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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs