Corruption: The Modern-Day Plague of Egypt

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Many media reports regarding the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt have focused on the international implications of the likely introduction of Sharia law, in particular for Israel and the West. Internally, the significance of a Sharia-based state for women, secularists and religious minorities has also been much discussed. But perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Sharia’s implementation in Egypt is the economic one, and how the Muslim Brotherhood considers the Islamic law code the solution to their country’s substantial economic problems, especially regarding the blight of corruption.

Corruption is not a small problem in Egypt and, in fact, threatens to undermine the state. The finance committee of the Egyptian parliament’s upper house, the Shura Council, confirmed this in a recently released report that has reportedly “created a firestorm.” In it, committee members conclude that corruption is the “main reason” for Egypt’s worsening financial situation. So much money is being stolen, the report claims, that the “growth rate of government debt went from 10.4% before the revolution to 17.5% after,” and public debt “would soon surpass safe limits according to international standards.”

In some instances, the corruption problem is due simply to outright theft. “Wealthy intermediaries,” the report states, siphon off half of the subsidy money meant to keep down the price of commodities such as bread and cooking oil that help the poor to survive. But a major culprit in what is making a terrible economic situation in Egypt even worse, especially for its roughly 40 million poor who live close to, or below, the $2 per day poverty line, is the Nile state’s bloated government bureaucracy.

“The report highlighted 65,000 instances of corruption in a single year, with government agencies routinely exaggerating operating costs,” states the Daily News Egypt.

Corruption is nothing new in Egypt and neither is the fight against it by Egyptian Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood. In his book Islamist Economics In Egypt: The Pious Road To Development, author Bjorn Utvik writes the Brotherhood has been actively combating corruption since it entered the national parliament in the 1980s. It was Islamists like the Brotherhood who “time and again” revealed cases of corruption in their newspapers and fought against it “in political and economic life” in the higher reaches of society and elsewhere. In the elections of 1987, for example, part of the Islamists’ program was entitled “establishing virtue and closing gates of corruption.”

“We must strike with an iron fist against these degenerate practices if we want to release the productive energy of the people,” Sayf al-Islam al-Banna, son of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, once said in the People’s Assembly.

The “iron fist” the Brotherhood intends to use to eradicate corruption and other “degenerate practices” like “favouritism, nepotism, and patron-client relationships” is, Utvik writes, Sharia law. But the harsh punishments contained within Sharia’s provisions, such as the cutting off of hands for stealing, are not viewed as the means to eliminate this modern-day plague of Egypt, but rather the moral renewal that Sharia will bring to Egyptian society. The Muslim Brotherhood believes that when laws have the force of religious legitimacy behind them, people will obey them. Besides solving the “degenerate practices” badly harming the Egyptian economy, this “establishing virtue” by Sharia will in turn also bring a much-needed “moral harmony” and “moral cohesion” to society.

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  • Chezwick

    Such is the Islamic 'Catch 22'….Sharia is the supposed answer….it breeds mostly poverty and misery…and then its failures are attributed to insufficient adherence, the answer being to tighten the screws even further. The Utopian ideal precludes any possibility for an empirically-derived, rational solution.

  • Larry

    Sounds like situation normal in Egypt. Corruption was the reason the British and French moved in to protect their investment in the Suez Canal and other projects back in the 19thC.

    In fact, sounds like situation normal in any islamic country.

    • OOO

      Are you racist or stupid please tell me.

  • crackerjack

    I fail to see much difference between Egypt and the US when it comes to corruption.

    Similar to the US, Egypt has a mighty military-industrial complex that lobbys and dictates goverment to its own benefit.

    Similar to the US, wealth and financial power lay in the hands of a small minority who's influence and lobbys ensure and cement the poverty of the great majority.

    Islamism has no cure, but neither do US Republicans or Democrats.

    • Chezwick

      Typical Lefty drawing moral equivalence in a world he knows nothing about. When was the last time you tried to get a business license in America?….in Egypt? No difference, eh? In America, you fill out the appropriate paper-work and pay an established fee. In Egypt, you fill out the appropriate paper-work, pay the fee, and then grease the palm of the bureaucrat who can – on a whim – either expedite or interminably delay your application.

      And this Marxist boiler-plate of yours that the rich "cement the poverty of the great majority"…as if, were we to exterminate the rich, the "great majority" would suddenly be affluent!!! Adolescent delusions die hard, don't they?

    • John Stone

      If you really care about this you might go to the Transparency International and look around a little. They measure the level of corruption by polling business people who deal in various countries. Ranking all 182 countries with 1 as the best, we are 24 and Egypt is 112. Corruption is the major problem in a lot of poor countries.

  • Mach1Duck

    Oh, to replace one group of corruption with another, after all who runs the drug and prostution in Iran?

    • Omar

      Hey! As an Egyptian and Muslim, I take offence. Firstly Muslim Brotherhood has got nothing to do with drugs and this article is about Egypt so don't get Iran involved. If Muslim Brotherhood are corrupt how come they were fighting against Mubarak and his corruption? When you write something please know what you are writing about!

  • Marty

    Every islamic society is governed by corrupt institutions. No islamic society has ever been governed by equitable and humane laws because of sharia law. Women and non-muslims are immediately relegated to second class citizens and feel the sinister impact of sharia law upheld and implemented by the islamic male power elite that explicitly favors and protects the muslim male power apparatus. This is why it is impossible for any islamic nation to adopt democracy even if it wanted to do so. muslims would first have to rid themselves of the disease of sharia, an event we may all hope for but should not expect.

    • Omar

      Are you kidding me! Sharia laws will always exists as long as Islam exists. It is the law of Islam any Islamic nation should have Sharia laws and as I am an Egyptian and Muslim I will always believe Sharia laws. If you don't like too bad not my problem. Egyptians voted for Sharia laws so that means we want and like it. Even women voted for it so that means that most likely like it too and your comment cannot stop a thing about the use of Sharia laws

  • sabinelr

    So the jakat is 2.5% and the jizya is "higher." I can see a bunch of Christian refugees from Muslim countries coming over here and discovering the normal taxation rate vastly exceeds the punishing levels in the Islamic world, and wondering what exactly they were escaping to…

  • http://twitter.com/apriyono_rd @apriyono_rd

    Sharia's law is solution of the problem.

    • Omar

      I agree with your statement it's correct all the way!