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Hanin Ghaddar

Syria’s Muslim Brothers pledge a civil state

From Istanbul, the Muslim Brothers of Syria declared on Sunday their political charter that details their vision of Syria after toppling the current regime. While it is still only ink on paper, the charter clearly endorses a pledge and commitment to a civil, democratic and modern state that respects institutions, not religion, as the basis of political and social life.

The most significant part of the charter is that the Muslim Brothers stressed the concept of citizenship and completely dispensed with the notion of the “Islamic Umma” which usually colors their rhetoric in the region. Their statement, with its 10 straightforward vows, mentions international declarations and agreements more than it mentions Islam and stresses on human rights all throughout.

The charter is an oath by the Muslim Brothers of Syria to “endorse a civil constitution that protects the rights of individuals and groups.” It envisions a republic with a parliamentary system that guarantees the rotation of power and democracy. It calls for a state that guarantees equality between men and women, respects human rights such as “human dignity, equality, freedom of speech and religion, political participation and social justice.” The Muslim Brothers pledge “to abolish segregation and torture, and [to] protect individual freedoms in both the private and the public spheres.”

They also vow to “fight terrorism and prevent revenge, even from those whose hands were stained by their fellow Syrians’ blood. They have the right to just trials under an independent and transparent judiciary system.”

I, the liberal, secular, Shia-born woman suddenly felt the desire to live in this utopia. However, this is a pledge and not the definite upcoming reality. If this is a genuine attempt by the Muslim Brothers, it means that they have not only challenged themselves, but also dared all the Muslim Brothers in the region, mainly Egypt, to act responsibly and move forward.

The charter is good news for two main reasons. One, it should reassure the minorities in Syria who still stand closer to the regime because the word “Islamist” frightens them. The Assad regime succeeded in painting a horrific image of the Muslim Brothers in Syria following the Hama events of the 1980s, and presented itself as the secular regime whose main goal is to protect the rights of minorities.

In fact, this charter sounds much better than the draft constitution presented by the Assad regime a few weeks ago in regards to comforting minorities and setting their terrified minds at rest. It also seeks to comfort the Alawites who are associated with the regime and are worried of sectarian revenge once they are on their own.

Two, this charter shows the international community that the Muslim Brothers of Syria are ready to let go of the Islamic nation ideology and endorse a modern civil state, not because they detest Islam now, but because they are pragmatic and are willing to move forward.

The Egyptian experience scared most liberals and secularists and made the Arab Spring look more like an autumn. Muslim Brothers and Islamists in general anywhere in the region were associated with the Egyptian brothers, but this charter came out as a brave step by the Syrian Brothers to dissociate themselves from that experience and endorse an Islamic model that is closer to the Turkish Justice and Development Party.

Should we believe them? Can we trust they will fulfill these promises when the regime falls and if they achieve political power in Syria? It is still too early to say. This charter is still a contract that needs to be implemented, and it should be translated into reality as much as possible before the fall of the regime.

The Muslim Brothers are heavily criticized for their control over the Syrian National Council and their strong relations with regional powers. When they pledge that the Syrian people should decide independently and democratically their path and future, they need to translate these words into action as they practice politics as the opposition, before taking power. Otherwise, they will lose credibility.

Time will tell. But in any case, this charter will become the main instrument to evaluate the Muslim Brothers in the future. If they fulfill their promises, then we should not be concerned for Syria’s future, and if they don’t, they will be judged and held accountable. They could lose credibility over failed promises, and without credibility, their political future might not be very promising.

Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW Lebanon.

  • Hep

    Omar, “what kinda jungle has HA turned it to” ??? ----- I don’t think HA has turned anything into a jungle. The US and Israel did that.They are covert, unaccountable force unto themselves. They engage in mischievous, illegal operations. They include overthrowing democratically elected governments, assassinating foreign heads of state and key officials, propping up friendly dictators, and extraordinarily renditioning targeted subjects to torture prison hell, or simply disappearing them. ….. – See: “Targeted Killings: US and Israeli Specialties” - Stephen Lendman

    April 3, 2012

  • الى سالم

    @HEP That's how bad Arab Muslims position, we have to deal with Zionists & Shia who both think are the chosen people. Axis of resistance!! Are u referring to the tons of missiles Assad has bombarded Israel with for the past 40 yrs, or the wars Ahmadi najad has waged after his many promises to wipe out Israel? or the abduction of 2 Israeli soldiers which every single Lebanese paid for? I dont care what franklin told whitney houston, you need to live in lebanon to see what kinda jungle has HA turned it to!! HA controls the airport, the port, telephone and mobile networks, has his own tele netwroks, his people dont pay electricity, get all government jobs, hashish growing and dealing, drugs manufacturing and dealing, organized cars stealing mobs, you can basically do whatever the want & in Dahye where no Un-HA can claim. But you reap what you sow!!

    April 2, 2012

  • Hep

    Omar, it is the Zionists who regard themselves as the “Chosen” people and have a plan to put their hands over “Greater Israel” to make up the “New Middle East”. They are not getting anywhere because of the Axis of Resistance. All Arab countries are welcome to join the Resistance if they know what is good for them. Saddam in his last days regretted fighting the Iranians. His calculations were wrong: He couldn’t figure out his real enemies. You may be sore about the 7th May incident but it helped to secure peace in Lebanon – see: [Why Hezbollah's Victory may lead to peace in the Middle East] - an Interview with Franklin Lamb by Mike Whitney. ---- I am not getting any “piece of the cake” – I am not a Lebanese, but I wouldn’t be sorry if I donate money to Hezbollah for what he is doing.

    April 2, 2012

  • ali daoud

    @@Omar, saudis gave Future movement money to make a militia prior to May 7th, and let`s not forget that the saudis have financed lot of the Lebanese and Palestinian militias during our civil war, let alone the proven saudi planning anf financing of the Beir el 3abed car bomb to assassinate Ayatollah Fdlallah in the 80`s which killed aout 90 civilians. look, wherever there is an Arab inner fighting you can find saudi financing, however, looking at Iran`s money, we can see the iranian role in financing our Resistance which freed our land and surely that will never make us worry, it makes us proud and secure to know that at time our state doesn`t care about those who resist israel there is somebody who cares and who is able to replace our state in terms of the support needed to resist israel`s agression, so thank you Iran, thankl you Syria, down israel

    April 1, 2012

  • الى سالم

    @HEP I'm talking about a regime believing that they are the chosen army of Al Mahdi and have a plan to put their hands over the arab countries (and they are almost half way through) and you're telling about wali amer and fatwa not to demonstrate against him!!! I think you can do better than that next time! Even if all oil revenues go to the saudi royal family and the americans, is this affecting u and me as lebanese trying to make a better country to live in?? U and me dont know if the iranian regime is controling all oil revenues but what we know is that they are spending (...) loads of money on HA, hamas, Qaeda and other organizations which surely affects us after HA has his own country (militia, weapons, telephone network, hospitals, schools..etc which are for the sole usage of HA supporters). That's what u really need to worry about unless u r getting a peice of the cake.

    April 1, 2012

  • Hep

    Omar, Are you saying that the Iranians were not extreme ethnay 3ashariya during the Shah’s rule? The Saudis’ have wali-al-amr. The Saudi fatwa is that you cannot protest against wali-al-amr. Wilayat al faqih tells the people to go out and vote for their represtatives. Wali-al-amr does not believe in representatives or voting but believe in the rule of the Royal Family. One thing I know: In Saudi Arabia most of the oil revenue goes to the Saudi royal family and the Americans. I do not think that Wilayat al faqih has the sole control over the oil revenue to use for personal use as the Saudi royal family has.----- If HA wants to establish an Islamic ummah, he doesn’t have to wait to finish the Israelis first: He could have started it in Lebanon but he does not want to. I am waiting for those who have arms worth billions of dollars to establish an Islamic Ummah but I don’t have much hope.

    March 31, 2012

  • Hep

    Covenant, I have never heard of Hezbollah people fighting in Libya. I would like to read the report. If Bashar sent any fighters to fight the Americans in Iraq then they have a right to fight the invaders. In Lebanon, the Nahr-al-Bared affair had to do with the 14th March Bloc who paid the fighters their salary and eventually had to rob the bank to get their salary. As for 9/11, the FBI published photos of 9/11 hijackers but they say there is a problem with Arabic names. I can understand the problem with Arabic names but I cannot understand the problem with the faces of the people in the photos. Many, with those faces, are now alive – Check: BBC: 9/11 hijackers alive.

    March 31, 2012

  • الى سالم

    @HEP as a proof to what I mentioned, go to YouTube &type: نصرالله ولائي لإيران. He was saying, in the 80's, that after they finish the conflict with Israel they will call for Islamic ummah which will be part of the greater ummah in Iran ruled by Al Mahdi through his righteous deputy Al wali Al faqeeh. That's what nasrallat literally said. This tells u also that Al wali Al faqeeh's authority goes beyond Iran to include any part of the world where Shia exist.

    March 31, 2012

  • الى سالم

    @HEP Wali Al Faqih, who was then khomeini & currently khamenie, is believed by them to be as Allah, impeccable. He controls everyone in wilayat al faqih, like HA, by tekleef shar3i so whatever the Wali says they have to abide and implement bcoz he communicates directly with Al Mahdi. As Jews believe that they have to put their hands completely on the gulf states to rule the world until the Messaih appears, the said Shia also believe that they should do so in order Al Mahdi appears. Quran and Mohammad's Hadith are rarely a reference. Even if u r high on the finest ganja u can't come up with this trip! These r the headlines of this sect. @majd to answer ur question, gulf leaders are as far from Islam as Shia. Can u give us one solid difference between Taliban/ Qaeda and Hizballat??

    March 31, 2012

  • الى سالم

    @HEP Majority of Iran Shia are ethnay 3ashariya, Khomeini came up with an extremist sect of ethnay 3ashariya and that by creating wilayat al faqih & named himself as the chosen leader who spiritually communicates with "al Mahdi al montazar" who they also call him "saheb al zaman", meaning that he controls everything in this world. They also believe that they are the chosen people by Allah to be the army of "al Mahdi" who will appear to the world once the said army is ready. Any one not believing in wilayat al faqeeh is categorized as infidel & killing him is permitted for the greater cause. One of their highly relied on technique is "Al Toqya" which means to reveal the opposite of what they think or believe. To be cont

    March 31, 2012

  • ali daoud

    @ HEP, it couldn`t be said any better, excellent piece fellow.

    March 30, 2012

  • Hep

    The Iranians have their reasons for regarding America as “al shaytan al akbar”. The 1953 CIA-led coup replaced democratically elected PM Mossadegh by Shah, a brutal dictator who ruled for the next 25 years. During the shah's rule, the Iranian oil industry previously nationalized by Mossadegh, was "un-nationalized," with U.S. firms reaping a 40 %. During Khomeini’s rule the CIA provided the Iraq intelligence to help "calibrate" its mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops. Starting in 1985, a direct US-Iraq intelligence link was established providing Iraq with "data from sensitive U.S. satellite reconnaissance photography ... to assist Iraqi bombing raids." ----- What I don’t understand is why the Sunnis were on good terms with the Shia under the rule of Shah even though the Shah did not return the Gulf islands back to the Sunnis. Are the Shia under Shah any different than the Shia under Khomeini? Is the problem with the ruler’s policy or with Shia theology?

    March 30, 2012

  • ali daoud

    @Omar, if you look at Iran as your enemy then it is your problem that will make you suffer, and when you say so you only show your hate and sectarianism because Iran did nothing that makes you feel so, if you are a true Muslim then how can you hate Iran? what wrong did Iran do to you? who supported the Arab cause more than Iran? who supported all Resistance in Lebanon and Palestine and Afghanistan and Iraq against USA and israel except Iran. since Imam Khomeini made his revolution and toppled the Shah who was israel`s ally, since the 1st moment, your Arab Gulf Sunna have encouraged Saddam to invade Iran and caused a war that cost hundreds of billions and two million dead in both sides. what wrong did Iran do then for your Gulf regimes and Saddam to invade? wasn`t a USA and israel`s interest? what did ur Gulf Arabs do to support the Palestinian cause? what did Iran do? the Arabs sold Palestine long time ago, and Iran is trying its best to free it, like it or not, is your problem.

    March 29, 2012

  • Covenant

    HEP, Afghan Jihadists have been used in Libya to topple Gaddafi, yeah they fought side by side with Hezballah's fighters "as reported". Oh and you forgot the ones Bashar Assad was sending to Iraq or the ones he freed from jail and sent to Lebanon. And of course 911 was an inside job, it was planned in Area 51 by Dick Cheney and an Illuminati Elder of Zion Opus Dei Grey and executed by the man on the grassy knoll and some Martians using Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator to implode the towers and WTC 7... Should I get you the tin foil hats of will you be bringing your own?

    March 29, 2012

  • Hep

    Covenant, as long as Jihad serves the purpose of the US any kind of Jihad is good. Afghan Jihadists have been used in Libya to topple Gaddafi and they are now in Syria trying to topple Assad. Jihad was good for the US in Afghanistan in the 1980s. BTW the jihadists had nothing to do with 9/11. It was an inside job.

    March 29, 2012

  • الى سالم

    @majd Let me break it down for you: Muslims first enemy is Iran and i mean by that is the brainwashed blindly secterian regime that the damned Khomeini created. Then comes Israel. What's happening in Syria now is a secterian cleansing and stupid Arabs are just watching how muslims are being slaughtered by the persian mercenaries. Stop B ising us about Assad's resistance against Israel, everyone knows that if toppling assad would enhance Israel's security, Assad won't have stayed 40 yrs. It takes the US 24 hrs to disable assads expired army who couldnt after one year stop "few hundred terrorist". Tol3it ree7etkon ya sa7be, u stand in queues to get visa to go live in detroit and u say amreeca al shaytan al akbar. I'm surprised u mentioned that Sayyidna Omar was the only one to open Jerusalim, are u aware that he's the same person who they teach to curse all day and night?

    March 29, 2012

  • ali daoud

    Fawaz, i took a decision long time ago not to have a dialogue with you because you always insist that i live in Dearborn even when i insisted that i live in Lebanon. sorry pal, not interested.

    March 28, 2012

  • ali daoud

    Hassan, who doesn`t associate himself with God? didn`t Bush use to claim he was sent by God to perform that anti terror mission? don`t we read on the US dollar that "in God we Trust"? i have no problem with one associating himself to God but he can`t kill millions of innocents for no reason in the name of God. my major disagreement with the MB is their willingness to give up too many principles in order to reach a "nominal" power, not even a true power. they gave up their right to review Camp David in order to have a majority in the Parliament even if that majority will never be translated by their rule of egypt, the true rulers will always be the Army, however, the MB gave them the blessing. add that, nothing has changed regarding the blockade against Gaza compared to MUbarak era, imagine, Hamas itself revealed a letter about a secret meeting between highest intelligence officers from Egypt, USA, Jordan, UAE, PLO and israel discussing ways to pressure Hamas via the power cut.

    March 28, 2012

  • fawaz

    Look at MAJD getting all hot and bothered with !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and more !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! because someone did not answer his question. There was a straight forward simple question put to him that he refused to answer. Does he support Hamas which is a Muslim brotherhood group, I guess we'll never know. To answer your question MAJD yes there are six Coptic Christians on the committee drafting the new Egyptian constitution, don't you feel silly asking the question now.

    March 28, 2012

  • Covenant

    HEP your dated article is from 2002 but it's interesting how so many anti Muslims and anti US bigot bloggers are just now ten years later quoting it. It's true politics makes strange bedfellows. The textbooks go even further back to 1980. In reality the Muslim brotherhood predate the textbooks and have nothing to do with Afghanistan. It's not like the concept of Jihad was invented by a US textbook, it started long before that. Your argument shows a lazy mind driven by blind dogma. It reminds me of an old Soviet propaganda campaign showing homeless in NYC commenting on how America was about to fall, guess what happened. If you really want to look up the concept of Jihad go check "Jihade Akbar" by Khomeini or anything by Hassan al-Banna or Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, better yet go read Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezballah charters, violent images are part and parcel of their fundamentalist Islamic ideologies which they call Jihad.

    March 28, 2012

  • Hassan

    Majd, to answer you your question, the answer is No; you are right. However, I never said Egypt’s revolution is a gracious one. And I still don’t. This Mubarak thing is still a mystery to me. Hopefully, they will not look back & wish King Farouk’s return. Majd, part of my family is Christian & I enjoy Santa & present more than they do. Thanks for your suggestion to review the gulf fanatic nonsense but I am aware whether it is MB is or HA, crusaders or Ottoman, whenever a group associate itself with God it leads to war & disaster. I am disgust when they mention Palestine they refer to Muslims; I know many Christians Palestinians. Although it is obvious to all, MB is still a vague name, not all Muslims are brothers. They should be more specific & use sect. The same applies to HA. I just suggested giving MB the benefit of the doubt. I know it is ironic; we did the same with HA. I agree with Hanin, the MB made it look like utopia, but I will never live there; I enjoy the smell of cedars.

    March 28, 2012

  • Hep

    Guess who taught these people the “Jihad” in the first place? Check this: “In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.---- The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code……” See: “From U.S., the ABC's of Jihad” - Washington Post

    March 28, 2012

  • Marco el Polo

    I pleadge not to grow hair on the palm of my hands and to eat shanklish only every other day.

