As the race heats up between the nation’s two leading Islamist presidential candidates, the Muslim Brotherhood is mixing its new-found political rhetoric with the more comfortable — and potentially popular — religious discourse that dominated the group for generations.
Observers believe that the revival of the Brotherhood’s religious discourse reflects the group’s confusion and threatens the tenuous trust it is building with secular Egyptians and the West.
Since he launched his campaign, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsy, affirmed his commitment to the group’s “Nahda” (renaissance) political platform, which seeks to establish democracy, ensure equality and justice and improve the general welfare. But at campaign rallies, Morsy's campaign often strays from these terrestrial aims.
A dual discourse
Besides his constant pledge to implement God’s Sharia, Morsy has been touring the country with backers who portray him as the sole Islamist candidate invoking an overtly religious language. His cheerleaders have tweaked the revolution’s famous slogan, “The people want to bring down the regime” into “The people want God’s Sharia to be implemented.”
In a recent rally, Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie compared Morsy to one of the prophet’s most venerated companions and the first rightly-guided caliph. “The Ummah had sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr, and by the same token the Ummah will swear allegiance to Morsy as president of Egypt, God willing,” said Badie, addressing thousands of his group’s supporters in the Delta town of Mahalla on Tuesday.
At the same event, Salafi preacher Safwat Hegazy, who has recently appeared with Morsy at more than one rally, addressed the crowd saying that Morsy and his group are capable of implementing Sharia. Then, Hegazy, a member of the Salafi-led Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform, dropped a bombshell, adding: “We believe that the dream of reviving the Islamic caliphate will be realized by the hands of Morsy and his brothers and his party. Jerusalem will be the capital of this caliphate.”
At his first rally last month, Morsy himself had reportedly chanted the Muslim Brotherhood’s controversial slogan: “The Quran is our constitution.”
“I feel the dose of religion is very high in the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign,” said Khalil al-Anani, a political scientist with Durham University. “The Brothers are going back to the old game of using religion for mobilization.”
However, Hatem Abdel Azim, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said that his group should not be held responsible for what their backers say. “The party’s official discourse that comes out from its institution is very political and the same with Dr. Morsy’s discourse,” said Abdel Azim.
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