August 17, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6579

Separating The 'Political' From The 'Islam': Tunisia's Al-Ghannouchi And Reform Initiatives In The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

August 17, 2016
Egypt, North Africa | Special Dispatch No. 6579

On May 20-22, 2016, the Tunisian Al-Nahda party held its tenth national convention, at which it reelected Rached Al-Ghannouchi as its head and ratified his vision for a change in the party's orientation. In an interview with the French Le Monde daily on the eve of the convention, Al-Ghannouchi declared that following the 2011 revolution and the instauration of democracy in Tunisia there was no longer any justification for 'political Islam' in the country, and that Al-Nahda now considered themselves 'Muslim democrats'.[1]

This declaration made waves: Al-Nahda had begun in the 1970s as an Islamist movement on the model of the Muslim Brotherhood (or even as the Tunisian branch of the Brotherhood, depending on whom one asks; the historical relations between Al-Nahda and the Brotherhood international organization are not entirely clear). In a subsequent interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Ghannouchi explained in more detail the meaning of this evolution and the rationale behind it. From this point on, he said, Al-Nahda would be solely a political party, one with "an Islamic point of reference" but which is a "moderate civil national party that is open to all Tunisian men and women." The party would no longer engage in socio-religious activities in civil society, and current Al-Nahda members who wished to do so would be expected to leave the party and find other outlets for their activities. Al-Ghannouchi did not repeat the exact language of leaving behind political Islam that he had used in the Le Monde interview, but he clearly repudiated one of political Islam's central tenets: the idea that Islam is an all-encompassing system that ought to regulate all facets of life.

Head of the Al-Nahda Party Rached Al-Ghannouchi (left) with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (right) (Source:, May 20, 2016)

The repudiation of this principle represents a clear break with the classic Muslim Brotherhood tradition and with Al-Nahda's own past outlook. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hasan Al-Banna, had written in his Risalat Al-Ta'alim, which remains a canonical Brotherhood text: "Islam is a comprehensive (shamil) system. It encompasses all phenomena of life. It is state and homeland - that is, it is government and the [Islamic] nation..." This concept of Islam as a comprehensive system is known as 'shumuliyya'; the same term in Arabic is also used in the meaning of 'totalitarianism'. This concept was affirmed in a document ratified by Al-Nahda's 1987 convention, which speaks of the "principle of comprehensiveness (shumul)," such that Islam "is not restricted to the realms of creed and ritual, but rather also comprises the social, political, and economic domains."[2]  In his statements to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Rached Al-Ghannouchi states explicitly that the Al-Nahda movement is leaving this concept behind, and he connects between the two meanings of the term, describing the adoption of 'shumuliyya' by twentieth-century Islamist movements as part of a general wave of totalitarianisms of various stripes (Communist, nationalist, and Islamist).

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is currently experimenting with a similar, though more modest, initiative, which is summed up in the slogan of "separating partisan politics from proselytization." While partly inspired by developments in the Islamist movements of other countries such as Tunisia and Morocco, the primary impetus for this reform initiative comes from the Egyptian MB's own short-lived experience of ruling Egypt in 2012-2013. In the analysis of the reformist elements in the MB, the lack of independence of the Freedom and Justice Party from the Muslim Brotherhood was detrimental to both, and was one of the causes of the hardening of opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian society. Unlike Al-Nahda, the Egyptian reformers are not speaking of separating politics entirely from the Brotherhood's socio-religious activities, but simply of ending any organizational tie between the Brotherhood and any particular party and keeping it out of partisan political activity. The Brotherhood would instead advance its political vision as an extra-parliamentary lobby or interest group. It is not clear however whether this initiative will truly gain the upper hand in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The organization is currently in the throes of a severe crisis and internal schism, and the reform initiative has been decried by the opposing faction in the Brotherhood, headed by acting Supreme Guide Mahmud 'Izzat.      

The following are excerpts from the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat interview with Rached Al-Ghannouchi and statements by members of the Tunisian Al-Nahda and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood on these reform initiatives:

Rached Al-Ghannouchi: "We Are In Fact The Alternative To Extremism, To ISIS And Al-Qaeda"

In his June 1, 2016 interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Rached Al-Ghannouchi addressed Al-Nahda's past as a political Islamist movement and the rationale behind its new transformation into a political party divorced from civil-society Islamic activism:

"... The participation of [Tunisian] President [Beji Caid Essebsi] in the opening ceremony of Al-Nahda's convention emphasizes what he has said: that our movement has evolved, in practice, from a totalitarian Islamist movement into a civil national party that is reconciled with the [Tunisian] state and society, [a state and society] that clearly adopted, in the 2014 Constitution, [the article that] Islam is the state religion and the religion of the overwhelming majority of the Tunisian people... We [in Al-Nahda] believe that the reconciliation between the state and Al-Nahda, and the subsequent favorable response to our movement and its convention on the national, Arab, Islamic, and international levels, is confirmation that we are in fact the alternative to extremism, to ISIS and Al-Qaeda and other organizations whose role history will show is soon coming to an end.

"After World War I, Communist, right-wing, nationalist, and religious totalitarianisms spread and grew out of control due to policies of repression, despotism, and social exclusion. Among these was an Islamist totalitarianism that came as a response to the collapse of the [Ottoman] Caliphate and to the subsequent restrictions on the right to be religious, carry out the rites, pray, wear the hijab, and so forth. Whereas today, thanks to the climate of freedom in the region, the Tunisian Al-Nahda movement and some groups in [other] Islamist movements have evolved in the direction of civil party politics... The 'alternative to ISIS'... is those civil democratic parties that are reconciled with the national, Arab, and Islamic points of reference [that are common to] the majority of the people. This is especially true [of such parties] in the North African countries, including Al-Nahda, where the overwhelming majority [of the population] are Muslims of the Maliki school and are not split by creedal or sectarian conflicts, in contrast with some of the countries of the Middle East...

"The motions [adopted at] our convention established that those who choose party politics will specialize in party politics, and the specialization in charity, cultural and social work, and proselytization will be for those who choose to give up positions of responsibility in the political party to devote themselves to serving society through the civil society organizations and non-partisan bodies that have spread and whose role has increased since the victory of democracy and the retreat of the control of the state and the former ruling party over them... The motions [adopted at] our convention [also] affirmed reconciliation with the laws of the land and the new constitution regarding the non-intervention of party leaders in the affairs of civil society organizations. In the past, [state] repression led left-wing and Islamist totalitarian movements to utilize trade unions, organizations, and student unions as part of their partisan projects, and in some stages the Islamists likewise utilized the Friday mosques [for this purpose]. But today the people have determined the freedom of open political and partisan activity, after the victory of democracy and political and partisan pluralism, so [today] specialization [i.e. the separation of political and social/religious activities] is necessary and beneficial. This is not just a division of roles. It is a principled choice..."

"We Do Not Want The Fate Of Religion To Remain Hostage To The Vicissitudes Of Politics, Nor Do We Want Politics To Utilize Religion"

"We have never said that we [Al-Nahda] have transformed from an Islamic party to a secular party, and the motions [adopted at] our convention did not speak of giving up the Islamic point of reference, notwithstanding the evolution of the identity of the [Al-Nahda] political party into a moderate (wasati) civil national party that is open to all Tunisian men and women. In fact, one almost cannot find in Tunisia today any important political leader or party that describes himself or itself as secular and rejects the Islamic identity of the country and the people, [and this includes] the President, the founder and leader of the Nida Tunis party, Beji Caid Essebsi and the members of his party. Tunisia is a country with an Arabic-Islamic identity and the new constitution states this clearly. [What we have done] is to transform from totalitarianism to political and partisan specialization...

"Our movement, like the other old political and Islamist movements in the region, began as a totalitarian movement. In the Tunisian context, this may be related to the fact that the ruling party itself, during the reigns of [Habib] Bourguiba and [Zayn Al-'Abidin] Bin 'Ali, was a totalitarian party that dominated political life and civil society... After the fall of the totalitarian state and the totalitarian ruling party, I believe that the role of all the 'totalitarian parties' - whether Communist, nationalist, or Islamist - has come to an end... What justification is left for politicization of the mosques or partisan utilization of them, when there is space for partisan and political activities in parties' headquarters and in public spaces?...

"[In the past] political and partisan disputes between the authorities and the Islamist parties often resulted in difficulties for religious people in general to practice religious rituals. There came to be a confusion between those who pray and adherents of the [Islamist] party. Likewise the wearing of the hijab was prohibited... Politics is ever-changing: it is an arena of struggle between opposing forces and battles. Why should the spheres of proselytization, the religious awakening, and organizations for cultural, social, and religious betterment be harmed every time there is a political clash with the government? We do not want the fate of religion to remain hostage to the vicissitudes of politics, nor do we want politics to utilize religion. Politics is ever-changing, whereas one of the distinguishing characteristics of religion is its fixity...

"[In the past] there was a great fear for [the fate of] all the eternal values of the [Islamic] nation. Writings appeared - among them those by Sayyid Qutb, may Allah have mercy on him - that called for re-founding everything [from the beginning] and 'calling [people to profess] anew that there is no god but Allah' and 'calling to the profession of monotheism'. In that stage, the Islamist party or the Islamist movement was seen as though it was a 'renewed call to Islam from the very foundation' and 'the sect that was saved from hellfire'. In Tunisia, and in the world [in general], we have [now] surpassed this stage - the stage of various kinds of totalitarian ideologies. Today we are in the stage of specialization [of religious vs. political functions] as precisely as possible.

"There have been important Islamist experiments in this direction. Perhaps the closest to us in this context is that of Morocco, where the political party - the Party of Justice and Development under the leadership of [Moroccan] PM Abdelilah Benkirane - has separated itself out from the role of the societies of proselytization and religious betterment. And in Turkey there is complete independence of the political and the partisan from the religious and social fields of activity and from religious endowments and education. And there have been other successful experiments..."[3]  

Internal Opposition in Al-Nahda

Ghannouchi is certainly the dominant figure in Al-Nahda, and he succeeded in passing his proposals at Al-Nahda's tenth convention. Not everyone in the party however is on board with the changes in the party's orientation. Some reports speak of an internal opposition faction headed by another prominent leader in Al-Nahda, former Health Minister Abdellatif Mekki.[4] Mekki himself, however, has expressed support for the separation between politics and socio-religious activism promoted by Ghannouchi, and did not oppose Ghannouchi's reelection as president of Al-Nahda;[5] his criticisms appear to center more on questions of leadership and internal democracy in the party. Some younger members, such as Shura Council member Mohamed Mohsen Soudani, are explicitly opposed to the departure from the concept of shumuliyya and the break with Al-Nahda's political Islamist origins.[6] In an interview with the London-based Al-Hiwar TV, Soudani also expressed support for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and emphasized Al-Nahda's ideological affinity with them.[7] These statements drew a rebuke from the senior Al-Nahda leader Samir Dilou in an interview with the Tunisian radio station Shams FM. Dilou acknowledged that Al-Nahda originated as a Muslim Brotherhood-style movement, but added that "Al-Nahda's political thought is authentically Tunisian. There has been a development over historical stages, the last of which was [represented by] the proclamations of the tenth [party] convention."[8]

Regarding the relation (or lack thereof) between Al-Nahda and the Muslim Brotherhood, a minor stir was caused in mid-May 2016 when the Palestinian Al-Hayat Al-Jadida daily published the text of a letter allegedly authored by Al-Ghannouchi and addressed to the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood. The letter contained a denunciation of the path of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, an emphasis on the legitimacy and importance of Tunisian identity and patriotism, and an intimation that Al-Nahda would soon be breaking with the Brotherhood.[9] Al-Ghannouchi's office issued a denial of the report, calling the letter a fabrication.[10]  

Egyptian MB Leader 'Amr Darrag: The MB Ought To Separate Socio-Religious Activity From Partisan Politics And Remain Above The Fray

