Does this sound like the statement of a group with little clout and few followers? [emphasis mine]:
Egypt’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, said it would begin talks Sunday with the government to try to end the country’s political crisis but made clear it would insist on the immediate ouster of longtime authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak…
The Brotherhood said in a statement that its representatives would meet with Vice President Omar Suleiman to press its “legitimate and just demands.” Suleiman has accused the Brotherhood, businessmen and foreigners he did not identify as being behind a wave of looting and arson that swept much of the country last weekend after security forces inexplicably pulled out from the streets…
Mubarak, Egypt’s iron-fisted ruler of nearly 30 years, is known to have little or no tolerance for Islamist groups and the decision to open talks with the Brotherhood is a tacit recognition by his regime of their key role in the ongoing protests as well as their wide popular base…
And do you trust these promises of the MB?:
The Brotherhood aims to create an Islamic state in Egypt, but insists that it would not force women to cover up in public in line with Islam’s teachings and would not rescind Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
A political leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Thursday called on any government that replaces Hosni Mubarak’s regime to withdraw from the 32-year-old peace treaty with Israel.
Here’s background about the MB and its activities in Europe.
And here’s some MB and Egyptian history:
In November 1948 police seized an automobile containing the documents and plans of what is thought to be the Brotherhood’s `secret apparatus` with names of its members. The seizure was preceded by an assortment of bombings and assassination attempts by the apparatus. Subsequently 32 of its leaders were arrested and its offices raided. The next month the Egyptian Prime Minister of Egypt, Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi, ordered the dissolution of the Brotherhood.
On December 28, 1948 Egypt’s prime minister was assassinated by Brotherhood member and veterinary student Abdel Meguid Ahmed Hassan, in what is thought to have been retaliation for the government crackdown…
In 1952 members of the Muslim Brotherhood are accused of taking part in arson that destroyed some “750 buildings” in downtown Cairo — mainly night clubs, theatres, hotels, and restaurants frequented by British and other foreigners — “that marked the end of the liberal, progressive, cosmopolitan” Egypt…
After the attempted assassination of Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser, in 1954, a member of the secret apparatus was accused by the authorities of being the perpetrator of the attempt. Nasser then abolished the Brotherhood and imprisoned and punished thousands of its members…
Despite mass arrests, police harassment and an essentially closed political system, Brotherhood candidates have made strong showings in several parliamentary elections. In the past decade, the Brotherhood has made repeated calls for a more democratic political system, and in 2005 it participated in pro-democracy demonstrations with the Kifaya movement.
The MB is now the largest opposition bloc in Egypt. It is sometimes stated that they assassinated Sadat, but as best I can tell, he was killed by Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an offshoot descendant group that is more upfront about advocating violence and is now joined as part of worldwide al Qaeda. EIJ is headed by a familiar name, al Sawahiri, Osama’s Egyptian buddy and co-mastermind of 9/11.
What does EIJ think of today’s democracy movement in Egypt? Loves it:
Ayman al Zawahiri’s top deputy, Thirwat Salah Shehata, has released a statement praising the Egyptian people and calling for President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.
Shehata is a longtime member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a core part of al Qaeda, and has served Zawahiri since the 1980s. In the statement, which was released on jihadist message boards known to carry al Qaeda propaganda, Shehata calls on the Egyptian people to “remain steadfast” and refuse to settle for economic concessions from Mubarak’s regime.
“Indeed, the Pharaoh and his rotten party must depart,” Shehata says.
There is no evidence that the EIJ has played any role in Egypt’s turmoil. In fact, Shehata laments his organization’s inability to be “on the front lines sharing this honor.” The EIJ was “forced to leave the country after the regime’s war against us,” Shehata says, “and we ended up participating with the mujahedin on other fronts.”
According to Asharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi publication, an anonymous source close to the EIJ said that Shehata’s “statement was issued from Tehran where Shehata is currently residing.” Shehata and other top EIJ operatives received shelter in Iran after the Sept. 11 attacks.
There’s more, much more, in the article. But the part I’m quoting makes it clear how closely related all the world jihadist movements are, and what a golden opportunity they see in the Egyptian pro-democracy movement.
It is almost a certainty that, were the Islamicists to gain control of the Muslim world as they wish, they would jockey for position and fight among themselves. Some would adhere to Sunni and some Shi’ite Islam. Some would be more violent and some less.
But anyone who thinks they’re not all violent, and not all bent on Islamicist control of each country in the region, is misunderstanding their philosophy, motivations, and goals. These are not democrats, neither with a small “d” nor a large one. The mullahs of Iran are well aware of that, and have not been offering them shelter just out of the goodness of their hearts.
It’s not that the Egyptian demonstrators are supporters, either, although some of them undoubtedly are. It’s that pro-democracy movements are easy to co-opt in a country with no real tradition of liberal democracy, no cultural characteristics that would allow it to flourish, and where secular opposition parties have been thwarted and persecuted for decades. As in Iran before it, the Islamicists might just be the strongest game in town right now.