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Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood struggles to contain cracks

Ahram Online explores the origins of growing splits within the Muslim Brotherhood that have led to expulsions and the emergence of factions

Salma Shukrallah, Tuesday 19 Jul 2011
Essam El-Erian
Senior Muslim Brotherhood member and deputy head of Freedom and Justice Party Essam El-Erian
Views: 5414
Views: 5414

The Muslim Brotherhood recently sacked several of its known youth leaders. While the main reason given for their expulsion is their formation of the new Egyptian Current party, not approved by the organisation, youth members say their dismissals have deeper roots.

Tensions between factions of the Brotherhood youth and leadership were first exposed during the January 25 Revolution, when the group officially boycotted the call for a revolution while its youth insisted on participating.

Muslim Brotherhood and Revolutionary Youth Coalition member Mohamed Osman explains, “we belonged to the students' section of the Brotherhood. We were already in contact with the different movements and we coordinated on 24 January in preparation for the events of January 25 despite the Brotherhood decision not to participate.”

After the ouster of Mubarak, this same group organised the first Muslim Brotherhood youth conference which was aired live on television and gathered hundreds to discuss different viewpoints of the organisation’s youth. 

However, the expulsions currently undertaken by the organisation imply that differences are not fully tolerated. Osman says that while several of the youth believed that change should come from within the Brotherhood and tried to push for reform that would represent the younger members’ vision, the organisation proved it was not that flexible.  

Osman says “reform within the Muslim Brotherhood proved impossible. Organisationally it is very difficult to go against the leadership’s views. This problem was not only faced by [the youth], but also by those who are more supportive of the views of Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh. It is also the case that the critical youth group is more in line with Aboul-Fotouh’s vision.”

Others supporting former senior Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh for presidential election have also been subject to expulsion, as well as those who joined the Nahda, another party not approved by the leadership. The Muslim Brotherhood had declared that members were not allowed to join a party other than Freedom and Justice and or support any presidential candidate.

However, the Brotherhood’s decision was obviously violated and several expulsions and resignations followed. Aboul-Fotouh was expelled after declaring his intended run for presidency. Senior member Mohamed Habib resigned to join the Nahda party, formed by former senior member Ibrahim El-Zafarany.  

“It is not about joining a different party than the main Freedom and Justice Party. They were looking for an excuse to expel us. They see us as Abou El-Fotouh’s people. Our analysis is different and so is our vision. The Brotherhood does not believe in revolutionary change only reform and to them the revolution so far has given them all they needed which is legal recognition. We want complete change from below…from the roots,” says Osman.

According to Osman, hundreds are currently facing interrogations. Those youth already expelled include Muslim Brotherhood youth figures Mohamed El-Kassas, Ahmed Abd El-Gawad and Islam Lotfy.

Lotfy refused to divulge reasons for his expulsion, describing it as “something of the past,” which he prefers not to talk about. Lotfy is also one of the main founders of the newly formed youth party the Egyptian Current. He says the party is not just composed of former or current Brotherhood youth, but is much more diverse. Members of the party include April 6 and Kifaya members, as well as many independents.

Lotfy also denies that the party supports Aboul-Fotouh’s presidential campaign, saying, “so far party members are supporting presidential candidates individually. Some support Aboul-Fotouh, others support Mohamed ElBaradei and some support Mohamed Selim El-Awa. Agreeing on a presidential candidate is not a priority now but maybe in the future the board will meet to reach a decision whether it will back up a specific candidate and who this candidate will be.”  

According to Egyptian Current’s website, the party is a “civil and democratic party, opened to others and in which ethics and religion play a guiding role.” The website also reads that membership is open to “any Egyptian who is free, open-minded, stands against rigid divisions, does not accept any idea without proof and is open to criticism, difference and diversity.”   

As was the case during the January 25 Revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood have officially refused to join the ongoing sit-in, described by some as the second wave of the revolution. On the other hand, the Egyptian Current party is participating, according to Lotfy. He says the party has joined the demonstrations aimed at upholding agreed-upon demands, including quick and fair trials of corrupt figures and those accused of killing demonstrators, cleansing corruption and enabling a new government free from former regime figures. 

“The sit-in will only end when people feel real change is happening,” Lotfy added.  

The idea of the party, according to Lofty, is not ideological. Rather it responds to people’s needs and tries to create a bridge between people’s demands and state policies.

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