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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs