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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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