FaithWorld

Vague agenda fuels doubts over real aims of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

(The Sphinx at the great pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo, February 25, 2011/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Few things better sum up Egypt’s uncharted future than the vague policy platform of the Muslim Brotherhood, a long-repressed Islamist movement poised to become a decisive force in mainstream politics. With the country’s military rulers reluctant to push through major reforms without a popular mandate, all eyes are on the emerging political class set free by the overthrow in February of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak.

None is likely to mobilise as much grassroots support as the Brotherhood, which has won the sympathy of millions of poor Egyptians by railing against venal politicians and campaigning for an Islamic state free of corruption. But with parliamentary elections looming, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party has sketched only the broadest outline of a manifesto. A pledge to do nothing that might harm Egypt’s floundering economy has barely reassured nervous investors.

“The Brotherhood has always been unclear on all its policies … It makes people wonder what is its real goal, and what to believe,” said Nabil Abdel Fattah, a researcher in the al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

The Brotherhood’s secular liberal enemies say the policy vacuum is understandable because telling the truth would betray an extremism that would make it unelectable. They say it would quickly ban alcohol consumption, sending an already troubled tourism sector into a tailspin, reverse women’s rights and deepen tension with Egypt’s Christian minority by enforcing a strict Islamic code, the first step towards a Muslim theocracy.

South Korea’s religious harmony put to the test by Christian president

(South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the presidential Blue House in Seoul June 9, 2011. Credit: Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak)

Many South Koreans concerned about the country’s increasing religious polarisation are haunted by a single image – their president on his knees. While attending a national prayer breakfast in March, President ??Lee Myung-bak knelt to pray at the urging of Christian leaders.

Footage of the event shocked many in this pluralist country, where about half the population professes no particular faith and the remainder is split between Buddhists, Christians and homegrown creeds. The main Buddhist Jogye Order called the scene “unforgiveable,” and even right-leaning media outlets generally supportive of the conservative leader expressed reservations.

“Mormon question” may again dog Mitt Romney’s U.S. presidential bid

(U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks to supporters in Detroit, Michigan June 9, 2011/Rebecca Cook)

Republican Mitt Romney has remade himself in a second run for U.S. president, with a leaner campaign apparatus and a message focused with laser-like precision on the nation’s economic problems. But the “Mormon question” still remains for the former Massachusetts governor: are Americans ready to put a Mormon in the White House?

Surveys suggest American voters are more accepting of the idea now than when Romney staged his first presidential run in 2008. But at the margins, many remain suspicious of Mormons. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found voters less comfortable with the idea of a Mormon president than having a leader of any religion other than a Muslim, or an atheist.

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood member says he will seek presidency

(he new headquarter of the newly-formed Muslim Brotherhood Party during a news conference in Cairo, April 30, 2011. The Muslim Brotherhood said on Saturday it will contest up to half the parliamentary seats in elections scheduled for September/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

A senior member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said he would run for president as an independent, a move that could draw votes from backers of the Islamist group that has said it will not field a candidate. Secular groups and the West are concerned by how much power the Brotherhood may gain after the first elections since the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak. Decades of authoritarian rule has curbed the development of potential rivals.

Egypt’s biggest Islamist movement had sought to assuage fears by saying it would not seek the presidency in polls due by early next year; nor would it pursue a majority in September parliamentary polls, contesting only 50 percent of seats.