Westerm media is reporting on what is described as “outrage” by Egyptian demonstrators at what is perceived to be concessions to the government made by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. According to one report:
Cairo – Three senior leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, all of whom have suffered arbitrary imprisonment and torture at the hands of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, sat shoulder to shoulder at a press conference in what should have been a moment of great triumph. Two Brothers had just come from the group’s first formal talks ever with a government that has hounded the Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest and best-organized opposition group, for generations. Along with secular democracy activists and reform-minded tycoons, they sought to present a united front for reform to Vice President Omar Suleiman, the former spymaster whose career was largely built on crushing Islamist movements. But the moment had a hint of a climbdown. The Brotherhood backed off its demand that Mr. Mubarak step down immediately and make other concessions, for apparently little concrete in return. Suddenly, the one clear demand uniting them with the youths in Cairo’s Tahrir Square – Mubarak’s resignation – was gone. The Sunday afternoon talks drew outrage in the square, where protesters described the Brother’s concessions as helping the establishment buy time and find a way to preserve one-party rule here beyond September elections, in which Mr. Mubarak has promised not to run. They also expressed concern that Mr. Suleiman was leading the reform movement into a trap. “I don’t know what [senior Brotherhood leader Esam el-]Erian is thinking, I really don’t,” said a secular protest leader, who’s spent years trying to bring the Brotherhood into a broader reform camp. “We all know who Suleiman is and what he’s capable of. This is splitting the Brotherhood and could leave all of us isolated and in danger.” The Brothers, ever cautious and aware that they bear the brunt of regime repression when they join protests, were slow to participate in the demonstrations that broke out on Jan. 25 and have struggled to craft a united front ever since. A sign of the split came soon after Mr. Erian, who has done at least eight stints in jail, and his two colleagues spoke. He declared the current parliament “illegitimate,” but said that the Brotherhood will give negotiations a chance to work, particularly regarding Mr. Suleiman’s promise of constitutional reform. “We wanted the president to step down but for now we accept this arrangement,” said Mohamed Saad El-Katatni, a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council. “It’s safer that the president stays until he makes these amendments to speed things up because of the constitutional powers he holds.” An influential Brotherhood member of the reform camp then took to Al Jazeera and appeared to contradict the official line. “The Muslim Brotherhood went with a key condition that cannot be abandoned … [Mubarak] needs to step down in order to usher in a democratic phase,” Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Futuh said on Al Jazeera. “If they were serious, the parliament would have been dissolved [and there would have been]a presidential decree ending the emergency law.” Egypt’s emergency laws have been in place since Mubarak took power in the wake of Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981. Ostensibly designed to deal with the militant Islamist movements behind Sadat’s murder, they have been used ever since to extrajudicially detain tens of thousands of people, from peaceful Brotherhood members to labor activists to human rights workers, and to override the orders of the Egyptian courts. Unlike the more complex question of constitutional reform, the emergency laws could be ended with the stroke of a pen. The fact that they remain, the hardcore of democracy activists say, is a sign of Suleiman’s ultimate intent.
It should be noted that the Muslim Brotherhood today has become a global network and that the Egyptian mother branch is not necessarily the most important part of the movement. Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, close to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, is often referred to by the GMBDW as the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood, an acknowledgement of his role as the de facto spiritual leader of the movement. In 2004, Qaradawi turned down the offer to lead the Egyptian Brotherhood after the death of the Supreme Guide.
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