Protests Reveal Radicalization
Despite the Egyptian government cracking down on the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood—arresting over 400 members in the past six months—the Islamist group’s support has swelled, especially among the working class.
Since the Brotherhood became the largest opposition to the government back in 2005, pro-democracy (and hence pro-Brotherhood) protests among workers throughout the nation have skyrocketed. An estimated 222 sit-in strikes, work stoppages, hunger strikes and demonstrations occurred last year alone. More recently, new labor action has occurred nearly every day, indicating not only a growing dissatisfaction among the working class, but also a deepening sense of personal ability to compel change. This is a potent combination, considering the rapid Islamification of Egypt that is occurring.
In the largest-ever Egyptian private-sector strike earlier this year, nearly half of the 12,000-strong workforce at an Alexandria textile company protested discrimination between managers and workers concerning the allocation of shares when the company was privatized. The action was backed by a Muslim Brotherhood member of parliament who issued several statements supporting the strike.
Whether instigating or just furthering the surge in workplace discontent, the Muslim Brotherhood, in backing the cause of the people, has transformed its image from known terrorist organization to legitimate opposition to the government. And as public support for the group grows, so too does its international recognition.
Currently, the Egyptian government is outraged after four U.S. congressmen met with a politician from the outlawed Brotherhood at the end of May. This was the second time U.S. representatives had met with the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Saad el-Katatni in two months, suggesting that Washington now recognizes the growing relevance of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian politics.
“The United States says that it doesn’t establish relations with a banned group, whether in Egypt or outside of Egypt,” said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s spokesman Suleiman Awaad. “The U.S. says it is meeting with the Brotherhood as parliament members, but doesn’t make the same distinction and refuses to talk with Hamas, who is heading the Palestinian government and is occupying the prime minister’s seat” (Washington Post, May 27).
Considering that Hamas’s roots lie in the Brotherhood, it is no wonder Cairo is upset with the latest move by its American ally. Recognizing the Muslim Brotherhood will only increase the Islamist group’s legitimacy and weaken Mubarak’s hold on his country. Of course, undermining an autocracy in favor of a radical Islamist theocracy is hardly a strategy that will serve America’s interests.
Watch Egypt as it continues down the path toward Islamist governance. For more information on why Egypt’s future will trend toward radicalism, request a free copy of our booklet The King of the South.