Widening Gap between Conservatives and Liberals within the Muslim Brotherhood?

News article, posted 06.19.2011, from Egypt, in:
Noha El-Hennawy
Widening Gap between Conservatives and Liberals within the Muslim Brotherhood? (Photo: Al-Masry Al-Youm)

The Muslim Brotherhood’s decision to expel reformist Islamist and potential presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh from the group was dismissed by many younger Brothers as a flawed move.

“I personally believe it is a wrong decision,” Ahmed Osama, a 34-year-old Brotherhood member and the official spokesman of Abouel Fotouh’s campaign, told Al-Masry Al-Youm. “I believe it will  have more of a negative impact on the Muslim Brotherhood than on Abouel Fotouh.”

After weeks of unequivocal warnings, the Brotherhood's Shura Council announced the decision to expel Abouel Fotouh for violating the group’s decision not to field a presidential candidate. In February, the group sought to reassure that it had no intention to control all state institutions; it pledged not to nominate a candidate from within its ranks or contest a majority of parliamentary seats.

But in May the 60-year-old doctor announced his intention to run. He affirmed that his candidacy would be independent from the Brotherhood and marketing himself as a candidate for everyone.

“I’m not concerned by this matter; I’m a candidate for all Egyptians,” Abouel Fotouh told reporters a few hours after the group made the decision. “I am confident that I will get the majority of votes including those of the Muslim Brotherhood members, foremost among them the vote of Mohamed Badie, the general guide.”

For several weeks, Brotherhood leaders reiterated that they would not support Abouel Fotouh’s candidacy and vowed to dismiss any Brother running for president. However, many young Brothers did not comply with the group’s orders; hundreds volunteered to campaign for Abouel Fotouh.

“We do not care about this decision and we will move ahead with our campaign,” said Osama, who claimed earlier that his membership was frozen because of his decision to campaign for Abouel Fotouh.

Belonging to the generation that resurrected political Islam in the 1970s, Abouel Fotouh is credited with reinvigorating the Brotherhood at that time. Disillusioned with President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s left-leaning, secular project after the 1967 defeat, thousands of middle class university students sought refuge in religion. They formed Jama'a al-Islamiya on Egyptian campuses, seeking to spread Islamic values nationwide.

The proliferation of these student-led groups coincided with the release of Brotherhood leaders from Nasser’s jails after Anwar Sadat came to power. In an attempt to revive their ailing organization, Brotherhood leaders approached prominent Islamist student union leaders, including Abouel Fotouh, and invited them to join the organization. Upon joining, Abouel Fotouh recruited thousands of fellow young activists, who eventually brought the group back to life.


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