Brotherhood Raises Syria Profile

News article, posted 05.20.2011, from Syria, in:
The Muslim Brotherhood tries to organize opposition to Assad regime as protests waver (Photo: Reuters)

The exiled Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, the only antiregime group to ever seriously challenge the Assad government, said it was trying to take a larger role in organizing the disparate opposition as Syria's street protests appear to wane.

The move from the banned and exiled group could capitalize on an apparent deadlock between protesters and President Bashar al-Assad's government, as opposition activists fail to coalesce into a solid front.

Despite years of shifting alliances and a recent internal struggle for leadership, the Syria Brotherhood's role as one of the oldest organized antigovernment movements could prove effective amid the power void of Syria's opposition. Israel fortifies borders and Jerusalem after protests on Nakba Day, killing 15. Video courtesy of Reuters.

"We have a desire to coordinate the position of the opposition," said Zuhair Salim, a spokesman for Syria's Brotherhood based in London, which is loosely affiliated with other Arab Muslim Brotherhood movements. "We are supporters, and not creators. The voice of the street is a spokesperson for itself."

His comments reflect a cautious position calibrated to avoid claiming leadership of a protest movement Mr. Assad's government has characterized as run by armed, extremist Islamist groups. The Brotherhood poses a particular problem for some of the antiregime activists trying to forge secular coalitions more in line with the street movement.

Mr. Salim has become increasingly vocal since the Brotherhood in late April backed the protest movement, appearing on Arabic-language television programs to support what the group has called a "peaceful, popular intifada," or resistance.

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