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Egyptian Protests and the Muslim Brotherhood

By       Message Michaella Matt     Permalink
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Although the U.S. probably had a role in the source of the current protests in Egypt, the situation is ultimately heading towards creating a power vacuum which is most likely to be filled by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest organized opposition.



In a recent Pew poll conducted in Egypt prior to the outbreak of the protests, in response to the question "Do you suppport 'modernizers' or 'Islamists'?", 27% responded that they support modernizers, while 59% supported that they support Islamists. In other telling statistics, 49% of the population has a favorable attitude towards Hamas, 30% said the same for Hezbollah, while one in every 5 Egyptians feels positively towards Al Qaeda. Eighty-four percent of the Egyptian public support the death penalty for a Muslim who changes his religion, 77% support whippings and hands cut off for robbery, and 82% support stoning those who commit adultery.

In light of these statistics, to what extent are these protests 'democratic', and to what extent are Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters wearing its liberal mask for the enamored western media?

The Muslim Brotherhood has close relations with Hamas, which is currently ruling in the Gaza Strip. The following unconfirmed report was published on Saturday by STRATFOR, a geopolitical forecasting company:

The following is a report from a STRATFOR source in Hamas. Hamas, which formed in Gaza as an outgrowth of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB), has an interest in exaggerating its role and coordination with the MB in this crisis. The following information has not been confirmed. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of concern building in Israel and the United States in particular over the role of the MB in the demonstrations and whether a political opening will be made for the Islamist organization in Egypt.
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The Egyptian police are no longer patrolling the Rafah border crossing into Gaza. Hamas armed men are entering into Egypt and are closely collaborating with the MB. The MB has fully engaged itself in the demonstrations , and they are unsatisfied with the dismissal of the Cabinet. They are insisting on a new Cabinet that does not include members of the ruling National Democratic Party.

Security forces in plainclothes are engaged in destroying public property in order to give the impression that many protesters represent a public menace. The MB is meanwhile forming people's committees to protect public property and also to coordinate demonstrators' activities, including supplying them with food, beverages and first aid.

The Muslim Brotherhood, and its affiliate Hamas, are at the very least in danger of hijacking protests in Egypt. Speaking on Saturday in Egypt, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood leader warned that unrest could spread throughout the Arab world and topple leaders allied with the the West.

At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood is busy whitewashing its image in the Western press: "A new era of freedom and democracy is dawning in the Middle East and Arab world," Muslim Brotherhood veteran Kamel El-Helbawy said to reporters in London today. "That's more important than declaring that a 'new Islamist era is dawning', because I know Islamists would not be able to rule Egypt alone. We should and would cooperate -- Muslims, leftists, communists, socialists, secularists." El-Helwaby insists that an Islamist government would pose no threat to the West. This coming from an organization who states as its aim "eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabatoging its miserable house."

Is the West buying it? The Obama administration is currently supporting the protests' call for reforms, after pressure from analysts to not end up on the 'wrong side' (i.e. the 'left' side) of the conflict. In the media, the Daily Beast tells us not to fear the Muslim Brotherhood.

One thing is clear: Egypt is heading for a power vaccuum, and the Muslim Brotherhood is its largest organized opposition. The question is, where will Obama and the EU stand?
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Michaella Matt has a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories and has written for publications such as Tikkun Magazine and Perspectives: A Brown (more...)
 

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