Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood feels its time has come
After waiting 83 years, the Muslim Brotherhood finally senses a chance to be at the centre of how Egypt is governed and the Islamists hope to lead the renaissance of a nation which has suffered a steep economic and political decline.
That ambition above all else will define the next steps of a group which owes its survival to pragmatism. The Brotherhood will likely carry on treading lightly, hoping to ease fears at home and abroad over its vision for the new Egypt.
A strong Brotherhood showing in elections which began this week has brought the country closer to a prospect unthinkable just a year ago: a government influenced and possibly even led by a group outlawed under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Headed by doctors, engineers and teachers, the Brotherhood’s slogan is “Islam is the solution”. Yet it talks the same language as other reformists when it comes to the need for democracy, an independent judiciary and social justice in Egypt.
Its critics say such language masks their goals of turning Egypt into an Islamic state by stealth, curbing freedoms for 80 million people who include some eight million Christian Copts.
At the group’s office, a simple apartment building in a residential district on the Nile, one of the group’s leaders outlines a political programme that has triggered comparisons with moderate Islamist groups elsewhere in the region.
“Now is the time for us to build a modern country, a modern state of law, a democratic state,” said Essam al-Erian, a doctor who was a political prisoner when Mubarak was deposed in February, and who is also a leader of the Brotherhood’s newly-founded political party.
He rejected a comparison between his movement and Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, which has Islamist roots. “I hope we can give a different model,” Erian told Reuters in an interview.
“We hope that when we build a modern democratic country in Egypt this will be a good example, inspiring others to build democracy,” he added.