Now that President Hosni Mubarak is gone, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, registered as a legitimate political party once party restrictions are lifted. The group was banned under Mr. Mubarak's rule. The Muslim Brotherhood formed the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to assert its role in Egypt's nascent democracy. The Brotherhood had a representative on an eight-member panel of experts tasked with drawing up amendments to Egypt's constitution. The military chose a diverse group of legal experts, including a prominent Christian judge. Their amendments were due in 10 days, and the public will get to vote on them in April.
The Muslim Brotherhood was banned as a political and social movement in Egypt. Unlike the Islamic revolution in Iran in the late 1970s, there was no unifying figure within the opposition. There is no cleric or mullah who has the same status and prominence as did Ayatollah Khomeini. In the most extreme case, a situation could arise in which there is a radical Sunni force dominating Egypt, a radical Shi'ite force dominating Iran - and an ongoing competition between the two of them to show who is more active and effective in confronting Israel and the United States.
The Muslim Brotherhood has unveiled its plans to scrap a peace treaty with Israel if it comes to power, a deputy leader said in an interview with NHK TV. On 03 February 2011 RIA Novosti reported that Rashad al-Bayoumi said the peace treaty with Israel will be abolished after a provisional government is formed by the movement and other Egypt's opposition parties. "After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel," al-Bayoumi said.
The dominant face of the recent protests in Tunisia, Egypt and in other Arab countries was not a religious one. Even in Egypt, rocked by massive anti-government demonstrations, the long established and popular Muslim Brotherhood was late to join the movement.
Islamic political activism has a lengthy history in Egypt. Several Islamic political groups started soon after World War I ended. The most well-known Islamic political organization is the Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan al Muslimun, also known as the Brotherhood), founded in 1928 by Hasan al Banna. After World War II, the Muslim Brotherhood -- an Islamist party that operates missionary, charitable, and political activities -- acquired a reputation as a radical group prepared to use violence to achieve its religious goals. The group was implicated in several assassinations, including the murder of one prime minister. The Brotherhood had contacts with the Free Officers before the 1952 Revolution and supported most of their initial policies. The Brotherhood, however, soon came into conflict with Nasser. The government accused the Brotherhood of complicity in an alleged 1954 plot to assassinate the president and imprisoned many of the group's leaders.
The Government outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954 but has tolerated its operations with varying levels of interference. Muslim Brothers speak openly and publicly about their views and identify themselves as members of the organization, although they remain subject to arbitrary detention and pressure from the Government. In the 1970s, Anwar as Sadat amnestied the leaders and permitted them to resume some of their activities. But by that time, the Brotherhood was divided into at least three factions. The more militant faction was committed to a policy of political opposition to the government. A second faction advocated peaceful withdrawal from society and the creation, to the extent possible, of a separate, parallel society based upon Islamic values and law. The dominant moderate group advocated cooperation with the regime.
In 1995, in an effort to marginalize the MB, President Mubarak made a decision to limit official discussions with the MB. As a result, the MB's only channel for official communication with the Government of Egypt is through the security services, an interlocutor unlikely to negotiate broad political reforms.
Some analysts point to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's 50-page declaration in 2004 endorsing elections, reform, accountability, and nonviolence as evidence of a new era in Islamists' dedication to democracy. Many also see the Brotherhood's cooperation with the Kifaya opposition movement in Egypt as an indication of budding cooperation between Islamists and secularists. Other analysts, however, noted the Brotherhood's past cooperation with secular parties in Egyptian elections as evidence that this trend was not new. When the Muslim Brotherhood published its platform for a proposed political party there was considerable consternation over its implied agenda of bringing about a totally theocratic state, ruled by a body of Muslim clergymen.
In January 2007 Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders publicly announced the organization's intent to form a political party within "a few weeks," an unprecedented step for the 79-year old organization. The new party would reportedly be "a civil party with an Islamic reference," and will not submit a license application to the Political Parties Committee (as required by Egyptian law) as the MB deems the ruling-party dominated committee "unconstitutional." Party formation may provide the mechanism for the MB to counter long-standing criticism that there is no official platform that clarifies the group's policy views. At a time when Hosni Mubarak was trying to showcase new constitutional reforms, and rhetorically beating the drum of increased political party diversity, the MB appeared to be calling the government's bluff. The formation of a political party was in no small part a political maneuver designed to embarrass the regime, and demonstrate the emptiness of its reformist rhetoric. Talk of political party formation came against the backdrop of continuing arrests of MB members, with six more businessmen detained on 15 January 2007 on charges of financing MB activities, and another three on January 17.
Long criticized for its ambiguous stands on key issues such as religious freedom and women's rights, the process of developing a political charter was an attempt by the MB to present detailed policy prescriptions, rather than just amorphous slogans such as "Islam is the Solution." The MB's draft platform was "released" in September 2007 to a range of non-MB intellectuals and academics for comment, and was heavily criticized for (1) the recommended creation of an elected "Senior Religious Scholars Group", which both the parliament and the president would have to consult before passing legislation, and which would have the right to veto laws that do not conform with shari'a (Islamic law), and (2) the stipulation specifically barring women and Copts from becoming president. The MB's inability to produce a consolidated final platform indicates continuing deep tensions between the moderate and conservative wings of the Islamist organization. By putting the platform on hold, the MB's leadership is likely trying to calm the philosophical internecine battling over the substance of the charter, and avoid a damaging potential public split between the two factions.
Following the death of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Guidance Bureau member Mohammed Helal on 21 September 2009 the private and sometimes sensationalist Al Dustour ("The Constitution") newspaper printed a series of articles on internal divisions within the MB over Helal's replacement. The Guidance Bureau and the MB Shura Council governs the MB's internal affairs. Dustour reported that conservatives within the MB, led by MB Secretary General Mahmoud Ezzat, are trying to obstruct Dr. Essam El Eryan, known as a "moderate" member of the MB, from taking Helal's seat. Dustour's reporting cites sources who say that younger MBs and Eryan supporters intend to pressure MB Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef to promote Eryan to the Guidance Bureau. Akef will step down from his post following the end of his term in December 2009. These sources also maintain that Guidance Bureau rules require that any vacant seat be allocated according to internal popularity, but suggest that manipulation of those internal guidelines is possible. Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies analyst on Islamist trends Di'aa Rashwan confirmed that Eryan did win a significant number of votes in the last internal election in May/June 2008 and called his rise to the Guidance Bureau a "valid possibility." MB MP and Bloc leader Saad Katatni and four others were named to the Bureau following the same elections.
Essam El Eryan is known as the unofficial spokesman of MB (although this role has diminished since 2007). He is also considered the most prominent of the "younger generation" of MB leaders. (El Eryan was 55 in 2009.) Eryan was a member of the Egyptian parliament in the late-1980s and has been the Assistant Secretary General of the Doctor's Syndicate since 1986. He is also a founding member of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR). Eryan has been arrested several times because of his MB membership. In 1995 Eryan was sentenced to five years hard labor for "belonging to an illegal group that aims to suspend the constitution." He was arrested and held for several months three times since his release in 2000, including 5 months in detention before the 2005 elections.
Muslim Brotherhood (MB) internal disputes heated up as Supreme Guide Akef affirmed he will step down at the end of December 2009. Deputy Supreme Guide Mohammed Habib appeared poised to take his place. The leadership crisis focused on the scheduling of elections for a new Supreme Guide either before or after a new MB Shura Council is formed. The split once again divided "conservatives" who sek to maintain the MB and its religious and socia activities, even if it meant withdrawing from drect political activity and the "reformers" who seek internal reform, and a continued commitment to challenge the government through the political process. None of the current leadership is powerful enough to resolve internal crises, making Akef potentially the "last legitimate Supreme Guide."
Deputy Guide Mohammed Habib was initially seen as most likely permanently replace Akef. Mohammed Habib (often described as a "conservative") wanted the job and had sought to position himself as a centrist. Putting himself in the middle of the current dispute, Habib was seeking to cement his reputation as a potential successor to Akef, known for his ability to mediate these kinds of disputes in the past. Habib had put forward an internal reform proposal he believed will appeal to the movement's youth frustrated by the current leadership. Popular within the MB, Mohammed Habib came in second in the last Supreme Guide election.
Widely admired reformer and architect of the 2005 elections Khariat El Shater was third but is not in the running now because he remains in prison. Conservative leader Mahmoud Ezzat, who is eager to assert himself in the internal debate over the future of the MB but almost never speaks to the media, has according to Rafik Habib "no desire to be a public figure" and will not run for Supreme Guide.
Administrative insider and relative unknown Mohammed Badie, 66, was named the Muslim Brotherhood's eighth Supreme Guide on 16 January 2010. Badie's selection represents a generational shift within the group. He is the first Guide not to have known MB-founder Hassan Al-Banna. In his first public statement, Badie attempted to minimize the significance of disagreements among MB leaders that had spilled into public view. Some analysts question his ability to heal the internal rifts that remain after bitter infighting surrounding the election process. Guidance Bureau elections preceding the selection of Badie signaled a shift toward "conservatism" in the group. That shift has largely been viewed as evidence the group will become less politically active. Badie's initial statement signaled continued political engagement (although perhaps more modest than 2005) and sent a message to the regime that the MB is not its enemy.
The naming of the new Guide followed the December 2009 election of the MB's primary administrative body, the Guidance Bureau. These were the first Guidance Bureau elections since 1995. The term for each member is six years. The term is extended if elections are delayed. Once voted onto the Bureau, members receive lifetime membership in the MB's legislative body, the Shura Council. In the recent elections, leaders of the movement's "conservative" wing appear to have cemented their leadership. Deputy Supreme Guide Mohammed Habib, thought by many to be the next MB Supreme Guide, was removed from the Bureau, as was recently released reformer Abdel Moneim Al Fotouh. In the most public airing of internal MB disputes in recent memory, Habib had publically insisted the election process was not legitimate, despite then-Guide Akef's public certification of the results. Following the elections, Habib resigned from his role as Deputy Guide, the Guidance Bureau and his seat on the International Shura Council (giving up therefore any influence over the naming of the next Guide). Habib was absent from the press conference announcing Badie as was Fotouh.
The exclusion of Mohammed Habib and Fotouh from the Bureau was a sanction for their public criticism of the group and not a rejection of their views. In the view of some, the difference between "conservatives" and "reformers" in the group is not ideological. Instead it is their perspective, short-term vs. long-term, that determines how they set priorities and implement programs to achieve the group's goal of social, economic and political reform based on the principles of Islam. "Conservatives" like Ezzat are interested in the group's interests over the next twenty years. This results in a tendency to focus first on organizational unity. On the other hand, "reformers" like Fotouh are focused on what is happening in the next few years. They are more likely to press the group to take advantage of the current political and social environment, including forming alliances with other groups, to promote the group's interests.
While the previous Guidance Bureau had a wide generational distribution, the current group is mostly homogeneous, with only a few members over the age of 60. The prevalence of a "common experience" was thus likely to make this a less contentious group.
Others saw the shift to the "right" as a direct result of Government of Egypt pressure on the group over the last year. Some suggested high-profile arrests targeting known MB "reformers" were part of an effort to sideline those who would push for participation in the elections on the scale seen in 2005. While the security services see the "conservative wing," which is focused on the group's long term survival, as easier to control than the reform wing, the group, without a strong reform trend, will become both more isolated and more likely "act outside the law."
The March 2012 decision by the Muslim Brotherhood to field a presidential candidate marks the latest reversal in the group's tactics during the nation's political transition. Political analysts are split over whether this will help or hurt the Islamist cause. Similarly, the Brotherhood went back on its word on writing a new constitution. After promising to include a wide array of voices, the drafting committee is dominated by Islamists, with liberal and Christian groups as well as Islamic scholars withdrawing from the very limited role they were offered. If the Islamists can frame the referendum on the constitution as they did on a similar vote n 2011, using "Islam is the Solution," sheer numbers in this Muslim majority nation will likely approve it. But it faces internal rebellion from younger members of the group, and tensions between fundamentalist Salafi politicians and Muslim Brothers run high. Stories of corrupt Islamists are fodder for the media, with one Salafi member of parliament resigning after lying about his cosmetic surgery.
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