Egyptain opposition .. diversity and hopes for unity

Egyptain opposition .. diversity and hopes for unity

Can Egyptian Opposition Groups Unite?
Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt — They share podiums and air the same grievances, but
Egypt s opposition and pro-reform activists are an eclectic mix of groups
whose ideologies span the spectrum from Islamic to secular, liberal to

Their strength — a diversity that gives their cause more weight and
greater appeal to a broader base — could perhaps be their weakness as

They agree there needs to be change, and they have the same general
demands, but their views sometimes diverge when it comes to priorities,
tactics and the little details, raising questions on whether loose
alliances struck recently can hold and whether deep-seated ideological
differences can be overcome.

"They agree on what they want to change. But they don t agree on the
alternative," said Osama el-Ghazali Harb, a member of the parliament s
upper house.

It s a problem other opposition movements in the region are facing.
Lebanon s anti-Syrian factions forged an unlikely alliance of disparate —
and in some cases rival groups — to drive Syria out. Now that the
military withdrawal is complete, the coalition has showed signs of

"Kifaya" or "Enough," a reform movement bringing together different
opposition groups, including the leftist Tagammu party and the Muslim
Brotherhood, is one example. Supporters say that the formation of such a
diverse group is in itself a victory for the idea of change.

"We don t have political differences because the goals uniting us are
clear: democracy, freedom and citizenship rights," said George Ishak, a
leading member.

But already, tensions are threatening alliances.

On Tuesday, Tagammu s secretary-general Hussein Abdel Razik said his
party would end cooperation with the movement unless Kifaya apologized
for comments made by one of its leading members said to have accused
Tagammu leaders of striking deals with the government.

Ishak said the critical member was expressing his own opinion and added
that Tagammu s leader had insulted Kifaya before, but then said he
wanted the group to rise above such differences.

In recent weeks, the banned but popular Muslim Brotherhood also
criticized the way Kifaya is doing business.

In a May interview with the respected Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper,
Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef accused Kifaya of being
"sharp-tongued," adding the group s slogans against President Hosni Mubarak were

By calling for an end to Mubarak s lengthy rule, Kifaya was reaching
for a goal beyond its means, said Brotherhood member Ali Abdel-Fattah,
who is also a Kifaya member.

Some wonder about the Islamic group s intentions, and whether the
Brotherhood is riding the wave of reform to soften its image.

"We re worried that the Muslim Brotherhood might want to impose its
ideologies on society. They take advantage of the fact that the
constitution stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state," said Abdel
Razik of the Tagammu.

Some experts say the Brotherhood has survived successive Egyptian
governments by treading a fine line in its confrontations with authorities
to avoid a full-blown crackdown. Long seen as politically active with
its community involvement, the Brotherhood has won more support, in
contrast to some stagnating legal parties.

Abdel-Fattah argued that Kifaya, whose protests attract relatively
small crowds but grab attention because of their colorful slogans and bold
demands, "can only live for a certain period of time because its
ambitions and goals are bigger than its capabilities."

Abdel Razik said that if each group refrained from imposing its
thoughts, they all could coexist.