BEIRUT, March 10—The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has begun to scale back its political engagement because the results have been few, government repression continues, and other opposition groups mistrust the movement. Instead it will focus on a traditional religious, educational, and social agenda. The consequence will be an even greater lack of political competition, according to a new paper by Amr Hamzawy and Nathan J. Brown.
In a detailed profile of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities over the last decade, Hamzawy and Brown examine the Brotherhood’s relations with the Mubarak regime and other opposition groups, its legislative priorities and accomplishments, and its internal debate over the value of political participation.
- For the last ten years, the Brotherhood focused on political reforms and socioeconomic legislation, largely at the expense of its moral and religious agenda—a strategy now under criticism as the movement suffers increased suppression and has few legislative accomplishments.
- While the Brotherhood is unlikely to renounce political activity altogether, recent internal party elections saw advocates for political participation ousted. The newly-elected head of the movement, Muhammad Badi, is known for emphasizing the movement’s moral and religious activities.
- The Brotherhood has had limited success building ties with other opposition movements, despite its de-emphasis on its moral and religious agenda. Lingering mistrust between Islamists and non-Islamist parties, plus the Brotherhood’s reluctance to join protests (for fear of incurring further crackdowns), has left the movement isolated.
- The international community is unlikely to protest the restrictions placed upon the Brotherhood by the government. While enjoying increased international acceptance and respect—a result of a concerted outreach effort following the September 11 attacks—the Brotherhood is aligned with political forces (like Hamas) deemed counter to Western interests.
“With the Brotherhood’s retreat, a fleeting opportunity that seemed to arise in the middle of the decade for building a more pluralistic political system and for an open political contest between competing visions for Egypt’s future appears to have been lost,” the authors conclude.
- Amr Hamzawy, research director and senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, is a distinguished Egyptian political scientist who has written extensively on the role of Islamist movements in Arab politics.
- Nathan J. Brown is a professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University, a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, and a distinguished scholar and author of four well-received books on Arab politics.
The Carnegie Middle East Center is a politically independent think tank concerned with the challenges of political and socio-economic development, peace, and security in the greater Middle East. It works in coordination with Carnegie's Middle East Program to provide analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. Carnegie also offers the Arab Reform Bulletin, a monthly analysis of political reform in the Middle East.
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