Recent months have likewise seen initiatives aiming to separate between socio-religious and partisan political activity proposed by leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the movement's country of origin, Egypt. These proposals are not as far-reaching as Al-Nahda's, and take an opposite course: whereas Al-Nahda converted itself into a political party and announced that it would leave socio-religious activity to other civil society organizations, the Egyptian proposals would have the Muslim Brotherhood carry on its traditional socio-religious program and stay out of direct involvement in partisan political competition. The key word here is 'partisan': none of the prominent Egyptian MB leaders behind the initiative have spoken of 'political Islam' as a historical stage to be left behind, as Rached Al-Ghannouchi has, and they are careful to present the proposal as congruent with the traditional MB principle of the 'comprehensiveness' (shumuliyya) of Islam. In their vision, the Muslim Brotherhood will continue to advance political objectives, just not through partisan politics, and the MB will have no organizational connection to any particular political party.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is currently in the midst of one the most severe crises in its history. State repression of the movement since 2013 has left nearly the entire senior leadership either imprisoned or in exile, and has decimated the Brotherhood's elected institutions while rendering new elections difficult. In the absence of clear and recognized authority, the Brotherhood has split into two competing factions, each claiming to speak for the organization. One, headed by acting Supreme Guide Mahmud 'Izzat, is generally considered more conservative, while the second, headed by the majority of members in the Supreme Executive Council, is more open to reform initiatives. The initiative to separate between the Brotherhood and partisan politics has been advanced primarily by the Supreme Executive Council faction, and has been opposed by Mahmud 'Izzat's faction.

On March 12, 2016, Amr Darrag, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood and of its Freedom and Justice political party who served briefly as Minister of Planning and International Cooperation in 2013, published an article calling for the Muslim Brotherhood to no longer be directly involved in partisan politics. Darrag belongs to the Supreme Executive Council faction of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and is currently in charge of political affairs at the Brotherhood's overseas bureau (Maktab Jama'at Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimin Bi-l-Kharij). In May 2016, the Brotherhood's so-called "London Bureau," which is allied to the rival Mahmud 'Izzat faction, issued a statement suspending Darrag's membership in the Brotherhood, alongside seven other 'youth leaders'.[11] The Supreme Executive Council replied by rejecting the suspensions and denying that the London Bureau had any official status in the Brotherhood.[12] In a subsequent interview, when asked about an article opposing the idea penned by MB Guidance Council member Muhammad 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Mursi, Darrag opined, in reference to the Mahmud 'Izzat faction, that "this is the official position of the faction that does not attribute importance to conducting revisions on many matters."[13] (On Al-Mursi's opposition to the idea see below.)

Darrag's article aroused some interest in opposition quarters: for example, Ayman Nour, a long-time liberal opposition figure since the days of Mubarak, tweeted a link to the article and characterized it as an important look at separating religious proselytization from politics.[14] This characterization is not entirely accurate: Darrag believes that the Muslim Brotherhood ought to continue to influence politics and public affairs, just not through the means of an in-house political party. In his article Darrag alludes to the experience of Muslim Brotherhood branches in other countries as relevant precedents for his own proposal, but emphasizes that his call for a separation between the Brotherhood and partisan politics was spurred in particular by the Egyptian Brotherhood's experience in the years 2011-2013. In his opinion, the Brotherhood's direct involvement in partisan politics, through its Freedom and Justice party, partially explains why wide sectors of the Egyptian public came to oppose it, and he argues that the Brotherhood would be more accepted and more influential if it remained above the fray.

The following are excerpts from 'Amr Darrag's March 12 article from the website:

'Amr Darrag (source:, June 5, 2016) 

"What I would like to discuss here... relates to the current prevalent conception [in the Muslim Brotherhood] that since Islam is a comprehensive (shamil) religion that takes an interest in public affairs in all facets of life - and this [in itself] is an incontrovertible truth - the arena of activity of the Muslim Brotherhood, which calls to apply Islam in its comprehensive meaning, is thus all the arenas that Islam encompasses, i.e., proselytization, the social arena, the political arena, and so forth.

