Sure the Islamists may throw around Koran verses and call each other infidels, but as with any other gang, it’s always a matter of following the money.
Islamic theocracy is a way of getting power and money. And it’s all about power and money.
Egypt’s leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar said on Thursday its clerics must be consulted on a law allowing the state to issue Islamic bonds, setting it at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood which drove the legislation through parliament last week.
It marks the first time Al-Azhar, a thousand-year-old seat of Islamic learning, has said its Senior Scholars Authority should be consulted on issues pertaining to Islamic law as set out in Egypt’s new, Islamist-tinged constitution.
Al-Azhar’s intervention could set a precedent for clerical oversight of other affairs of state. The Salafi Nour Party has said Al-Azhar must also approve an agreement Egypt is seeking with the International Monetary Fund because it includes a loan upon which Egypt will pay interest.
The Islamic bond, or sukuk law, will allow Egypt to issue debt compliant with Islamic principles, allowing the state to tap a new area of finance as President Mohamed Mursi’s administration grapples with an unaffordable budget deficit.
The sukuk law has been a source of friction between the Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party leads the upper house of parliament, and more hardline Islamists who say it should first have been approved by Al-Azhar.
At a meeting on Thursday, Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Institute chaired by Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb said it shared the view that the law should have been referred to the Senior Scholars Authority, in line with the new constitution.
The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to function as the sole Islamic authority in an area where the money is big. Plenty of Al Azhar bigwigs are not thrilled at the idea of the Brotherhood embodying an entire theocracy within its own ranks. And Sharia finance is a lucrative opportunity for the Islamic clerics who approve and oversee it.
The Muslim Brotherhood is a secret society and a war machine, but like the Nazi Party it is also an oligarchy. Being a Brother can be very profitable, especially with the right connections. And the Brotherhood did not get this far just to take a vow of poverty.
But other Islamists are not about to allow the Brotherhood to build an Islamic economic empire within its own ranks. They don’t want Morsi functioning as another Erdogan.
Still this tiff, like most, can be fixed when the right financial arrangements are made and everyone gets a cut of the loot, while ordinary Egyptians beg for bread.