News / Middle East

Egypt's Brotherhood Looks Back, Islamist Rivals Look Ahead

FILE - A woman walks past a campaign banner for the Nour party ahead of parliamentary elections, in Cairo,  November 27, 2011.FILE - A woman walks past a campaign banner for the Nour party ahead of parliamentary elections, in Cairo, November 27, 2011.
FILE - A woman walks past a campaign banner for the Nour party ahead of parliamentary elections, in Cairo,  November 27, 2011.
FILE - A woman walks past a campaign banner for the Nour party ahead of parliamentary elections, in Cairo, November 27, 2011.
While Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood looks back in anger at its military removal from power, an ultra-orthodox Islamist party is looking forward in hope to replacing it in voters' favor.

Yet far from celebrating the downfall of its larger rival, the Nour Party, which sits on the religious right of the political spectrum, is weighing the cost of Brotherhood mistakes it says have weakened the entire Islamist movement.

Courted by the army that toppled president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's second biggest Islamic force has wielded decisive influence over the choice of a new premier, vetoing the first two liberal candidates.

But Nour's leader is surprisingly downbeat for a politician whose main rival has just been dealt such a major blow robbing it of a string of 2012 election victories.

“There is no doubt that the Islamist current in general has lost a lot because of the Brotherhood's failure in managing the past period,” Younes Makhyoun said in an interview.

“I do not think the Islamist movement will achieve what it achieved before because of these erroneous practices,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Islamist groups expect to secure nothing like the 65 percent of the vote they won in parliamentary elections 18 months ago. Under the army's transition plan, new parliamentary polls will be held in about six months' time.

“The Islamists will be reduced to their natural size - no more than 25 to 30 percent,” said Kamal Habib, a former member of a Muslim militant group.

Nour believes the Islamists' popularity, in retreat even before Morsi was elected, has been further dented by the failures of Morsi's one year in office and the bloodshed resulting from its unceremonious termination.

Makhyoun was also sharply critical of the Brotherhood for pushing to the fore hardliners who had used violent rhetoric in recent weeks, saying that had further sapped the appeal of Islamists in Egyptian society.
Political newcomer
Established after the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, Nour is 84 years the Brotherhood's junior.

It emerged from the Dawa Salafia, a quietist religious movement based in Alexandria - a party stronghold today - that believed in saving souls rather than seeking power. Nour claims 800,000 members, nearly as many as the Brotherhood's membership.

Advocating a puritanical vision of Islam, it used its foothold in officialdom to press for Islamist-inspired changes to the constitution last year. It then lobbied for their application, demanding, for example, that a law allowing Egypt to issue Islamic bonds be sent to Muslim clerics for approval.

Having aligned itself with the Brotherhood at key moments in 2012, it distanced itself from the movement this year, echoing opposition accusations that Morsi was staging a power grab.

As the political crisis deepened this year, Nour positioned itself as a would-be mediator. Its more nimble approach has given it huge leverage over the army-mapped transition that the Brotherhood has vowed to boycott.

Hazem el-Beblawi, the economist named interim prime minister on Tuesday, owes his job to Nour's rejection of other liberal politicians initially suggested for the position.

The army is going out of its way to satisfy Nour as the only Islamist party that signed up to its roadmap, isolating the Brotherhood and giving the new authorities Islamist credentials.

A decree setting the rules for the period of interim rule includes Islamist-tinged language sought by Nour and opposed by liberals.

“We value the Nour party position very much and we see a future for this party in Egypt,” said a military source, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with army rules.

Yet Nour's approach also brings risks. Other Islamist allies say it has sold out - an accusation that may damage its standing, particularly after more than 55 people were shot dead when the army opened fire on pro-Morsi protesters.

The army says it was firing back at terrorists who attacked its troops. The Brotherhood says those killed were praying peacefully.

Responding to rage in Islamist circles over Monday's killings, Nour announced it would withdraw from the army's roadmap. But it still kept one foot in the process. Though Nour says it does not seek any posts in cabinet, spokesman Nader Bakkar said it would offer the cabinet advice.

Assem Abdel Maged, one of the Brotherhood's hardline allies, told a crowd of Morsi supporters that Nour's leaders must seek repentance from God for what he called their betrayal.

Necessity versus choice

Makhyoun described the Nour's decision to cooperate with the army's plans as stemming from necessity rather than choice.

By taking part in the process the Brotherhood is shunning, Nour says it is giving voice to Islamist concerns and has been able to resist a wide expansion of liberal influence in the new, unelected administration.

Nour is trying to revive its mediation effort, though Makhyoun said communicating with the Brotherhood right now was “difficult.” The party has proposed a committee of “wise men” to promote reconciliation and agree on a new transition plan acceptable to all.

But it may struggle to convince its base of the merits of the approach. “The passions are running high in the Islamist movement - the sense that this was a coup against the Islamists - puts the Nour's base under pressure,” said Habib, the analyst.

“They are in a delicate position,” he added.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs