Egypt’s Islamists well placed for any post-Mubarak phase
The Muslim Brotherhood, one of the Arab world’s oldest Islamist movements and Egypt’s largest opposition group, is well placed to play a prominent role as President Hosni Mubarak’s rule teeters on the brink of collapse.
The movement is active in the protest movement massing in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities on Tuesday in an attempt to persuade Mubarak that after 30 years it is time to go.
But decades of severe repression have taught the Brotherhood to move cautiously, and the movement is anxious to preserve the impression that the protesters are part of a broad-based movement of which the Islamists are just one part.
Ironically, if the Brotherhood does emerge with unprecedented power, some of the credit will be Mubarak’s. Like many other Arab autocrats friendly with the United States and Europe, Mubarak has deliberately given the Islamist movement space, though on a tight leash, so that he could pose as the only plausible bastion against an Islamist government.
Although the government calls the Brotherhood a banned organization, it has let the movement open offices, make statements and field candidates in parliamentary elections.
The U.S. and European governments fell into the trap set by Mubarak and have refused to make contact directly with the Brotherhood, for fear of angering the Egyptian government.