"A number of Islamist thinkers in recent years have proposed a different conception, the upshot of which is: while the comprehensiveness (shumuliyya) of Islam is a given, there must necessarily be multiple organizations that work in its service, due to the fact that action in practice demands specialization and professionalism... I am a believer in this view, but I will not propose it for discussion here, since it is also broader than what I would like to propose in this article.

"What I would like to propose here, and from that starting point, is the necessity of separating partisan [political] activity in the Muslim Brotherhood from the rest of the Brotherhood's activities... In my view, despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood views political activity as an authentic part of its comprehensive understanding of Islam - for there is no separation in Islam between religion and state - I believe nonetheless... that political activity in its partisan sense must be undertaken by political parties whose point of reference is the state and the texts of the constitution. This should be in the framework [both] of profound faith in the comprehensiveness of Islam, and at one and the same time of specialization and pluralism of organizations that undertake the task of carrying forth [Islam's] message..."

Darrag: The MB's Involvement In Partisan Politics Was Partially Responsible For Many Egyptians' Rejection Of It

"While the Muslim Brotherhood organization takes an interest in political activity... and is engaged in public affairs as one group among the groups [that make up] the nation, it must nonetheless take no interest whatsoever in partisan [political] competition. This does not contradict the comprehensiveness (shumuliyya) of Islam, it rather establishes a new framework that prevents any admixture or confusion between proselytization and political activity...

"I broach this topic here against the background of the specific Egyptian experience in the few years that followed the January 2011 revolution... What I would like to focus on here is what constitutes, in my view, the essential matter, and one of the strong justifications in the Egyptian experience for separating between proselytization and partisan [political] activity...

"When the formation of the Freedom and Justice Party was announced, it was stated that the party was financially and administratively independent of the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization. It was made clear that one should not hold a leadership position in the party and in the organization at the same time, and at least half of the party membership was drawn from those who do not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood organization. The announcement, however, stated equally clearly that the party was the political wing of the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization. This led to numerous problems. The most important of them, in my view, was that it directly placed the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization in a state of partisan competition with the other political parties and forces in [Egyptian] society, rather than it being in the position of proselytization and social [activity] that renders a service to all Egyptians and that has accorded it an exceptional position in society throughout its history. [As a result of] this announcement, and [the party and organization's subsequent] behavior, a large sector of society concentrated on establishing a competitor to the organization and political rejection of it, followed by social rejection (despite the decades-long services it had rendered to society). This also made the organization responsible for the results of any political errors that the party might fall into, just as any party does... and this (in addition of course to the intensive campaigns of defamation [against the Muslim Brotherhood]) may partially explain why large groups of Egyptians came to reject the Brotherhood, instead of their rejection or opposition being directed towards a political party, whose popularity may rise or fall in accordance with political conditions.

"What I propose here is that an Islamist party with a moderate Islamic point of reference ought not necessarily have any organizational tie to the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization. In fact, this [Islamic] point of reference, and the flexibility and breadth inherent in the Islamic shari'a, ought to permit the emergence of more than one political party holding this point of reference, each maintaining its own detailed political judgments, and they can ally or compete amongst themselves in accordance with political conditions. [In this situation] there ought not necessarily be any stipulation that members of the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization join any one of these parties in particular, since in all simplicity there would not be any such thing as 'the organization's party' or 'the political wing of the organization'..."

"This Proposal Does Not Mean That The [Muslim Brotherhood] Organization Would Not Take An Interest In Politics"

"As I stated earlier, this proposal does not mean that the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization would not take an interest in politics. Rather, what I call for is for it to distance itself from partisan competition, to express its views on matters of public concern, to concern itself with issues facing the public, and to form a social lobby pushing for reform. All of this is political activity, but it is not partisan activity...[15]  

In a subsequent June 5, 2016 interview with, Darrag stated that his proposal had gained many adherents within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and was currently being studied by the Supreme Executive Council. He predicted that the proposal would be adopted as official policy "within weeks." Darrag also clarified the difference between his proposal and the developments in the Al-Nahda movement in Tunisia. In his opinion, the transformation of Al-Nahda as such into a political party was liable to leave a void in the areas of proselytization and social activity, and may leave some of the Tunisian youth prey to extremist tendencies. He also expressed opposition to Al-Ghannouchi's "provocative" statements regarding the end of Al-Nahda's relation with "political Islam."  

Darrag likewise shed some light on why this matter was being raised at the present time when conditions on the ground in Egypt appear to make it irrelevant. He explained that the impression of many that the Brotherhood itself was competing for electoral victories had led to difficulties in forming alliances with non-Islamist opposition forces in order to rise up against the current regime. He continued: "By raising this issue now, we aim to send a message to [Egyptian] society: The Muslim Brotherhood will no longer compete with it for [electoral] seats. It is a part of the people's revolutionary movement [aiming] to rout the putschists [i.e. the Sisi regime], restore legitimacy, bring an end to military rule, and restore the path of democracy."[16]

Egyptian MB Shura Council Member Gamal Heshmat: The MB Will Soon Announce Separation Between Partisan Political Activity And Proselytization 

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council member Gamal Heshmat (source:, April 13, 2016)

Another prominent voice within the Muslim Brotherhood calling for a separation between socio-religious and partisan political activities has been that of Shura Council member Gamal Heshmat, who currently resides in Turkey. While he attempts to strike a more neutral tone than 'Amr Darrag regarding the current internal schism in the Brotherhood, Heshmat is a reformist and appears to also favor the Supreme Executive Council faction. In a May 18, 2016 interview with the Anadolu news agency, Heshmat stated that "the current crisis is not a matter of the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization remaining or coming to an end, or whether it will confront [the regime] or retreat. It is more about a serious and true attempt to develop the organization and have it return to the arena of public opinion in better form than in the past. Errors have been corrected, lessons have been learned from the history of the homeland and of the organization, and all sides have resolved on the necessity of separating [political] partisan competition from proselytization and cultural [activities] - and this will be announced soon, Allah willing."[17]

Heshmat's statement drew a rebuke from the official spokesman of the Mahmud 'Izzat faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, Tal'at Fahmi. He wrote that in principle the Muslim Brotherhood is never opposed to discussing any ideas brought up regarding this subject or others, but that such discussions need to take place in the proper manner and in the appropriate Brotherhood institutions, only after which decisions can be announced. Fahmi continued by saying that this procedure had not taken place regarding the issue of separating between partisan political activities and proselytization, and he restated that the Freedom and Justice Party had been established as an expression of the political views of the Muslim Brotherhood - thereby implicitly reaffirming the traditional Brotherhood position that the party is simply the political wing of the organization.[18]  

Senior MB Anti-Reform Leader Muhammad 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Mursi: These Ideas [Of Separating Politics From Proselytization] Were Around In The Time Of Hasan Al-Banna, And He Rejected Them

Another senior voice opposing the reform initiative is that of Muhammad 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Mursi, a member of the Guidance Council (the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme executive body, at present defunct). Al-Mursi, whose whereabouts are unknown, is for all intents and purposes second-in-command in the Mahmud 'Izzat faction: he is the head of a Temporary Executive Council that is loyal to 'Izzat[19] and in essence competes with the Supreme Executive Council for the role of supreme authority in the Muslim Brotherhood in the absence of a functioning Guidance Council and Shura Council.

MB Guidance Council member Muhammad 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Mursi (source: 

In a May 16, 2016 article published on his personal website,, Muhammad 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Mursi wrote: "This call to separate between politics and proselytization is not a new one. It has been around since the days of the Imam Hasan Al-Banna [the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood], and he refuted it in his epistles... In relation to [the Muslim Brotherhood's] ideology and mission, politics and proselytization are not in any way two disparate things. Rather, politics in our view is proselytization, and the field of proselytization encompasses all aspects: political, social, and others.

"What is meant by this separation and this partitioning? If it is like some say, that this is a functional division, then the political entity (whether a party or something else) would not be a wing of the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization. It would rather be a separate and independent entity that would coordinate with the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization in the same manner that it would coordinate with others if it liked. Thus the organization would split up into [different] limbs and parts. There would be other spheres that would also want separation - arts and sports for example. Where then would the organization be - the Muslim Brotherhood organization? Would it be a political organization represented by the independent party, or a charity organization, or just an organization for proselytization? Is the organization just a [common] history and theoretical guidance alone - that is, a school of thought - such that anyone who so wishes can found whatever kind of activity he likes and believes in, to act in this sphere but not that other one, and thus there would be no unified ranks, no unified leadership, no oath to that leadership, and no goals it would seek to accomplish?..."

Separating Politics From Proselytization Would Mean Fragmenting The Movement And Limiting Its Scope

"As for founding entities and fronts that take charge, to a large degree, of portions of the organization's function and program in a given sphere, that is nothing out of the ordinary. These entities are wings of the organization, and are not detached parts. They are [all] under one authority, are based on [one] ideology, and are under a supreme leadership that sketches out [their] paths, defines strategies, settles disputes, and so forth. There is a party as a political wing, charitable activity such as charitable organizations that serve the public, artistic and sports activities, and so forth. This is logical and there is nothing wrong with it. The area of authority and loyalty to the organization, of coordination with the organization's other entities and units, the area in which [each entity] operates independently, are [all] defined, and this is what the [Muslim Brotherhood's] Shura Council in Egypt did when it established the [Freedom and Justice] Party as [the Muslim Brotherhood's] political wing...

"When we look back to the principles on which Imam Al-Banna founded the path of the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization and its role, [we find that] he emphasized that the organization is not just a speculative ideology, but rather is [unified] ranks and leadership. It does not restrict itself in a body with a limited sphere or in a limited geographical area. [As he wrote:] 'You are not a political party, nor a charity organization, nor a single issue body with limited goals...' He indicated the character [of the Muslim Brotherhood] and its banner, [saying] that they had an integral Islamic project. We were not and never will be anything but Muslims, and at one and the same time we are politicians in the comprehensive meaning [of the term] as we understand it. As for 'partisan activity' in the sense of the behavior of [political] parties, their struggling for political rule, their partisanship, and other behaviors, this is what Imam Al-Banna rejected, saying: We will never be partisans...

"I ask: What is the impetus for this [separation of politics from proselytization]? Will this make the West accept our activism or accept the Islamist party? No, the West will never accept anything short of our distancing ourselves completely from the Islamist project...

"Why does this arise now? Is it because the proselytizers do not understand politics? Then the organization ought to train and prepare its political team. Every sphere has those who are appropriate for it, but they are all a part of proselytization. Is it because the leadership of the organization in its supreme consultative (shura) and executive institutions have a closed mentality, and there exists another, wider mentality in the political sphere that wants to distance and free itself from these limitations? This would spell the fragmentation of the leadership and separation from it..."[20]     




[1] Le Monde (France), May 19, 2016.

[2] Al-Ru'ya Al-Fikriyya Wal-Manhaj Al-Usuli li-Harakat Al-Nahda Al-Tunusiyya, [republished] June 2012,

[3] Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), June 1, 2016.

[4], May 28, 2016.

[5], May 21, 2016;, May 23, 2016.

[6] Jaridat Al-Maghreb (Tunisia), June 2, 2016.

[7], May 27, 2016.

[8] Al-Jarida (Tunisia), June 1, 2016.

[9] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 15, 2016.

[10] Al-Jarida (Tunisia), May 16, 2016.

[11] Al-Misriyoon (Egypt), May 18, 2016.

[12], May 18, 2016.

[13], June 5, 2016.

[14], March 12, 2016.

[15], March 12, 2016.

[16], June 5, 2016.

[17], May 18, 2016.

[18], May 21, 2016.

[19], April 3, 2016.

[20], May 16, 2016.

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