Egypt Keeps Muslim Brotherhood Boxed in ; Cairo Is Open to Political Reform, but Won't Include Islamic Group

By Dan Murphy writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 7, 2005 | Go to article overview

Egypt Keeps Muslim Brotherhood Boxed in ; Cairo Is Open to Political Reform, but Won't Include Islamic Group


Dan Murphy writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazief is explaining to a small group of reporters his government's commitment to democracy. He promises that restrictions on political parties will soon be eased to allow for real political competition.

But when asked if the regime will legalize the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most popular and best-organized opposition group, a bit of steel creeps into his congenial tone. "Never,'' he says. The Brotherhood "will never be a political party."

The Brotherhood - which has provided the intellectual seeds for peaceful Islamist political organizations throughout the world as well as Islamist terrorist groups - is at the center of calls for more democracy not just in Egypt, but in much of the Arab world.

And in this restless Arab spring, the 77-year-old organization, which favors Islamic law and says it's committed to democracy, has been roused from a public slumber. Worried that the proactive steps taken by secular Egyptian reformers like the Kifaya (Enough) Movement could cost the Brotherhood its position as Egypt's leading opposition movement has stirred the organization into action.

In recent months it has organized demonstrations and in turn been hit hard by the government. Thousands of leaders and activists have been arrested in the past two months and more than 800 remain in government custody. In an interview, senior Brotherhood leader Abdul Moneim Abul Futuh alleges one of the arrested, who has since been released, was "severely" tortured while in custody.

Brotherhood leaders say democracy isn't possible unless they and their vast constituency are allowed a voice. The Egyptian government is just as forceful in asserting that any system that allows them a route to power will end in a new form of dictatorship.

A violent past

In most of the Arab dictatorships, Islamist organizations are the principal opposition, and if they come to power are likely to dramatically reconfigure their societies and their relations with the US.

That unpredictable potential shift frightens not only entrenched regimes but the US and secular opposition groups. While the US has spoken out against Egyptian attacks on secular demonstrators, the words "Muslim Brotherhood" rarely pass US officials' lips in public. Both Arab regimes and secular opposition groups say the stated support for democracy by Islamists is a chimera.

The Brotherhood, which has branches in almost every Muslim country, favored assassination of political opponents and violent tactics in its early decades, but abandoned terrorism in the 1950s. It hasn't been involved in political violence in Egypt since, though it does support political violence by Palestinians and by Iraqis, which it views as legitimate resistance.

Egypt is not alone in outlawing the group. In Syria, where the local Brotherhood is one of the strongest opposition groups, the movement is illegal and membership is punishable by death.

On a day-to-day basis, the Brotherhood's leaders in Egypt have adopted a discourse of democracy - both practical and ideological, if their leaders are to be believed. "For the Brotherhood, the issue of freedom is at the top of our agenda now,'' says Mahdi Akef, the Muslim Brotherhood's soft-spoken supreme guide. "Freedom is at the heart - it's the principal part - of Islamic law."

According to Mr. Akef, the Brotherhood has evolved a fairly unusual view of Islamic law. Most Islamic orthodoxy holds that apostasy - leaving Islam - is a punishable crime, and is never to be allowed. But asked if his idea of freedom includes allowing a Muslim to choose another religion, or no religion at all, he says, "of course."

Yet almost every non-Islamist in Egypt fears them. "I'm not ready to sacrifice my nation to these people,'' says Said al-Kimmi, an author and historian of Islam who says he favors democracy for Egypt, but limits on religious parties.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Egypt Keeps Muslim Brotherhood Boxed in ; Cairo Is Open to Political Reform, but Won't Include Islamic Group
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.