    March 28, 2012

  • ali daoud

    Hassan, one question, please answer me if the Committee that was formed in Egypt to form the new constitution includes any Christian member in it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sara7a, too much rights for Christians in Egypt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 27, 2012

  • ali daoud

    Hassan, you may review what is being said by the officials in Kuwait and UAE about the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the Saudi Wahhabism, they bashed both as i myself never did. Hassan, review what Dahi Khalfan the Head of Dubai Police has said about the Muslim Brotherhood, the saudi Wahhabism and al Qaradawi. Hassan, review also the Fatwa issued by the Grand Mufti of Saudia to destroy all churches in the arab world especially in Kuwait and UAE, and you may also - as a dessert - review also the Fatwa issued by al Qaradawi to fight the Christain Kobts in Egypt. so, if the high spiritual leaders of Wahhabis and Muslim Brtherhood have such fatwas, how do you think their followers would react?!!!

    March 27, 2012

  • fawaz

    MAJD do you support Hamas?

    March 27, 2012

  • Hassan

    Majd, there is a difference between talk and pledge. Talk is when Bashar says he will get the Golan back. Pledge is sincere and real like when Ahmadinejad in 2010 pledged to protect Lebanon from Israel. You are right no one can guarantee the future. The pledge of HA was to protect Lebanese; no one was expecting a future like May 2008. You said MB will say anything to reach power. Everyone does it but they have to act on it. We vote for cabinets and presidents who do the same. It is called politics. And to annoniem we live on PR; and btw writing your comment about PR is a negative PR. And To Rikki, of all the lines and subject matter you read above, credentials bothered you? It is neither unethical nor confidential. Based on some comments, we definitely have an issue with biased or trust. The Muslim Brothers pledge is real, and it is not in our advantage to turn a blind on it. What happened to the benefit of the doubt?

    March 27, 2012

  • Hassan

    Of course the Muslim Brothers of Syria are not going to use the word “Umma” it has been used by Nasrallah speeches a lot lately. It is confusing to differentiate between one Umma and another Umma. Anyway, I think the international community is still in shock by this pledge, or they don’t believe them. But either way, no one said anything. I guess the world is good at condemning but not praising a good deed. I am trying to find a reason why the world is silent on this pledge. Is it because it changes the whole concept and image of the Muslim Brothers? Is it because Israel is not mentioned? Seriously what better pledge do they want? After this pledge, if the international community doesn’t give the Muslin Brothers a chance to prove it, the world is really skewed.

    March 27, 2012

  • Annoniem

    They are changing their 'raison d'etre' and I just don't believe them. This is pure PR. Sectarianism & racism are no good.

    March 27, 2012

  • Rikki

    Hanin why do you always have to reminds us of your credentials "I, the liberal, secular, Shia-born woman". You are a journalist aren't you? It spoiled an otherwise good piece.

    March 27, 2012

  • Hep

    Group ∞ , The US in Group A, is on behalf of Israel. "Mearsheimer and Walt conclude that the thrust of US policy in the Middle East is overwhelmingly the result of the [Israel] lobby’s activities." See: “Does the Israeli Tail Wag the American Dog? By Kathleen and Bill Christison

    March 27, 2012

  • ali daoud

    at this stage, talk is easy and for free, who can guarantee the future? who can guarantee that in case the Muslim Bortherhood win a parliamentary election they would not install a system different than the one they talk about know? it is so naive when one applauds such statements by the MB, they cannot be trusted, they are willing to say anything and to do anything in order to reach power, and once they do it will be another story.

    March 26, 2012

  • Group ∞

    HEP, you forgot Group C Israel, Israel, Israel and some elements of the Israeli establishment. Group C is heavily invested in regime survival because it's worried about who will replace it. After all for almost 40 years the regime have guaranteed the security of the Golan, that is until almost year ago when it decided to sacrifice a few Palestinian lives to illustrate Rami Makhlouf threat. Sacrificing others to gain points is what the SSyrian regime does best. Oh and Israel is sometimes part of this Group C as well.

    March 26, 2012

  • Hep

    The Muslim Brotherhood have a long time before they rule, that is if they ever did rule. There are two groups with interest in this conflict. Group A is looking for a face-saving exit from the promised escalation in Syria. It consists of the United States, the European Union, and Turkey. Group B, on the other hand, is heavily invested in regime change at any cost and includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and some elements of the French, US, British, and Libyan establishments…… Feltman is part of Group B, alongside Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The battle in Syria has become an existential one for Group B. They have played too hard and revealed too much to be able to re-assert themselves into any impartial regional role in the future -- unless there is a changing of the guard in Syria…. Meanwhile, the West and its regional allies will happily draw out a low-boil War of Attrition in Syria to keep the Syrian regime busy, weakened and defensive

    March 26, 2012