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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.