US media is reporting on splits within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, including both the leaders of the youth wing and a popular leader who left in order to run for the Presidency. According to a New York Times report:
Leaders of the youth wing of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have split with their elders to form an independent political party, deepening the fractures within the group as some of its prominent members move toward a more centrist and liberal version of Islamist politics. The new group, the Egyptian Current Party, is expected to advocate the separation of religion from politics, the protection of individual freedoms and the embrace of Islamic morals and culture without the enforcement of Islamic religious law. Its founders, including Islam Lotfy, Mohamed el-Kasaas and Mohamed Abbas, were among the young leaders of the Egyptian revolution and broke with the Brotherhood to help lead the first day of the protests that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood, an 83-year-old group with offshoots and followers around the world, flourished here in its home country by combining religious and charitable work with opposition to the secular dictatorship. In the wake of the revolution here, it established its own political party, Freedom and Justice. The group says it advocates a civil and democratic state within what members often call an Islamic framework. But it has been vague about its ultimate goals, without embracing individual freedoms or secular government as fully as the Brotherhood youth. The announcement of the new party closely follows the Brotherhood’s decision to expel a popular and liberal Brotherhood leader, Abdel Monim Abou el-Fotouh. He was ousted after he announced an independent campaign for president of Egypt in defiance of the Brotherhood’s promise to stay out of the first election to succeed Mr. Mubarak. Dr. Abou el-Fotouh is widely admired by the Brotherhood youth.
Egyptian media has shed further light on the splits. According to a report by Al-Masry Al-Youm:
The memberships of around 4000 Muslim Brotherhood youths who joined Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh’s presidential election campaign, have been frozen, according to several Brotherhood youths. Meanwhile, Brotherhood members of the 25 January Revolutionary Youth Coalition who joined the recently announced “Egyptian Current Party” have asserted that the Brotherhood has begun taking steps to expel them from the group. The party was created by young Brothers in defiance of the Muslim Brotherhood’s senior leadership. “Our membership in the group has been frozen, and I’ve started not attending weekly meetings. All the Brotherhood youth who joined the campaign, about 4000 in all, have also had their memberships frozen. Of those, several have been expelled from the group,” said Bassam Qutb, a Brotherhood youth official responsible for managing Abouel Fotouh’s campaign in Beheira Governorate’s Kaffar village. “A number of Brothers, like Ahmed Salam, were founding members of the Freedom and Justice Party, but Ahmed, who is now an official for Abouel Fotouh’s campaign, left the party in order to join the campaign,” said Qutb. He said that a large number of Brothers stand behind the campaign to elect Mohamed Salim al-Awa, in response to the Abouel Fotouh campaign. A number of them also initiated Facebook pages supporting Awa, and the group did not investigate them or freeze their memberships, he contended. “I know of our expulsion, even though there was never any investigation. However, we haven’t been informed of the decision as of yet. We are devoted to the group and our work in it, and we have an Islamic and brotherly idea like Sheikh Yosef al-Qaradawi,” said Maaz Abdel Karim, another Brotherhood member in the 25 January Revolutionary Coalition.
The reference to Youssef Qaradawi should suggest some caution as to the “liberal” credentials of the breakaway movement. Qaradawi, a virulent anti-Semite is often referred to here as the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood, an acknowledgement of his role as the de facto spiritual leader of the movement Considered to be the “spiritual guide” for Hamas, Qaradawi’s and his fatwas in support of suicide bombings against Israeli citizens were instrumental in the development of the phenomenon. A recent post has discussed a video compilation of Qaradawi’s extremist statements.