The Muslim Brotherhood has stuck with its well-known slogan "Islam is the solution" for nearly a quarter of a century. Meanwhile, the Egyptian state has until now failed to enforce a ban on religious slogans that undermine the foundations of civic belonging and the principles of democracy, preferring to confront the Brotherhood with security measures rather than devising political alternatives.
The Brotherhood’s insistence on keeping this motto goes against the principles of democracy and the modern secular state. But more importantly, the slogan is also illusory and deceptive. Many Brotherhood members know their motto is impractical and misleads Egyptian voters. It exemplifies a trend over the past decade to articulate irrational political slogans that advance superficial solutions.
The Brotherhood has been using this motto since the 1987 elections and has failed to re-assess it since then. During this time, the political map of the world has changed, communism has collapsed, yet the Brotherhood–much like the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP)–have remained stationary, using the same old political discourse and offering nothing new..
The Brotherhood’s commitment to “Islam is the solution”–in fact a political slogan, not a religious one–reveals deep flaws in both the Islamist organization’s thought process as well as in Egypt’s political system. By supporting an agenda of religious discrimination the Brotherhood stands in defiance of the laws regulating the electoral process. The Brotherhood forgets that they must respect the country’s laws, even those with which they disagree and even if the government itself is in violation of many state regulations..
The Brotherhood’s motto first appeared in an era when totalitarian communist regimes deployed similarly vague and polarizing slogans such as "Socialism is the solution". Such revolutionary slogans served to veil the more serious social and political problems affecting people's everyday lives. The same occurred with many Islamic movements that initially appealed to ideological values and ignored the real problems of their societies until they eventually gave up their ideologies for power.
Some still believe in the possibility of pure Islamic rule that is untainted by the whims of human beings. They present this as an alternative to so-called “materialist” systems of government where rapacious human interests reign supreme. But there is nothing sacred about theocratic rule. Any system of religious government is still be run by human beings, not angels, and therefore remains vulnerable to all the imperfections of secular politics.
Thus, "Islam is the solution" can mean many different things. Does the Brotherhood consider the reprehensible Sudanese or Afghani Taliban experiences, which brought to power oppressive and anti-democratic regimes, examples of an “Islamic solution”? Or is the slogan inspired by the more appealing experiences of Islamist parties–in Turkey, Morocco, Malaysia–that have adopted civilian and democratic political agendas? Such an amorphous slogan does not tell us very much.
Egypt is plagued with countless social and political problems. The Brotherhood could have adopted a political slogan that addresses these problems but, instead, they cling to a motto that has nothing to do with reason, policy or even the sanctity of religion. With this motto they are challenging a government that doesn’t even respect its own electoral rules. To break out of this cycle of mutual neglect for the law requires meaningful reform of Egypt’s entire political system. Until then, the Muslim Brotherhood will continue to demonstrate that, much like the NDP, it is incapable of change.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.