Egypt opposition group denies age dividing members

Muslim Brotherhood youth have recently caused a stir among older members by calling for a more inclusive and open group on their blogs [online journaling sites], dubbing the group’s slogan “Islam is the solution” as outdated, and asking for it to be changed.

While quick to point out that no rift exists between the powerful Islamic group’s junior and older members, Ibrahim Al Houdaiby, 23, the youngest board member for the opposition organization, said he believes young people represent a means of revitalizing the Brotherhood.

“We just didn’t believe in the slogan ’Islam is the solution’ and, as a board member, I brought it up,” Houdaiby told the Middle East Times.

He said that, while Mohammed Habib, a leading deputy within the organization, did not agree with the young bloggers, the would-be slogan changers had since accepted the group’s argument.

“As a democratic organization, we have to accept what the majority says, even if that is not what we had wanted,” Houdaiby continued.

Habib has recently struck back at the local press, which had argued the Brotherhood was too old and out of touch with the younger generation, using the bloggers and their reservations about the group’s slogan, as proof of such an age clash.

“Islam is a whole system. It is a complete system that consists of politics, literature, economics, [and so forth],” he argued.

“Hassan Al Banna [founder of the Brotherhood] said, ’if Islam is not politics, culture, economics, and a social system, then tell me, what is Islam?’ Therefore, you have to accept it as a whole. There is no such thing as political work separate from religion, or else we become like those who are different.”

Nonetheless, Somaya Al Erian, the daughter of leading Brotherhood member and spokesman, Essam Al Erian, recently posted on her blog that “life goes on,” adding that she wanted to see a time when the Brotherhood was more open toward all Egyptians. She also called for the end of using “Islam is the solution” as the group’s slogan.

Her father did not wish to comment on the specifics of his daughter’s posting, but noted to the Middle East Times that young people had a right to voice their opinions.

“They have a right to get out there and say what they want. We are not authoritarian, [but] democratic. In the end, if they stay with the group then they will have to accept what the majority wants,” he said.

The elder Erian also argued that there was no generation gap within the Brotherhood, adding that he agreed with Habib that discussion was vital for the group to move forward and establish itself as a “real democratic voice for the people.”

Houdaiby, speaking from Abu Dhabi, said he believed the bloggers would have a positive affect on older members, even though the Brotherhood’s slogan had not, ultimately, been changed. He maintained that without young people’s input in group decisions, the group would not be able to keep its connection with the people.

“If we are calling for change, that doesn’t mean that we have to have it … What we want is for the group to be more aware of what others around them are thinking and this can be a positive [thing] for the organization as a whole, to continue to work toward open and honest democratic principles.”

Earlier, a few local Egyptian dailies had called the government’s demand to expel Brotherhood candidates from the June 11 Shura Council election for campaigning under “Islam is the solution” a blessing for the group’s younger members who had wanted the slogan gone.

But Houdaiby argued that this was simply an attempt by the press to divide the group.

“We are strong and united and [even though] all these people can try and get to us … in the end, because we are democratic and moving forward in our calls for reform in this country, we will come out on top – and the young people, myself included, understand this.”

With the Shura Council’s first day of voting complete, the Brotherhood can look toward summer and attempt to resolve what could be a hindrance to group unity, though Habib remained adamant there was no rift due to a generation gap within the organization.

“There is simply no backing to the reports that the youth are rebelling against us,” he stressed.