Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Muslim Brotherhood: Who? Where? And what role and demands?

By Sonia Verma, Globe and Mail, January 31, 2011
At first, some analysts wrongly assumed the Brotherhood was playing puppet master to the protesters.

Its members are often imprisoned for speaking and its very existence is outlawed. The truth, however, is that the young, Internet-savvy Egyptians who used Facebook and Twitter to mobilize are overwhelmingly secular.
They view the Brotherhood as passé, in some cases part of the very establishment they are fighting to sweep aside. The Brotherhood, meanwhile, was caught off-guard.
Asked why the group didn’t take part in the first massive demonstration which coincided with Police Day, a senior member of the Brotherhood told The New York Times they didn’t want to desecrate a national holiday.
“We should all be celebrating together,” Essam El Erian said. The Brotherhood subsequently issued a flurry of mixed messages. First, they refused to collectively back the protesters, then they condoned individual members to march. Two days later, the Brotherhood called out all of its membership onto the streets. Now they want an official role in any new government....
Mr. Mubarak has made clamping down on the Islamists a major focus for his government. Last week, he denounced them for infiltrating the protests with looters, and accused them of fomenting unrest. But while the Brotherhood is officially banned, it has been quietly allowed to operate within limits for years.

Analysts, as well as those on the street, have begun to ponder an end to the Brotherhood, as well as Mr. Mubarak. They say both forces have historically fed off of each other and would be equally irrelevant if Egypt begins a new chapter.
Brotherhood around the world

Gaza: The Palestinian organization Hamas, which governs the Gaza portion of the Palestinian territories, is officially recognized in the Brotherhood’s charter as its Palestinian branch.
Sudan: Politics in Sudan have long been closely linked to Egypt, and several high-ranking members of Omar al-Bashir’s government in Sudan are Brotherhood members.
Jordan: The Brotherhood-aligned Islamic Action Front party is tolerated by the monarch. The party had the largest number of seats in a toothless parliament dominated by independents until 2010 elections, which they said were unfair and boycotted.
Iraq: The Iraqi Islamic Party, which evolved out of the Brotherhood, was part of government after the 2005 election, but its members have now been split among several parties.
Syria: Membership in the Brotherhood has been a capital offence since 1980, and the movement has been largely underground since being crushed in the 1982 Hama uprising and subsequent massacre that left thousands dead.
Algeria: The Movement for the Society of Peace party, which has its roots in the Brotherhood, is part of the governing coalition.
There are some western sources who claim that AlQaeda and The Muslim Brotherhood are enemies.
There are others, like Richard Clark, formerly a member of the National Security team in Washington, who say that AlQaeda is waiting to establish a government in many of the middle eastern countries that is opposed to the interests of the U.S. Whether that includes the Muslim Brotherhood seems uncertain.
The spectre of a monolithic group of single-minded Islamist states, dependent on the votes of the people for their stablity, all of them speaking and acting with a single voice seems a little remote to this observer. However, the fear generated in the west by the developing story in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and perhaps other countries, given the contempt for the U.S. that is common in the region, is palpable.
As one young Egyptian put it, "The U.S. always sides with the winner, the power winner, and not with the poeple and that's why we hate the U.S."
It is the U.S. umbrella over the state of Israel that is causing must uncertainty in many quarters It appears that one of the issues facing the next several months and years in the Middle East, is the future of the state of Israel, if reports can be believed that Muslims of many stripes and colours do not support the peace treaty between Mubarak and Israel. And the Muslim Brotherhood is alleged to be among those in that camp.
Millions of Muslims, even in different countries, with different governments, could still appear like a tsunami to the relatively small, if effective and certainly intelligent and courageous, government and people of Israel.
And the U.S., along with others, is committed to the peace and security of that country while Iran, for one, as quite possibly others, are publicly and unequivocally committed to the destruction of Israel.
As the rabbi in Montreal whose home was recently vandalized cried, "I do not understand why I am hated for being who I am!"
Neither do we understand why Israel is so hated for being what  and who she is.

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