News / Africa

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Under Pressure Ahead of Elections

Dr. Essam el-Eryan, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood top figure, gestures to clam reporters during a conference at the Brotherhood headquarter in Cairo, Egypt (File Photo)
Dr. Essam el-Eryan, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood top figure, gestures to clam reporters during a conference at the Brotherhood headquarter in Cairo, Egypt (File Photo)

Multimedia

Audio
  • Clothillde LeCoz, Reporters Without Borders, interview

Egyptian authorities this week have arrested some 70 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The wave of detentions brings to more than 250 people belonging to the banned opposition group rounded up in the two weeks since it said it would take part in next month's parliamentary elections.

Security forces made the latest arrests in Alexandria, where Muslim Brotherhood members were putting up posters bearing the phrase "God is Great." It's hardly an unusual sentiment in this deeply religious nation, but the political overtones proved too potent for the government to ignore.

Egypt's constitution forbids religion-based parties, but the Brotherhood gets around the ban by fielding candidates as independents. Senior Brotherhood leader Essam el-Eryan is among those providing them support from a dusty, largely technology-free office in downtown Cairo.

"What is urgent and a priority is to change the principles and rules of the political game. We are ready to accommodate with any real political system," he said. "But now, we are not living in a political system. We are living in the state of police - a police state. It is not a state of politics."

Clothilde LeCoz, Reporters without Borders, Discusses Crackdown on Bloggers in the Middle East:

It's easy to see why the Brotherhood would hold that view, if only from the number of security agents outside their headquarters keeping track of all who enter.

Resigned to these facts, Eryan says the group is devoted to working for change peacefully and within the system.

Although the Brotherhood was founded in Egypt, and leaders such as the late Sayyid Qutb are among the heroes of militant Islam, the current Egyptian party renounced violence as a political tool in the 1970's.

A more recent sign of trying to create change from within is the Brotherhood's decision against an opposition-called boycott of next month's election.

But the group does reach out in other ways to competing anti-government forces.

"We spend a long time and many efforts to visit and to try to unite such political factions. Nevertheless the faraway ways between their ideologies and our ideology, we have common values and common demands and we have united before," he said. "But now they are afraid even from visiting us due to pressures from the security forces and the authorities."

The group is also pragmatic when it comes to women. Although credited, or blamed, depending on the perspective, for the conservative attitude toward women in Egypt, Eryan says female candidates will run for the newly allotted slots reserved for women parliamentarians.

And the group is uniquely situated in a country where the government has placed a growing number of curbs on public discourse.

Media publisher Hesham Kassem, who has faced harassment from authorities for his work, explains.

"They are probably the only organized force because secular and legitimate parties are not allowed access to the street," he said. "Once they start working there is harassment from the regime. But with the Brotherhood, they work through mosques and the regime cannot close down mosques. So they manage to get more traction and more work done more than any of the other parties."

That work includes educational, social and medical help to the nation's poor, filling yawning gaps left by the vast but often inefficient Egyptian bureaucracy.

Such charity has gone a long way to raise doubts about the way the government likes to portray the Brotherhood - radical extremists bent on destruction. The image is used both at home and abroad to justify some of the nation's more restrictive policies.

But publisher Kassem wonders, for all its persistence, how influential the Brotherhood really is.

"When you look at them organizationally, the Brotherhood do not exceed 100,000. In a country of 80 million, this is not really a grass roots movement," he said. "It's just the only movement that is allowed on the street. People seem to forget that the Brotherhood have been trying to get to power for almost 82 years now. It's not a very impressive C.V. as a political entity."

Frustration with the apparent lack of success is seen in increasingly outspoken younger members of the group, who have broken ranks in recent months over such issues as the boycott and other strategies.

Eryan takes the long view, noting that a succession of Egyptian leaders, including one-time ally and nationalist hero Gamal Abdel Nasser, have tried to keep the group down.

"We are not urgent. We are living. We are going to struggle more, sacrifice more, because we believe in such long life we accumulate points, maybe small points," he said. "But as a whole now, they cannot eradicate us. Nasser and Nasserism, and even Socialism and Communism, is something of history."

The Muslim Brotherhood leader says his group is not only in the present, "we are also in the future."

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
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 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 Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
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 Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
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 Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
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.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs