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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid