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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More