of credibility. In fact the judiciary has invalidated all the accusations reported in state investigation, he said.

Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat was optimistic that the current political crisis will pass asserting that events will prove that the Muslim Brotherhood with all its noble manners, objectivity, and practicing of democracy will shine through with flying colours.

Published on Ikhwanweb

The Internet and Islamist Politics in Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

The end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first saw a
dissemination of the Internet as a center of communication, information, entertainment and
commerce. The spread of the Internet reached all four corners of the globe, connecting the
researcher in Antarctica with the farmer in Guatemala and the newscaster in Moscow to the
Bedouin in Egypt. Through the Internet, the flow of information and real-time news reaches
across continents, and the voices of subalternity have the potential to project their previously
silenced voices through blogs, websites and social networking sites. Political organizations
across the left-right continuum have targeted the Internet as the political mobilizer of the future,
and governments now provide access to historical documents, party platforms, and
administrative papers through their sites. Similarly, religious groups display their beliefs online
through official sites, and forums allow members from across the globe to debate issues of
eschatology, orthopraxy and any number of nuanced theological issues. Fusing the two, Islamist
political organizations have made their presence known through sophisticated websites detailing
their political platforms, relevant news stories, and religiously oriented material discussing their
theological views. This paper will specifically examine this nexus – the use of the Internet by
Islamist political organizations in the Middle East in the countries of Jordan, Morocco and
Egypt.
Although a wide range of Islamist political organizations utilize the Internet as a forum to
publicize their views and create a national or international reputation, the methods and intentions
of these groups vary greatly and depend on the nature of the organization. This paper will
examine the use of the Internet by three ‘moderate’ Islamist parties: the Islamic Action Front in
2
Jordan, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
As these three parties have increased their political sophistication and reputation, both at home
and abroad, they have increasingly utilized the Internet for a variety of purposes. First, Islamist
organizations have used the Internet as a contemporary extension of the public sphere, a sphere
through which parties frame, communicate and institutionalize ideas to a broader public.
Secondly, the Internet provides Islamist organizations an unfiltered forum through which
officials may promote and advertise their positions and views, as well as circumvent local media
restrictions imposed by the state. Finally, the Internet allows Islamist organizations to present a
counterhegemonic discourse in opposition to the ruling regime or monarchy or on display to an
international audience. This third motivation applies most specifically to the Muslim
Brotherhood, which presents a sophisticated English language website designed in a Western
style and tailored to reach a selective audience of scholars, politicians and journalists. The MB
has excelled in this so-called “bridgeblogging” 1 and has set the standard for Islamist parties
attempting to influence international perceptions of their positions and work. The content varies
between the Arabic and English versions of the site, and will be examined further in the section
on the Muslim Brotherhood. These three goals overlap significantly in both their intentions and
desired outcomes; however, each goal targets a different actor: the public, the media, and the
regime. Following an analysis of these three areas, this paper will proceed into a case study
analysis of the websites of the IAF, the PJD and the Muslim Brotherhood.
1

Andrew Helms

Ikhwanweb

The end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first saw a dissemination of the Internet as a center of communication, information, entertainment and commerce.

The spread of the Internet reached all four corners of the globe, connecting the researcher in Antarctica with the farmer in Guatemala and the newscaster in Moscow to the Bedouin in Egypt.

Through the Internet, the flow of information and real-time news reaches across continents, and the voices of subalternity have the potential to project their previously silenced voices through blogs, websites and social networking sites.

Political organizations across the left-right continuum have targeted the Internet as the political mobilizer of the future, and governments now provide access to historical documents, party platforms, and administrative papers through their sites. Similarly, religious groups display their beliefs online through official sites, and forums allow members from across the globe to debate issues of eschatology, orthopraxy and any number of nuanced theological issues.

Fusing the two, Islamist political organizations have made their presence known through sophisticated websites detailing their political platforms, relevant news stories, and religiously oriented material discussing their theological views. This paper will specifically examine this nexus – the use of the Internet by Islamist political organizations in the Middle East in the countries of Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

Although a wide range of Islamist political organizations utilize the Internet as a forum to publicize their views and create a national or international reputation, the methods and intentions of these groups vary greatly and depend on the nature of the organization.

This paper will examine the use of the Internet by three ‘moderate’ Islamist parties: the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. As these three parties have increased their political sophistication and reputation, both at home and abroad, they have increasingly utilized the Internet for a variety of purposes.

First, Islamist organizations have used the Internet as a contemporary extension of the public sphere, a sphere through which parties frame, communicate and institutionalize ideas to a broader public.

Secondly, the Internet provides Islamist organizations an unfiltered forum through which officials may promote and advertise their positions and views, as well as circumvent local media restrictions imposed by the state.

Finally, the Internet allows Islamist organizations to present a counterhegemonic discourse in opposition to the ruling regime or monarchy or on display to an international audience. This third motivation applies most specifically to the Muslim Brotherhood, which presents a sophisticated English language website designed in a Western style and tailored to reach a selective audience of scholars, politicians and journalists.

The MB has excelled in this so-called “bridgeblogging” 1 and has set the standard for Islamist parties attempting to influence international perceptions of their positions and work. The content varies between the Arabic and English versions of the site, and will be examined further in the section on the Muslim Brotherhood.

These three goals overlap significantly in both their intentions and desired outcomes; however, each goal targets a different actor: the public, the media, and the regime. Following an analysis of these three areas, this paper will proceed into a case study analysis of the websites of the IAF, the PJD and the Muslim Brotherhood.