News / Middle East

Analysis: Egypt's Brotherhood Needs Allies

Egyptian woman casts her vote during the second round of parliamentary run-off elections, Cairo, Dec. 2011.
Egyptian woman casts her vote during the second round of parliamentary run-off elections, Cairo, Dec. 2011.
Elizabeth Arrott

A leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood says the group's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) is committed to working with others across the political spectrum, even as it appears poised to assume an outright majority in parliament. But some question whether the pledge of pluralism is sincere or simply an attempt to spread responsibility for leading Egypt through troubled times.

There are two consistent and seemingly contradictory arguments made by the front-running party in Egypt's elections. First, that the Muslim Brotherhood will embrace everyone as it seeks to solve the nation's problems. And second, that the answer to those problems can be found in their slogan: "Islam is the solution."

The group's ideology is based on the premise that Islam is central to everything from family life to national government. But the group is trying its best to remedy concerns that premise might carry for Egypt's Christians, secularists, and others should the Brotherhood win an outright majority after this week's third phase of voting.

Essam el Erian, deputy head of FJP, says the party won't deviate from the its stated commitment to democracy, even at the expense of other Islamists, including the ultra-conservative Salafis.

"We are not in a confrontation with any group, but still we stick to our democratic alliance with more than 10 parties representing all political factions in the country," he says. "The Salafists are respected because they have about 80 seats until now and they can have more in the third phase. So we respect the choice of the people, but we are not going to change our alliance."

It's an uneasy alliance at best, given that FJP leaders, despite talk of inclusiveness, reject the idea of a woman or a Coptic Christian as president.

But the Brotherhood has a long history of being practical: They built a massive following doing good works while being officially banned by the old government. And while they were not the driving force behind last year's uprising, they have embraced its results.  

More than anything, says Erian, the FJP's agenda is now based on national unity, not ideology.

"We are keen that the national solidarity which appeared on the revolution continues to build the country," he says. "So we are eager that all political blocs in the parliament work together according to a special agenda which puts the utmost priority on the people of Egypt prior to any political agenda."

Some observers believe that position speaks to another aspect of pragmatism. Egyptians have seen few concrete benefits since the revolution, and expectations are high that the new parliament can bring real change.

Fahmy Howeidi, a columnist with the Shorouk newspaper, believes FJP may be trying to provide itself cover if progress is slow.

"They think that they cannot carry this responsibility alone, and without the assistance of the other groups, which are either liberals or secularists, they cannot move," says Howeidi. "So all of them, they can carry the responsibility. And they used to say there is no group. A single group can carry the responsibility in the coming future."

Perhaps the biggest challenge in the near term will be just how much authority any of the parties will be able to exert. For the most part, the Brotherhood has stood by Egypt's interim military leaders even as other elements have taken to the streets to call for them to step down.

But cracks began to appear in recent months, especially over the writing of the new constitution. The military council had promised to leave that to a parliamentary committee but is now advocating a special advisory group that would let the generals have more say.

It's a fight that is expected to come to a head in the next few weeks, as the newly elected lower house of parliament convenes January 23.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs