Muslim Brothers ’not a worry’

Muslim Brothers ’not a worry’

The vice-president of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the banned Islamist movement whose gains shocked the country in Sunday’s elections, wrote in a British newspaper on Tuesday that there was no need to fear them.

Khairat el-Shatir wrote in The Guardian daily that democratic reforms could trigger a renaissance in Egypt.

Shatir wrote: “The violence that has erupted across Egypt in recent days is the result of government panic at the success of the Muslim Brotherhood – even in the rigged polls that pass for elections in the Arab world’s most populous country.

“Given the pressure for change, we mobilised to win more seats in the hope that these new elections would be more honest and free. We are committed to democracy and to respect fair election results, whatever the outcome.”

Viable political alternative

Election results so far showed that the movement “is seen by the public as a viable political alternative”.

Standing on independent platforms, 13 Islamist candidates won outright on Sunday, to add to the 34 already elected during the first phase of the general election.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it would have at least 41 candidates involved in run-offs next Saturday, as the Islamist movement remained on course to clinch a total of 100 seats when the month-long polls wrap up on December 7.

In the outgoing people’s assembly, President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party controlled 404 out of 454 seats, while the Muslim Brothers were the largest opposition force, but with only 15 seats.

Shatir wrote that the Brotherhood was seeking a limited role in parliament to create an effective parliamentary bloc.

Western governments

However, this was also due to “the possible reaction of a repressive government backed to the hilt by the United States and other Western governments”.

He argued: “What we want to do instead is trigger a renaissance in Egypt, rooted in the religious values upon which Egyptian culture and society is built.

“We believe that the domination of political life by a single political party or group, whether the ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood or any other, is not desirable.”

He said the Islamist movement hoped to contribute to achieving significant political and constitutional reforms and to much-needed social, cultural and economic reforms.

Shatir said: “The success of the Muslim Brotherhood should not frighten anybody: we respect the rights of all religious and political groups.

“Free and fair democratic elections are the first step along the path of reform toward a better future for Egypt and the entire region. We simply have no choice today, but to reform.”