News / Middle East

    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood: Longtime Outsiders as New Establishment?

    The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party candidate Amr Zaki, left, is speaking to Cairo residents, November 26, 2011.
    The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party candidate Amr Zaki, left, is speaking to Cairo residents, November 26, 2011.
    Elizabeth Arrott

    The Muslim Brotherhood is considered likely to be the biggest beneficiary of Egypt's first post-revolution elections - a nationwide vote for parliament that begins Monday. But the Brotherhood has an image problem: it is considered too radical by some abroad, and too accommodating by some at home. 

    If it is a politician's goal to appeal to the widest base, then Muslim Brotherhood candidate Amr Zaki is very good at his job. His core issue, unsurprisingly, is Islam - Islam as the center of all things political, economic and social.

    Encompassing society

    Egyptian Election Process

    • Under guidelines established by Egypt's interim military rulers, the elections for the People's Assembly (lower house of parliament) begin on the 28th.
    • The election process for the lower house will take place in three stages in different administrative districts in December and January. Each district will have two days of voting.
    • Elections for the Shura, the upper house, begin on January 29 and will end in March.
    • The newly elected assembly will then write a new constitution.
    • The ruling military council says a presidential election will be held before July 2012. The voting will pave the way for Egypt's transfer to civilian rule.

    "It's all encompassing", he repeats to the crowd gathered in this working-class Cairo district - Islam is all encompassing. But the man some fear represents a step backward for women and religious minorities shares the stage at this rally with a female community organizer and a neighborhood Christian priest.

    "Your church," he tells the priest in welcome, "is valued by us as much as our mosques." And as a counterpoint to Western fears of an Islamist ascendancy after the Arab Spring, Zaki switches to English with a message of pragmatism for the foreign media in the front row.

    "In first priority, in our proceedings in party, how we can build, how we can build the Egyptian people," he says.

    Zaki, an urban planner with business interests abroad, combines what many people here in Egypt seem to want: middle-class prosperity - he outlines housing developments, industrial centers, new hospitals - while retaining a deep religious faith. It's an accommodating stance that appeals to many in the voting district - a warren of crowded, narrow streets where children run with abandon and a goat wanders, looking for a meal.

    "They are very moderate and they can accept all the currents and they can accept all the groups of the society, OK? And they have a very good program," said Wael Lofti, an English teacher and Brotherhood supporter.

    Track record

    The question is, will they stay that way? Long-time dissident and political analyst Hisham Kassem says most political forces don't think so.

    "In the past, Mubarak's opposition, where I come from, did not trust the Brotherhood because of their track record of reneging on deals," said Kassem. "Once they are in a position of power, their discourse changes completely, and their attitude in negotiations."

    The accusation of opportunism has cropped up again in recent days in the Brotherhood's dealings with the ruling military council, some say at the expense of its opponents on Tahrir Square. It's a charge Zaki dismisses.

    "There is no relation between us and the army," said Zaki. "This is not true."

    And while the Brotherhood has been largely missing from the latest round of demonstrations, Zaki expresses support for the protesters.

    "I first give a good attention and appreciate their efforts in Tahrir," he said. "And they understand the Muslim Brothers is going to put the effort in the right direction."

    Election performance

    Analyst and publisher Kassem says that with all its promises, the Brotherhood has stretched itself too thin.

    "I don't think the Brotherhood will have a very impressive performance in the elections,"he said. "I think they'll end up with more seats as a party, but not enough to form a government, and nobody will enter a coalition with them."

    But on one thing both Kassem and Zaki agree: elections are the only way forward.

    "The election is a good chance for our country," said Zaki. "We need to proceed with it, to finalize it. We need to proceed to press this part of our history."

    Whatever the Brotherhood's future direction, for this election, Zaki has embraced the spirit of the process.

    You May Like

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Mali, a Way Station for Syrians Headed to Europe

    Another door may be closing for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, this time in Africa

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora