The Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership challenge a milestone

The Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership challenge a milestone

The supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mohamed Mahdi Akef, has decided to step down at the end of his first term in January 2010 in what blogger and activist Ibrahim al-Houdaiby calls “an important milestone for the largest opposition group in Egypt.” 

In his article Brotherhood Faces Leadership Challenge for the Arab Reform Bulletin Houdaiby explains why it’s unlikely a reformist will be chosen as a successor and why the MB might just wait until the 2010 parliamentary and 2011 presidential elections since that is seen as a potential turning time for several key leaders who have been jailed following what many human rights observers called sham trials at secret military tribunals. Houdaiby gives two explanations for why this decision marks a milestone:

“First, whoever the successor is, he will not enjoy the same historical legitimacy as Akef, who joined the Brotherhood at an early stage and worked with its founder, Hassan al-Banna. All of the potential replacements belong to another generation and lack the gravitas of Akef and his predecessors, which helped them resolve or at least postpone some organizational disputes.

The second reason is that Akef, who presided over a major political opening of the group in which its various intellectual orientations were clearly manifested, has the ability to manage diversity. This has been clear in his relations with leaders of the organization’s different currents and generations and his ability to bridge gaps between them. No candidate for the post seems to possess this skill, except perhaps Deputy Guide Khairat al-Shater, whose chances seem nil because he is currently imprisoned.”

Shater indeed would be an interesting choice. His children are very active in the new media realm, and have been at the forefront of cyberactivism as it relates to the Muslim Brotherhood.

His daughter Zahra has led the campaign among bloggers and reached out to journalists and human rights organizations to support her father and condemn the tribunals. Children of the imprisoned leaders created a blog called Ensaa some years ago to track information on the secret trials and other issues related to their fathers’ imprisonments. Since only families were allowed to visit the prison or attend the trial, and only sometimes, they were the only ones in a position to provide information and coverage on the trails and thus to the mainstream media.