Citation for Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ

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MLA

Baker, Raymond William . "Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 17, 2022. <http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0947>.

Chicago

Baker, Raymond William . "Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0947 (accessed May 17, 2022).

Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ

Early in 1996, in the midst of an aggressive regime policy of “breaking arms” directed against the new forms of Islamist activism in the professional associations and other sites in Egyptian civil society, several members of the younger generation of the Muslim Brothers left the movement and officially applied to found a political party, which they called the Wasat Party. These centrist Islamist activists, of whom the engineer Abul Ela Mady and the lawyer Essam Sultan were the most prominent, adhered to the path of peaceful, democratic change. Although the membership drew most heavily from the Brothers, the party differentiated itself as a civil party that included Muslims and Copts and sought to address the concerns of all Egyptians with new and creative interpretations of Islam 's message for the global age.

Complex New Islamist concepts, drawing on the work of such major centrist figures as Muḥammad al- Ghāzalī, Yūsuf al- Qaraḍāwī, and Muhammad Selim al ʿAwa find expression in the party platform, not least in the core substantive notions of civilizational Islam and appreciation for the historical roots of the broad Wassatteyya or Islamic mainstream trend that expresses it. In the clearest terms, the party platform states that the civilizational project “goes beyond religion and all artificial divisions” to emphasize Islam 's inclusive, tolerant character. Islam is understood in terms broader than those of religion, and the platform makes the explicit point that the Islamic civilizational project embraces both constituent elements of the Egyptian national community, Copts and Muslims. “Everybody is called upon to join this project, which unifies groups without eliminating their differences,” announces the document.

With its strong commitment to nonviolent political action aiming to democratize and develop Egypt, the Wasat Party stands as a clear and compelling alternative to Islamist extremism. Parallel developments of centrist movements have occurred elsewhere in the Arab Islamic world, notably the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Jordanian Islamic Action Union. For the last two decades at least, it has been possible to speak of an informal network of centrists, with Egypt as its important hub, that shares an Islamic civilizational worldview combined with a commitment to a gradualist, democratic politics and a foreign policy of vigilant, lawful resistance to Western, especially American, intrusions in the Islamic world. In the West these centrist groups and parties have attracted nowhere near the attention of the violent extremists with whom they compete, although their weight in their respective societies is far greater.

Egypt 's Wasat Party has been blocked from lawful, full participation in public life since its announcement in 1996. To be sure, during those years party activists have continued to develop their ideas and to find outlets for their constructive, creative energies in a variety of civil society activities. Yet, the full measure of this embodiment of the promise of the broader Wassatteyya can hardly be realized as long as the obstacles placed before it by an authoritarian regime and its external supporters remain in place.

On January 6, 2007, the Wasat Party 's third application for legal recognition was refused on legal technicalities.

Bibliography

  • ʿAnany, Khalil al-.“Wassat Islamic Parties from ‘ Marginalization ’ to ‘ Authentication ’ of the Civilizational Aspirations of Religion.”al Hayat, November 25, 2006.
  • Baker, Raymond William. Islam without Fear: Egypt and the New Islamists. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.
  • Norton, Augustus Richard. “Thwarted Politics: The Case of Egypt 's Hizb al-Wasat.” In Remaking Muslim Politics: Pluralism, Contestation, Democratization, pp. 133–160. Princeton, 2005.

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