Last Updated: Sun Feb 26, 2012 17:49 pm (KSA) 14:49 pm (GMT)

Muslim Brotherhood legality stirs controversy in Egypt

Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt have been celebrating since their party began governing the country last month but controversy around its legal status continues to hound it. (Reuters)
Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt have been celebrating since their party began governing the country last month but controversy around its legal status continues to hound it. (Reuters)

The legal status of the Muslim Brotherhood, referred to as “outlawed” before the January 25 Revolution, is currently stirring heated debate in Egypt with many activists and politicians calling for the Islamist group to be equated with other associations as far as observing the law is concerned.

A request submitted to the parliament, in which the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party constitute a majority, by MP Sanaa Saeid called for applying law number 84 for the year 2002 and which regulates NGO activities.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is violating the law under which NGOs should operate and it has to either set this right or be penalized,” Sanaa, a member of the liberal-leaning Egyptian Democratic Social Party, said in a phone interview with Al Arabiya’s Cairo News.

However, Muslim Brotherhood member Ali Abdel Fattah refuted the reason Sanaa cited for submitting her request: the decision to disband the group in 1954.

“In 1992, the Administrative Court issued a ruling rendering the decision to disband the MB void and there isn’t any document that proves the MB was ever disbanded,” he told Cairo News.

Abdel Fattah argued that the disbanding decision was issued by late president Gamal Abdel Nasser against all parties and not only the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Whoever has a document that proves otherwise is welcome to present it to court and the matter will be investigated.”

Abdel Fattah refuted claims that the group receives illegal funds and called upon those who are demanding investigations into its legal status to produce documents that support these accusations.

“The Brotherhood receives donations from its own members and these donations are monitored by the group.”

Abdel Fattah slammed the campaign against the group and expressed his surprise at the way it coincides with the persecution of several NGOs on charges of illegal funding.

“It is also strange that the Muslim Brotherhood in particular is chosen for this campaign while the church and many leftist organizations are in the same position.”

According to political sociologist Ammar Ali Hassan, the document that disbanded the Muslim Brotherhood was issued on January 14, 1954 and was signed by the Revolutionary Council whose members toppled the monarchy in 1952.

“This document is being circulated now and that is why the Brotherhood needs to rectify its legal status,” he told Al Arabiya.

Hassan explained that the group is now a parliamentary majority and is working publicly and that is why it is not acceptable that it still insists on not following the law.

“It is also unacceptable that the Brotherhood is not willing to acquire legality because it objects to the current NGO law. They should abide by the law and not have a law tailored to its needs or to the rules set by its founder Hassan al-Banna in the early twentieth century.”

Hassan added that he, for one, supported the turning of the Muslim Brotherhood to a political party provided that it abides by the law, yet this did not happen following the formation of the Freedom and Justice Party.
“Even if other associations are not abiding by the law as Brotherhood members claim, this is not an excuse for them.”

The legality of the group, Hassan pointed out, is questionable owing to the unknown sources of its funding and its undisclosed budget.

“There is no reason for this continuing after the revolution now that the Brotherhood has become part of the political scene.”

The presence of drawbacks in the NGO law or the objection of the Brotherhood to some of its articles, Hassan said, still does not justify its position which he described as “obstinate.”

“They should abide by the current law first then we can all work together to deal with its problems. In all cases, NGOs should observe the transparency rule in everything they do.”

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

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