Sunday, February 20, 2011

No longer thwarted: Egypt's Hizb al-Wasat finally gains legal status

One of the interesting developments of the 1990s in Egypt was that a group of younger members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as other independently minded Muslims and Christians, attempted to create a Party of the Center, or Hizh al-Wasat.  They were thwarted both by the government and the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the leadership of  the Brotherhood was infuriated.  There were several interesting aspects of this enterprise: it revealed generational differences within the Brotherhood, provided visibility to moderate Muslim thinkers (notably Muhammad Salim al-'Awaa), and presented an attempt to exemplify toleration, women's rights, pluralism and a circumscribed role for Shari'a in civil law.

Initially, the government saw this initiative as camouflage for the Brotherhood to gain legal status. However, after it was plain that that was not the case, I am sure that the enduring problem with al-Wasat was precisely that it was "too reasonable" and would thereby undermine the consistent efforts of the government to demonize Islamism. 

"Thwarted Politics" is my 2005 study of Hizb al-Wasat.  The study appears in Remaking Muslim Politics, a volume edited by Robert W. Hefner, and published by Princeton University Press.

Also see this al-Hayat article (Arabic) and this earlier post.

No comments: