A Woman in the Muslim Brotherhood
Submitted by t.nicole.hernandez on Mon, 05/11/2009 – 21:03.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt would give more freedom for all aspects of Egyptian society, including women, if the movement achieved power in the country, a female member of the group said.
Hiba, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The 28-year-old said she joined the party nine years ago because the party’s plans include social as well as religious and political concerns. Although the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928, it remains banned in Egypt. Because of its illegal status in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is not recognized by the U.S. government, although it is not listed as a terrorist organization.
While the Brotherhood is Egypt’s largest opposition party, the current government makes it difficult to join parties other than the ruling National Democratic Party, led by current president Hosni Mubarak, according to Hiba and other Egyptians. Hiba said the Mubarak regime has not allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to take the parliamentary seats it won in the 2005 elections. She added that some government branches, such as the Minister of Information, create problems for women who adhere to the Islamic dress code, even though the constitution of Egypt lists the state religion as Islam. This discrimination against veiled women, Hiba said, exists regardless of whether they are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, the Minister of Information controls the state-owned broadcast stations and does not allow female presenters to wear a headscarf on-air, even though adherence to the rules of hijab has recently increased among Egyptian women.
“You should judge me as a woman from my experience [and] my knowledge,” Hiba said through a translator. “Not the shape of my body.”
For Hiba, the Muslim Brotherhood’s goals of instituting Islamic law would provide benefits for women similar to those of American women, such as equality between the genders, job opportunities, free elections, more seats in ministries and Parliament, and the ability to choose what to wear without discrimination.
“American women have all these rights; I wish I had these rights,” Hiba said.
The Muslim Brotherhood has a female candidate every parliamentary election, according to Hiba. She added that the party does not restrict her from an active role just because she is a woman, and she said she would like to be a parliamentary candidate one year. However, she doubts she could abide by the Mubarak regime’s treatment of prominent Muslim Brotherhood members.
And her fear is real. Egypt’s government has detained more than 500 members of the Brotherhood without issuing any kind of charge, and the regime arrested two lawmakers from the party in August 2007 after removing their immunity, according to an Agence France-Presse article.
Even though she faces such danger, Hiba said she is honest about her membership with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“If anyone asks,” she said, “I’ll tell them [I’m a member].”