Egypt's long banned Muslim Brotherhood said Tuesday it intends to form a political party once democracy is established, as the country's new military rulers launched a panel of experts to amend the country's constitution enough to allow democratic elections later this year.
The military's choices for the panel's makeup were a sign of the new political legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist group that was the most bitter rival of Mubarak's regime. Among the panel's members is Sobhi Saleh, a former lawmaker from the Brotherhood seen as part of its reformist wing.
The Brotherhood announced Tuesday that it would form a party once promised freer laws are in place. "The Muslim Brotherhood group believes in the freedom of the formation of political parties. They are eager to have a political party," spokesman Mohammed Mursi said in a statement on the Brotherhood website.
Essam el-Arian, a prominent Brotherhood figures, said the movement would not run any candidate for upcoming presidential elections, acknowledging that such a move would be too controversial.
So the Brotherhood would have us believe it's forming a political party purely out of principle -- insisting it has no intention to run any candidates in the near term. Does anyone believe them?
Meanwhile, Germany's Der Spiegel offers an alarming profile on the Brotherhood's "spiritual leader," Youssef al-Qaradawi. Read it, and you might arrive at the conclusion that the group was banned from forming a political party in Egypt for good reason (beyond, of course, the fact that its splinter group assassinated Hosni Mubarak's predecessor):
Qaradawi advocates establishing a "United Muslim Nations" as a contemporary form of the caliphate and the only alternative to the hegemony of the West. He hates Israel and would love to take up arms himself. In one of his sermons, he asked God "to kill the Jewish Zionists, every last one of them."
In January 2009, he said: "Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler."
The imam has also developed a reputation for himself as a moderate. Many see him as a symbol of an enlightened Islam. When speaking to the Western media, in particular, Qaradawi likes to point to Muslims' tolerance of non-Muslims and condemns the attacks of al-Qaida.
He also speaks out against the systematic castigation of wives. He calls the practice unwise, saying: "Blows are not effective with every woman, but they are helpful with some." In other cases, the sheikh insists on equal rights. For example, he says, a woman does not have to ask her husband's permission to blow herself up in an Israeli caf?.
Thank heavens Qaradawi is an enlightened, tolerant "moderate." I was beginning to worry.