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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid