Last Updated: Fri May 27, 2011 08:46 am (KSA) 05:46 am (GMT)

Insight / Farrag Ismail: Will secularists and Copts in Egypt support ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ option?!

Egyptian Muslim brotherhood Shura council members gather to be photographed outside the new Muslim brotherhood headquarters in Cairo. (File photo)
Egyptian Muslim brotherhood Shura council members gather to be photographed outside the new Muslim brotherhood headquarters in Cairo. (File photo)

Three months after the dusk of president Hosni Mubarak’s regime, it seems that the Islamist trends are the biggest beneficiaries.

Few days ago, the Muslim Brothers inaugurated a classy headquarters in the Cairo neighbourhood of al-Muqattam, carrying their well-known name and slogan—the two crossing swords over the Quran and the word “Gather” is encrypted between their handles, which is the beginning of the famous Quran verse that says: “And gather all your force and horse power.”

The ceremony was attended by an elite of politicians and representatives of different trends in the society, including the Copts. Former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who is a candidate in the forthcoming presidential election, was also present.

Before February 11—on which Mr. Mubarak stepped down—the Muslim Brothers had only one way leading them to prison. Their elections to choose their guide were always held from so far a distance, or else they would be arrested.

Ever since their famous crisis with late president Gamal Abdul Nasser, after the failed attempt—or the fake attempt—to assassinate him in Mansheya neighborhood in Alexandria in 1954, they have been called the “banned” group. They kept that title even after late president Anwar al-Sadat released them from prison and allowed their guide at that time, sheikh Omar al-Telmesany, to sit with them and chat over the affairs of the state and the society.

Within the past two years, with the increase of the influence of Mr. Mubarak’s son, Gamal, and his loyalists in the Policies Committee of the-then ruling National Democratic Party, most of the state-run newspapers stopped short of writing their name frankly and they only used the “Banned” group.

The month that preceded each and every parliamentary election used to be their worst month. They usually packed and waited for the usual dawn visitor (police) whom they knew very well. That visitor usually accompanied them to prison, where they are kept as a precautionary measure to weaken their parliamentary candidates, who usually ran the elections independently.

Now, with less than three months left before the first parliamentary election is held—according to the power-transition plan laid down by the military council on which the Egyptians voted in a public referendum—the former “banned” group appears as the first and main playmaker who is capable of gaining as much seats as they needed. However, they decide to run for 49% only. In other words, they would half enough seats to halt any legislations or decisions that they do not approve, but they will not have the majority that would allow them to form the government.

The new thing is that the Muslim Brothers are not the only ones who are making use of the Islamist trend, after declaring their new party “Liberty and Justice”. The Jihadists—to whom Al Qaeda’s coming leader Ayman al-Zawahry belongs—declared their own party “Peace and Development” which will run in the election as well.

The head of the party, Dr. Kamal al-Said Habeeb, and many of the party’s leaders spent long years behind bars over the assassination of Sadat.

Furthermore, the Wasat Party whose members used to belong to the Muslim Brothers in the past and the Labor Party—which has an Islamist approach—whose leader Magdy Hussein has recently returned from Tehran after a visit that followed his announcement that he will run for the presidential election.

The Islamist group, to which the conspirators and assassins of Sadat belong, elected a shura council and announced that it will declare a political party that will take part in the next election. All its members were behind bars during Mubarak’s regime. Some of its members were releases after they changed some of their intellectual beliefs and deserted violence, but the former State Security shunned them from practicing politics.

According to the secular and liberal elite—who are very keen to protect their civil state—regard these Islamist trends as very few in comparison to the Salafis who invaded the Egyptian politics powerfully.

The leaders of the Salafis—including Sheikh Mohammed Ismail al-Moqaddem, Yasser Burhami and Abdul Muniem al-Shahat—as well as their preachers—including Sheikh Mohammed Hassan, Mohammed Hussein Yaqoub and Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini—reflect a fundamental strategy that sticks hard to all concepts and teachings of Islamic jurisprudence regarding the state ruling system and its relation to the society. Their beliefs are regarded by the political elite as contradicting with the civil state and citizenship.

Despite that, the Salafis took part in the referendum on the constitutional amendments and they affected the results. One of their preachers, Sheikh Yaqoub, created a big controversy when he described the victory achieved by the supporters of the constitution amendments as “the battle of boxes.”

In face of such a variety of Islamist trends, other parties that have long history in the Egyptian parliamentary life—such as al-Wafd Party that formed several governments before the 1952 Revolution—are being retarded.

Those parties link their future with one thing only, namely their attempt to persuade the Military Council to postpone the election or change the power-transition plan through creating a new constitution before holding any election.

If the election is held in its scheduled time, according to the latest constitutional amendments, the Islamist parties might get the biggest number of seats in the parliament. This scares the Liberals and the Copts in Egypt. Thus, the only option that they might have is to accept the Muslim Brothers, especially they have announced their support to the civil state and taking Turkey as a model in this regard.

Prominent Coptic billionaire Najuib Sawiris, who has recently founded the Free Egyptians Party, said: “We need Egyptian in the Turkish model and not the Iranian one.”

When such a phrase comes from the founder of a rich party that will compete on the parliamentary majority—with the membership of the Egyptian-US activist Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim—so this means that the “Muslim Brothers” option might be the preferred one at the end.

(Farrag Ismail is the Editorial Manager of, he can be reached at:

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