Thursday,24 August, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)
Thursday,24 August, 2017
Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Closing in on Islamist parties

Religious parties in Egypt face the threat of dissolution after some of their leaders are designated as terrorists, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

On Sunday Egypt’s Higher Administrative Court (HAC) postponed its ruling on the legal status of the Reconstruction and Development Party (Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya) to 19 August.

The lawsuit, filed by the Parties Affairs Committee which regulates political parties in Egypt, claims the Reconstruction and Development Party violates Article 74 of the constitution which bans religious parties.

Adel Al-Shorbagi, head of the Parties Affairs Committee, said on 17 July that the committee is investigating 10 other Islamist parties alongside the Reconstruction and Development Party. “The investigation encompasses participation in terrorist attacks, forming underground armed militias and funding terrorism,” said Al-Shorbagi.

The State Cases Authority (SCA), acting on behalf of the Parties Affairs Committee, said a “detailed dossier on the Reconstruction and Development Party’s involvement in terrorist operations since 2011 will be submitted to the court.”

“The dossier is supported by the security forces and Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek. Both agree the Reconstruction and Development Party functions as a religious party and as such should be dissolved in line with Article 74 of the constitution and Article 4 of the Political Parties Law.”

The SCA also revealed it has asked the Reconstruction and Development Party to provide it with a complete list of party members and official websites.

Lawyers representing the party say they have forwarded 10 dossiers containing the party’s official statements on terrorism to the HAC. The statements, they said, show the party fully supports the government in its war against terrorism.

Tarek Al-Zommor’s position as party leader is rumoured to have caused divisions, pitting younger members against the party’s old guard which continues to support the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Zommor was tried in absentia and convicted of inciting violence and masterminding a number of terrorist operations in Egypt.

Nageh Ibrahim, an Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya ideologue who renounced violence, published an article in which he said younger members want to expel Al-Zommor and other radical elements within the party.

Political analysts say the Parties Affairs Committee’s decision to challenge the legality of the Reconstruction and Development Party is linked to the 5 June decision by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar. On 8 June the four countries issued a list of 59 terror suspects, including Tarek Al-Zommor whom they accuse Qatar of sheltering. Egypt is demanding Doha hand over Al-Zommor along with other Egyptian fugitives affiliated with Islamist parties.

Al-Zommor, 56, was imprisoned for his role in the assassination of late president Anwar Al-Sadat. Al-Zommor’s brother Abboud, a former intelligence officer, was the mastermind behind the assassination. The two brothers come from Kerdasa, the Giza governorate area which was the scene of violent attacks against the police following the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in July 2013.

After three decades in jail Al-Zommor was released after the removal of the Mubarak regime in February 2011. Al-Zommor and other Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya leaders fled to Qatar in July 2013 after a popular uprising led to the ousting of Mohamed Morsi.

Political analyst and former independent MP Gamal Zahran told Al-Ahram Weekly that the designation of Al-Zommor as a terrorist could be enough for HAC to order the dissolution of the Reconstruction and Development Party. “We know that the Reconstruction and Development Party is the political arm of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya which was designated by America as a terrorist organisation in 1997 because of its role in spearheading attacks against Christians and police officers in Upper Egypt,” says Zahran.

Zahran argues that a number of other Islamist parties follow the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya line. They include the Salafist Fadila (Virtue) Party, whose leaders fled to Qatar following Morsi’s removal from office, and the Asala (Authenticity) Party, founded by Mahmoud Ismail, a radical Salafi cleric.

“These parties have a common goal, to turn Egypt into an Islamist republic, and should be a dissolved,” says Zahran.

The new push in government and secular opposition circles against Islamist parties comes after the security forces have upped their campaign against Hasm, a militant group widely believed to be the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Security forces said last week they had arrested a number of Hasm leaders who provided valuable information about its members and sources of funding. The Interior Ministry insists Hasm took orders from Muslim Brotherhood leaders living in Turkey and received funding from Qatar.

Zahran says the elimination of a well-armed, generously-funded and highly-trained terrorist group like Hasm counts as a major success for the security forces. “But the experience of militant Islamist movements in Egypt over 50 years shows that they can’t be wiped out solely by security means,” he warns. “You have to kill the ideas which breed these terrorist groups and Islamist parties are a major forum for propagating such ideas.”

“Islamist parties should be dissolved not only because they are terrorist groups in disguise but also because their leaders are ideologues who preach violence and hatred.”

Zahran criticised the calls voiced by some terrorist research centres in the West for integrating Islamist parties into the political process. “We are seeing the results of this mistaken approach — a chaos in most countries in the Arab world, and Islamist parties promoting violence and radicalism across the region.”

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