Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood explains its position on the rights of women, homosexuals, and religious minorities

Below are some relevant portions of a piece that Jeffrey Goldberg did in March. Most of Goldberg's discussion focuses on this official statement issued by the Muslim Brotherhood, "Denouncing UN Women Declaration for Violating Sharia Principles". Whether you agree or disagree with them on these matters, it's useful to know what they actually think, so let's start with the Brotherhood's statement:
The 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), taking place from March 4 to 15 at UN headquarters, seeks to ratify a declaration euphemistically entitled ‘End Violence against Women’.

That title, however, is misleading and deceptive. The document includes articles that contradict established principles of Islam, undermine Islamic ethics and destroy the family, the basic building block of society, according to the Egyptian Constitution.

This declaration, if ratified, would lead to complete disintegration of society, and would certainly be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies. [....]

A closer look at these articles reveals what decadence awaits our world, if we sign this document:

1. Granting girls full sexual freedom, as well as the freedom to decide their own gender and the gender of their partners (ie, choose to have normal or homo- sexual relationships), while raising the age of marriage. [....]

6. Equal inheritance (between men and women).

7. Replacing guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women such as: spending, child care and home chores.

8. Full equality in marriage legislation such as: allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, and abolition of polygamy, dowry, men taking charge of family spending, etc.

9. Removing the authority of divorce from husbands and placing it in the hands of judges, and sharing all property after divorce.

10. Cancelling the need for a husband’s consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception. [....]

In conclusion, we call on women's organizations to commit to their religion and morals of their communities and the foundations of good social life and not be deceived with misleading calls to decadent modernization and paths of subversive immorality. [....]
You can read the rest, if you like, but that captures the main thrust of the document. Here is Goldberg's account:
[Recently] the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt issued an extraordinary, and extraordinarily disturbing, rejoinder to the draft of a declaration calling for an end to violence against women that was eventually passed at the annual session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

In an official statement responding to the draft, the Brotherhood argued that, if approved, it would “lead to complete disintegration of society, and would certainly be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies.”

The Brotherhood’s objections to this anodyne document were many. Some of the criticisms could be understood within a broader Egyptian cultural framework: The UN document calls for equality in inheritance laws, and no political party in Egypt has argued that daughters should have parity of inheritance with sons.

Other criticisms seem more retrograde. Still others are flat-out brutal. The Muslim Brothers object to the idea of “granting girls full sexual freedom” and to raising the legal marriage age, which in some countries is as low as 15. They believe that providing contraceptives to adolescent girls is dangerous, and that granting “equal rights to adulterous wives and illegitimate sons resulting from adulterous relationships” is reprehensible.

They believe, of course, that granting “equal rights to homosexuals” and “providing protection and respect for prostitutes” are terrible ideas. They are shocked by the argument that wives should have the right to file legal complaints against husbands for rape. They raised objections to the idea that men should share in housework and child-care responsibilities, and that men should no longer be allowed to decide whether their wives travel, work or use contraception. [....]

In sum, the Brotherhood’s rebuttal is a remarkable document and evidence that the movement simply cannot wait to wage war on women. Human-rights groups in Egypt have so far stopped Brotherhood activists from decriminalizing female genital mutilation, but women are losing on multiple fronts.

Mursi hasn’t fulfilled his pledge to appoint a woman as one of his vice presidents. When I last interviewed him, before he took office, I asked him if the Brotherhood could support a woman, or a Christian, for president.

“Which Christian?” he asked. I explained that I was asking a theoretical question. Could any Christian become president? “There are no Christians running for president,” he said. “This is a nonsense question.” So I asked him if he could support a woman for president. “Which woman?"

This tragicomic dialogue went on for some time, before I gave up.

Leaders like Jordan’s [King] Abdullah have been warning the Obama administration for some time not to trust the Muslim Brotherhood and like-minded movements. They are, he said, “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  [JW: Of course, they would say that, wouldn't they? But that doesn't necessarily mean they're wrong.]  I suppose the saving grace of the Egyptian Brotherhood is that its leaders don’t even bother to dress like sheep.
By the way, it's worth bearing in mind that in the first parliamentary elections after the fall of Mubarak, in which the Muslim Brotherhood won just under half the seats, the opposition party that won the second largest number of seats (about 25%) consisted of Salafists who believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is too accommodating to "decadent modernization and paths of subversive immorality".  Between them, the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist Nour Party wound up controlling over two-thirds of the total seats.  The more secular opposition parties do have some popular support, but probably a good deal less than the Islamist parties, and at all events they're a long way from getting their acts together.

—Jeff Weintraub