What is striking about this latest conference is the growing cooperation both within the Muslim world and between the anti-global left and Muslims. This should come as no surprise, considering the traditional focus of the left on defending victims of torture. Who are the biggest victims of torture in the world today? Of course, Muslims, primarily in Iraq and Palestine, but everywhere in the West, and just about in every country that is predominantly Muslim.
The left realises this and is finally overcoming its traditional resistance to the cultural conservatism of Islam, and likewise Muslims are reaching out to the left — clear examples are Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood‘s (MB) prominent role in this conference and Lebanon, where Hizbullah was prominent at a similar anti-imperialism conference last November in Beirut. Organised by Al-Karama (Dignity), Al-Ishtirakyin Al-Sawryin (Socialist Revolutionary Party), Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood) and Al-‘Amal (Labour), and held at the Egyptian Press Syndicate, the conference attracted close to 600 participants and observers from around the world, including a delegation of 80 South Koreans and 20 Canadians.
But what can we make of the overwhelming prominence at the conference of the MB and their very professional brochures and CDs, well translated into English? One pamphlet quotes MB deputy Khairat El-Shater assuring the reader “No need to be afraid of us” and “We do not promote an anti- Western agenda”. Certainly we can condemn the military tribunals where 40 prominent MB members are being tried under emergency laws, in violation of the constitution. Belal Diaa Farahat, a business student at the American University of Cairo told Al-Ahram Weekly how his father Diaaeddin Farahat, a prominent businessman, was arrested along with 39 others “merely because he was successful and a member of the MB.” After three months in prison and acquittal in a civil court, these men were re-arrested and will face a military tribunal next week.
Ahmed Shawqi, a student activist at Al-Azhar, said that all the delegates at the conference were unanimous in condemning the tribunals. Delegates from London, Canada and Greece promised to demonstrate, and organise petitions to protest against the military tribunals and invite MB representatives on speaking tours in order to explain their position. Shawqi added, however, that an important aspect of the MB’s platform is not to work against Egypt in its international relations. In a sense, the Brotherhood “stole the show” at the conference, with their very real oppression fitting the international delegates’ human rights agenda. Coincidence or act of God?
The key forum at the conference: “bridge building between the left and Islam” focussed on re-evaluating the relations of the left and the Islamists, as well as on practical ways to increase cooperation.
Mohamed Ghozlan, an MB Al-Azhar student activist, described the underlying misunderstanding: “the left thought Islam was just an anachronism, while Muslims accused the left of trying to destroy their way of life. However, with both sides being repressed by dictatorship, we are able to cooperate now on the basis of human rights and the fight against the war in Iraq and globalisation. Such Latin American leaders as Hugo Chavez have accelerated the cooperation, reaching out to the Muslim resistance.” He explained the greater repression of Muslim than leftists in Egypt to be due to the fact that “the government sees us as the greater threat to it.”
Read it all.