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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid