News / Middle East

Muslim Brotherhood Parliament Speaker Creates Worries for Some

Saad el-Katatni embraces another member of parliament after being nominated by the Freedom and Justice Party for the post of the Parliament speaker, 23 Jan. 2012
Saad el-Katatni embraces another member of parliament after being nominated by the Freedom and Justice Party for the post of the Parliament speaker, 23 Jan. 2012

Egypt's newly elected interim People's Assembly met for the first time Monday, amid heated debate over whom to elect as its new speaker. Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Saad Katatni, won the post.  The Brotherhood won 235 seats in the 498 seat chamber.  That is causing worries in some quarters.

The dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood in the new parliament leadership has some Egyptians concerned because of the group's longstanding positions on issues like women's rights, minority rights, and Islamic shariah law.

The Brotherhood, whose slogan is “Islam is the solution,” won 47 percent of the vote in three rounds of parliamentary elections, stunning some secular observers. Egyptian publisher Hisham Kassem, a long-time democracy advocate, admits to having been taken by surprise by the strong showing of Islamic fundamentalist groups.

“I never was so off-track as I was with my forecast for the parliamentary elections. I didn't see the Salafi party having any presence. I forecast 10 seats for them and I didn't think the [Muslim] Brotherhood would exceed 20 percent," said Kassem.

Egypt's fundamentalist Salafi party, the Hezb al-Nour or Party of Light, wants the clock to be turned back and life to be lived as it was in the time of Islam's prophet during the Seventh Century. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis agree on some points, but disagree on others.

Hisham Kassem stresses that he's not afraid to live under Muslim Brotherhood leadership, so long as the group abides by several key rules.

"I have fought for free elections and believe in them and this has been the outcome, and even though this is not my political persuasion, I accept it and we need to engage politically with the Brotherhood and hope that they will abide [by] good governance and rotation of power, and that they will hold an election, when it's time for a next election," said Kassem.

Top Muslim Brotherhood figures have met with U.S. officials in recent weeks, including Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson. Many observers say that the Brotherhood does not want to adopt any extreme positions, so as to frighten the international community.

Omar Ashour, who teaches political science at Britain's University of Exeter, argues that the Brotherhood wants to maintain good relations with both the international community and the country's ruling military council.

"Any confrontation with the international community will reflect badly on the economy and a clash with the military will reflect badly on politics. So, I think what they will try to do is avoid a clash with these two big entities and it doesn't really matter if they have the house speaker. They are trying to avoid being in the front line, too visible and holding direct responsibility," he said.

Egypt's new interim People's Assembly will play a prominent role in writing the country's new constitution. Many secularists fear that a heavily Islamic assembly will try to impose Islamic shariah law on the country. Ashour, however, believes that the Muslim Brotherhood has more important issues to deal with right now than tackling the divisive issue of shariah law.

"I think they have other priorities at the moment," said Ashour. "They need to consolidate power in the parliament, to influence the constitutional assembly that will be formed. They will need to be very influential in terms of constitutional crafting. They will need to focus on the military establishment, on one side they don't want to confront, but on the other side they don't want it to have too much influence in politics because it will undermine them. So, they have too many battles and I don't think the shariah battle is going to be fought unless there's a bit of outbidding from the Salafi side and they will have to say something to their audience."

Christian Egyptian telecom mogul Najib Sawiris, who heads the country's Free Egyptian Party which won 9 percent of the seats in parliament, has said in the past that he was categorically opposed to the imposition of shariah law on Egyptians.

Still others who belong to Egypt's business community or the secular bourgeoisie worry that shariah law will irrevocably change the country's character, forbidding consumption of alcohol, forcing women to wear Islamic veils, imposing strict segregation of the sexes and imposing Islamic banking on the financial sector.

Despite recent assurances from several Islamic Brotherhood figures that the group will not make draconian changes to Egypt's style of life, some businessmen are said to have been quietly trying to take their money out of the country, and some Christians and Western-educated individuals have been quietly emigrating.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs