News / Middle East

Egypt's Islamists' Success: A Sign of Nation's Future, or Past?

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohammed Morsi shakes hands with a solider on the first day of parliamentary elections in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 28, 2011.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohammed Morsi shakes hands with a solider on the first day of parliamentary elections in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 28, 2011.

Egyptian officials say the results of the first round of voting in parliamentary elections will be announced Friday evening local time, after delaying the announcement twice this week. Observers have said Egypt's first elections since President Hosni Mubarak's February resignation were mostly peaceful.

The Muslim Brotherhood is thought to be taking the early lead in the Egypt's months-long parliamentary elections.  But support for the moderate Islamist group, as well as for more fundamentalist ones, may say more about Egypt's past than future.

From a purely practical standpoint, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to benefit from the timetable of elections.

The best-organized, yet officially banned, opposition group under the old government, the Brotherhood has left its newly-formed competitors scrambling to catch up.

Perhaps more important is the suffering members of the Brotherhood endured - arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture.  

Human Rights Watch Egypt researcher Heba Morayef says both privately and in recent years more publicly, members were at the forefront in opposing the former government's tactics.

"They took on many human rights issues, in a sense, and would very often use their position as being the victim of these violations, I think, to recruit other sympathizers who were angry at Mubarak's repressive regime," she said.

Heba Morayef, Human Rights Watch:


Morayef also points to the Brotherhood's criticism of rampant corruption in the Mubarak years, and the long history of the group's charitable works - key economic points in a nation where at least one third live in poverty.  Such acts, she says, have given the Brotherhood "a very strong grassroots presence."

A poster by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood "The Freedom and Justice Party'" outside a polling station in Cairo, November 28, 2011.
A poster by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood "The Freedom and Justice Party'" outside a polling station in Cairo, November 28, 2011.

The group's slogan "Islam is the answer" also strikes a resonate chord in deeply devout Egypt.  But political observers note the Brotherhood has a moderate face that also appeals to the pragmatic nature of many here.  

It stands in contrast to another Islamic group expected to make its presence felt in these first post-Mubarak elections - the fundamentalist Salafis.   

"For the Salafis, their situation was a lot worse than the Brotherhood because they were not able to operate at all as a group politically," Morayef added. "And this is the first year, in 2011, that we've actually seen Salafis organizing themselves into different parties, being much more present in the media. Because Salafis were very, very underground and they would only conduct charitable activity."

But for all the apparent newfound success of both groups, political analyst and publisher Hisham Kassem says neither has much of a track record as political strategists, and calls into question how well they might do in the future.  

"The Brotherhood - I could talk for hours about how they've bungled historically, and how I think they will bungle again.  But to get to the main point, they have a problem that most of the political forces don't trust them," said Kassem.

The Brotherhood, he says, promises too much to potential allies, but then goes back on its word when it gets the upper hand.  The Salafis, he says, have another problem.  While the puritanical group might attract some by using the language of the democracy, Kassem argues its true message will prove offensive to the majority of Egyptians.

"They adapt and then a situation arises and you hear words of 'we are ready to become martyrs' and relapsing into their own diction.  In addition to their aggressive attitude, where they push people around in the street, claiming they are the voice of God, or the hand of God on earth,  they are anarchic," he said. "They don't have a central command.  Their figures are estimated to be one and a half million in a nation of 80 million."

Human rights researcher Morayef says the real test will come as the new government is formed, and both groups will face the responsibilities of running a country.

"We'll see how the Brotherhood does in this first term of parliament, how they manage to deal with a lot of the bigger policy issues which they've never had to address because all they've ever had to do was to criticize the repressive tactics of the Mubarak government.  And now we're going to shift into a new phase," she said.

Only then, she says will it be clear if people are putting blind faith in the religious nature of the Brotherhood and the Salafis, or whether their support was based on the pragmatic hope these groups would bring about real change.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid