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 On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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