Something to hide? Yes, for now. The appearance of moderation is a means to an end. After all, “war is deceit.” More on this story. “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood mutes its religious message for protests,” by Jeffrey Fleishman for the Los Angeles Times, January 31:
The medical students marched and sweated in protest.
“The fear is broken,” yelled Bahaa Mohammed. “We want freedom.”
“And Islam,” said his friend. “We need Islam.”
Aww, dude! Shh! Not now!
“Yes,” said Mohammed, hushing the young man. “But first freedom and the will of the people.”
The exchange in the streets of Cairo between the students, both members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, is a telling glimpse into the Arab world’s largest Islamic organization as it joins other opposition groups seeking to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood is muting its religious message amid a popular revolt that is not driven by Islam or politics.
The organization’s strategy became more apparent Sunday when it announced support for opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei as a transitional president if the Mubarak government is toppled. The move was recognition that ElBaradei, a secularist with Western democratic principles, is the most potent symbol for change in a nation desperate for fresh voices.
“The revolution does not belong to any one group,” said Esam Shosha, a movement member. “We are one country. It’s not just about the Brotherhood, at least not now; it’s about all Egyptians.”
Whether that attitude survives in a post-Mubarak era is uncertain, but it suggests that after a week of uprisings the Brotherhood understands the emerging dynamics of Egypt. The organization, which runs religious and social programs across the country, believes that backing ElBaradei for now is the best chance to further its political ambitions.
“They don’t want to appear as if they’re using this revolt to seize power,” said Wahid Abdul Magid, an analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “What they want is free and fair elections to allow them to take power transparently. This would show their real popularity in the Egyptian street.”
The question is whether the organization’s religious agenda fits easily into an Egypt that is more tolerant and susceptible to Western-style liberalism and hip TV preachers. The Brotherhood’s beliefs are moderate when compared with many of the world’s more militant Muslim organizations. But it rejects the idea that a woman or a Christian could be president of a Muslim country, and would tilt the nation’s laws toward stricter Islamic codes. And it would certainly ban alcohol and topless beaches at the resort of Sharm el Sheik.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has always been a concern for secular and even religiously devoted Egyptians because of fear that their Islamic ideology could damage the country’s image and hurt tourism,” said Emad Gad, a political analyst. […]
Not to mention basic civil rights.
What surprised the Brotherhood and other traditional opposition groups was a protest movement without slogans, news releases and position papers. It came from the people, students and middle class at first, then swelling across economic and social lines. It has forced the organization to recalibrate its message in a world where the old boundaries have shifted.
That may not be easy.
“A Christian Copt or a woman cannot be president of a Muslim nation,” said Shosha, a broad-shouldered man, who sat in the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo watching the protests on TV. “This is a religious point, not a political one. But it will be the Muslim leader’s role to protect the rights of Copts and women.”…
No thanks. Not now, not ever.