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4. A heated debate concerning the legitimacy of establishing Islamic parties and a religious state

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Article title: 
4. A heated debate concerning the legitimacy of establishing Islamic parties and a religious state
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Year: 
2000
Week: 
28
Article number: 
4
Article pages: 
8
Date of source: 
July 7,2000
Author: 
Ahmad ‘Abd al-Hadi
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Article summary: 

The culture seminar that was held on Wednesday evening, in the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies, under the title "An Islamic party and the freedom of thought and expression", witnessed a heated debate among the participants concerning the possibility of establishing an Islamic party and a religious state.

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The culture seminar that was held on Wednesday evening, in the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies, under the title "An Islamic party and the freedom of thought and expression", witnessed a heated debate among the participants concerning the possibility of establishing an Islamic party and a religious state.


Some of the participants, who belong to different schools of thought, warned against establishing an Islamic party because this will lead to the rise of a religious state. They heavily criticized the Islamic tendency, claming that it lacks the means for success, the most important of which is an explicit ideology that express their thoughts. In addition, they called for dialogue among the different schools of thought and political parties.


[Dr.] Al-Said Yasseen, Counselor of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, started his speech by criticizing the leaders of the Islamic tendency. He rejected the idea of establishing an Islamic political party, confirming that it is nothing but a call for establishing a religious state because it is dangerous for political plurality. He said that he is against a religious state and is pro a secular constitutional state. While the latter is based on law and legalization, the former is founded on the mechanism of religious Fatwas, which are given according to personal moods. The Labor Party, for example, accused a wide sector of society of blasphemy, which is a serious accusation.


Al-Said Yasseen expressed his surprise at how isolated the symbols of the Islamic tendency are. In the age of globalization, they are still talking about the necessity of reviving the system of succession [the Islamic world being governed by one khalifa or ruler like in the first Islamic state], and about establishing an Islamic economy and warning of a cultural invasion. In the age of technological progress, they are still calling for the separation of boys and girls in schools and insist on the idea that women’s voices are shameful. Yasseen accused them of lacking a program that can be depended on in solving our current problems.


Adel Hussein, the General Secretary of the Islamic Labor Party, attacked the ideas discussed by Al-Said Yasseen. He accused him of not following up the international progress of the Islamic movement. He wondered saying "what is the problem in establishing a party that takes Islam as its reference?" He objected to the expression of "an Islamic political party" saying, "it means that there are parties that speak in the name of Islam and other non Islamic parties. If there is an Islamic party, it has to be strictly controlled because it may end with a religious state".


Hussein continued his speech, confirming that we are living in a stage which differs from that we lived at the beginning of this century. We are no longer fascinated by the West and Islam is no longer the religion of the illiterate majority. He called for making Islamic referential the starting point for any revival attempt because all attempts are now going on under the slogans of Islam. He added that we have to make use of the coming closer of Islamic and national trends. He pointed out that political Islam is not a party but a general case through which all differences appear. Many Arabic Islamic parties that have different attitudes came to the surface. The Egyptian political and ideological stage is going along with the general situation and its parties are founded on the constitution which confirmed that Islam is the essence of legalization.


Dr. Ahmed Sobhi Mansour, an Islamic researcher and an ex-professor in the Azhar University, confirmed his refusal to the idea of establishing Islamic parties and a religious state. The reason behind his refusal is that a religious state refuses the freedom of beliefs which Islam respect. He said that Islam is a religion and a state. One of the foundations of this state is respecting human rights. Religion is something between man and God. The freedom of opinion and beliefs is unconditioned as the Qur`an and Suna confirmed. Prophet Mohammed himself established the first Islamic state on this foundation. He pointed out that Imam Mohammed Abdu confirmed that Islam is secular by its nature because it is not a religion with priests.


Dr. Assam Al-Arian, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brothers and an ex-member in the People’s Assembly, called for giving the Islamic trend the right to have its legal, political and civil organizations. While Al-Arian thought that there is no problem in having a political party with an Islamic referential, as law and constitution themselves do not oppose the idea of establishing Islamic parties as long as their programs do not discriminate between citizens, he declared his refusal of establishing a religious state confirming that it is against Islam. He continued saying "in this time of political stagnation and the corrosion of the available democratic margin, we need to understand each other through dialogue".


The leftist writer, Salah Eissa, the editor in chief of Al-Qahera newspaper, criticized the representatives of the Islamic trend confirming that they are the reason behind imposing a state of emergency on the country 20 years ago. He said that they refuse to dialogue anyone unless he joined them. In addition, they do not acknowledge the freedom of creed. On the other hand, Dr. Mohammed Said, the vice president of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, confirmed that the political stage should have place for all parties even the Islamic ones. He added wondering "how can we incorporate the Islamic trend into the political system without risking changing the system into a religious one?". He said that the existing Islamic trend does not have any political or philosophical thought. Its leaders are convinced that Islam represents solutions for all problems and so there is no need for discussion.

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