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
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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs