Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The irresistible rise of the Muslim Brothers

An anti-government protester and member of the Muslim Brotherhood prays in front of soldiers at T
An anti-government protester and member of the Muslim Brotherhood prays in front of soldiers at Tahrir Square, Cairo, February 2011. Photograph: Getty Images
Fawas Gerges
The Statesman
November 28, 2011
For years, the west has feared the Muslim Brotherhood succeeding to the highest levels of Egyptian political power. With Islamists poised to win the lion’s share of seats in Egypt’s election, is the nightmare about to become reality?
Since the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February, a political struggle has raged in Egypt along ideological, generational and class lines. The fall of the authoritarian wall, built more than half a century ago, has led to a reawakening, a revival of mass politics and social mobilisation. In this context, although initially welcomed as saviours, Egypt's military rulers have miscalculated monstrously by resisting the transition to civilian rule and tightening their grip on power. Tens of thousands of Egyptians have risen in revolt against the military council in recent days, sending a clear message about the changed mood and the psychology of the people. At the same time, after decades of being outlawed and persecuted, religious activists, or Islamists, have emerged above ground as a pivotal force, openly mobilising their old supporters, who number in the millions, and recruiting new members.
Of all the Islamist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood has the broadest base, with a membership of about half a million and a formidable political machine. Founded in 1928, the organisation did not participate actively in the protests that drove Mubarak from power, but it has mobilised its followers ever since in a newly formed political party, Freedom and Justice. Positioning itself as a voice for the poor, a huge constituency representing almost half of Egypt's 82 million people, the Brotherhood aims to win 40 per cent of the seats in par­liamentary elections scheduled to begin on 28 November. Whatever the outcome, the Brotherhood will be a dominant player in post-Mubarak Egypt and will shape the country's domestic and international relations.
The Muslim Brotherhood's chance of gaining a majority of seats in the new assembly has alarmed Egyptian liberals and minorities and secularists, who fear that the organisation will impose rigid, regressive religious laws on society. They accuse the Muslim Brothers of paying lip-service to democratic principle and of plotting to hijack the secular state and replace it with sharia-based rule.
Read the complete article at the New Statesman

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