By Dr. Chuck Missler
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has raised the trepidation level of many, including faithful adherents to the group itself. The Saudis are concerned that the political nature of the religious group will upset their own influence in Egypt. The Salafists, on the other hand, want the country to move in an even more conservative, 6th century direction, and the Muslim Brotherhood faithful fear that the dissention and division and financial problems in the diverse country will be blamed on them.
Salafists protesting in Cairo were attacked by plain-clothed men armed with rocks, clubs, firebombs and shotguns in front of the defense ministry on Wednesday morning. The military waited six hours to intervene, and the ruling generals have been eyed with suspicion in the massacre in which 150 were injured and at least 11 killed. In response to the public outcry over the attacks, the government has said it will give up power May 24 if there is a clear victor in the presidential elections.
The upcoming elections offer the hope of stability and the settling of relations with Egypt's neighbors. Terrorists have persistently damaged pipelines to Israel and Jordan, and the military is either sending out assaults on peaceful protestors or—at least—is failing to protect its citizens. Various presidential candidates have criticized the authorities on behalf of the protestors, including one independent and Mohammed Mursi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Two leading candidates have protested the attacks by suspending their campaigns. The stage is set for a strong leadership that may not prove any more gentle than that of Mubarak, and quite likely wielding an Islamist rod.
While the Saudis keep a fierce Islamic grip on their country, the kingdom is worried that the Muslim Brotherhood's political brand of Sunni Islam will compete with the Saudi influence in Egypt. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have remained allies against the Shiite power in Islam, but the religious nature of the Muslim Brotherhood does not actually suit the Saudis as well as did Egypt's secular government. "The Brothers offer a religious political discourse that's in competition with the Wahhabi one. It's something of a threat to the government because it enjoys a certain legitimacy by virtue of its religiosity," said Thomas Hegghammer, author of Jihad in Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom has an interest in keeping Egypt financially strong and Saudi Arabia has pledged $2.7 billion in aid to Cairo, but Egyptians are not guaranteed to remain faithful to Saudi interests. Saudi Arabia removed its ambassador from Cairo recently after protestors gathered in front of the embassy demanding the release of a lawyer that the Saudis had imprisoned for criticizing the kingdom.
The Muslim Brotherhood's adherents fear that politics will have a corrupting influence on the group, one that will take away from the Brotherhood's primary calling. "Our presence in parliament and trade unions has sapped a lot of our energy," said Ashraf Abou Zeid, a Brotherhood member in Cairo. "Before the elections, we were present in the street and all our efforts were focused on social work and services. ... But all of a sudden politics has taken too much of our strength, numbers and focus."
Others note that the Brotherhood is not as politically adept as other contenders, or as powerful as the military. Their care not to make enemies, not to bear the problems of the country alone, may prove the most balancing effect in the political reshuffling that Egypt now faces.
"We need unity, not an atmosphere where you're the majority and everyone else is against you," said lifelong Brotherhood follower Osama Abdel Hadi. "It's not good for the nation and puts enormous pressure on the Brotherhood. If the country fails, it's all on them."
Six army battalions called up under emergency orders to meet growing threat on Egypt, Syria borders • Times of Israel
Egypt Brotherhood MPs in Saudi mission to ease crisis • Reuters
Many in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood wary of plunge into politics • Los Angeles Times
Egypt army signals willingness to hand over power • Jerusalem Post
Egypt: Cairo clashes, death toll rises to 30 • Ansa