Muslim Brotherhood pulls back from Egyptian politics

Muslim Brotherhood pulls back from Egyptian politics

BEIRUT, March 10—The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has begun to scale back its political engagement because the results have been few, government repression continues, and other opposition groups mistrust the movement. Instead it will focus on a traditional religious, educational, and social agenda. The consequence will be an even greater lack of political competition, according to a new paper by Amr Hamzawy and Nathan J. Brown.

In a detailed profile of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities over the last decade, Hamzawy and Brown examine the Brotherhood’s relations with the Mubarak regime and other opposition groups, its legislative priorities and accomplishments, and its internal debate over the value of political participation.

Key Conclusions:

  • For the last ten years, the Brotherhood focused on political reforms and socioeconomic legislation, largely at the expense of its moral and religious agenda—a strategy now under criticism as the movement suffers increased suppression and has few legislative accomplishments.
  • While the Brotherhood is unlikely to renounce political activity altogether, recent internal party elections saw advocates for political participation ousted. The newly-elected head of the movement, Muhammad Badi, is known for emphasizing the movement’s moral and religious activities.
  • The Brotherhood has had limited success building ties with other opposition movements, despite its de-emphasis on its moral and religious agenda. Lingering mistrust between Islamists and non-Islamist parties, plus the Brotherhood’s reluctance to join protests (for fear of incurring further crackdowns), has left the movement isolated.
  • The international community is unlikely to protest the restrictions placed upon the Brotherhood by the government. While enjoying increased international acceptance and respect—a result of a concerted outreach effort following the September 11 attacks—the Brotherhood is aligned with political forces (like Hamas) deemed counter to Western interests.

“With the Brotherhood’s retreat, a fleeting opportunity that seemed to arise in the middle of the decade for building a more pluralistic political system and for an open political contest between competing visions for Egypt’s future appears to have been lost,” the authors conclude.