Friday, April 8, 2011

Reformer from Muslim Brotherhood: Talk by Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fottoh

Dear Readers, I attended a talk by Dr. Abol Fottoh today. There was no simultaneous translation. A student translated for me. So this is not verbatim, but gives you a good gist of what was said. It was a very long talk, so this is just an excerpt. Dr. Abol Fottoh is known as a reformist within the Muslim Brotherhood. He has resigned from that party, and is planning to start his own party, known as Egypt's Renaissance. For more about him, read here . WMB

"Islam provides general laws, not specific ones. Egypt needs freedom for everyone. We should not force people to obey Islam. We give them advice. We would not do like Gulf Countries when they force people to wear the veil. This is against freedom."

"Islam provides general rules. The government should represent the majority of the people and do what they want. They underestimated Al Azhar {editors note, Al Azhar is an educational institute in Egypt. It was founded in 970 A.D. It is the chief Centre for Arabic literature and Sunni Islamic Learning.  The University's mission includes the propagation of Islamic Culture and Religion} They did not give it its proper position. It could act as a ministry that shows whether someone is following Islam. Those who think people are religious extremists should try to balance them, bring them to reason, not judge them or punish them."

"El Azhar is also a place where they educate people. Someone wanted to study music. Dr. Fottoh says that is fine. It is nice and acceptable. Music is art. If it is classy, music is fine. {Some Muslims think Music is forbidden} Just do not abuse the music. Do not play innappropriate music. Do not play innappropriate songs that are meaningless." [Fottoh does not say he would ban this bad music, but he is against it] "The main purpose of art and literature is to enrich the human soul. But art these days is meaningless and useless."

[Fottoh would not order all women to wear the veil, but he would advise them to do so] "But, I will not ask all girls to wear the veil. France should not ban hijab. People have a right to wear hijab. But Iran should also not make people wear hijab, people have a right not to wear it."

"The Turkish model is secular, but it is not against religion. It does not prevent people from being religious. Being secular is about freedom. They [probably referring to recent SCAF ban on religious parties] cannot ban religion."

"Parliament originally comes from society. It represents society. We can argue in Parliament about a social issue like homosexuality. They would not agree on something against society. They would not accept it. It is not acceptable in society to have homosexuality, it is taboo. So, in the Parliament they cannot accept it."

"Will the Muslim Brotherhood be participating in politics? There are different groups, Salafists, sunnis. All Muslims have the same Muslim thought. Forcing people in the name or religion is not allowed. All of Egypt should represent itself, not a certain group or party. There are over 200 political parties right now {They are incredibly weak}. Eventually, there will be three or four who dominate. A certain party will be in charge until then. There are extreme religious people in Egypt. They want that Sharia laws will be applied. It is in human nature that people will be divided by religion, politics, gender. We should accept different points of view. This will make society stronger. Variety will make us stronger. We need competition in a good way.  Al-Ikhwān [Muslim Brotherhood] is not a political party. It is an Islamic Movement that demands improvements to the country. Any Islamic movement is not concerned about politics."

"We only had a few weeks to decide whether to change the Constitution. It is not the Army's job to rule the country. The change in the Constitution should have taken more time.  Perhpas two years, to choose what changes to make or not make. The previous system considered Al-Ikhwān a competitor. In the previous system, I wanted to compete with honest and fair people, not corrupted ones. We were only allowed to vote yes or no on the Constitution. Neither yes or no meant radical changes. This vote was not reasonable. We should have been allowed to ask for a totally new Constitution."

"Q: Why is there a crisis of trust between the people and Al-Ikhwān? A: Movements are from the people. A percentage does not agree with what the Brotherhood thinks. That does not mean that all of Egypt is against the movement. In 1984 the Brotherhood entered the parliamentary elections. Some of the Brotherhood saw corruption, and did not want to be part of a corrupt system."

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