The power of the pulpit

Ibrahim El Houdaiby, Conflicts Forum, February 25:

Those who believe that the ongoing crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian regime will cause a major setback for the country’s largest and most powerful civil opposition group are definitely mistaken. Brotherhood members are an integral living part of the Egyptian society who can never be marginalized. In fact, the only possible outcome for such crackdowns is increasing the group’s popularity and radicalizing political Islam.

It has been 15 months now since security forces arrested a large number of Brotherhood members, including Deputy Chairman Khayrat El Shater, a handful of top leaders and 140 university students on the dawn of December 14th, 2006. Arrests were largely portrayed as a response to massive students’ demonstrations, but later charges on money laundry and leading and financing an outlawed organization were added. All charges were dropped three times by civilian courts, which found them to be “fabricated, groundless and politically motivated, with no substantial evidence whatsoever.” The court ordered the immediate release of the detainees; students were released a few weeks later, while senior members and leaders were rearrested from inside the court room, and were sentenced to a military tribunal, the verdict of which is expected on Tuesday.

It is clear the regime is trying to impede the Brotherhood after the group’s manifest success in the 2005 parliamentary elections, when it secured 20% of the parliament’s seats although competing on only one third of them. The crackdown was part of the regime’s attempt to silence its opposition to secure a smooth transfer of power from the 80-year-old President Mubarak to his younger son Gamal.

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