I argued that one main consequence of the massive Islamist protest in Tahrir Square last week was the definitive split between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular and liberal left as well as between the Brotherhood and the more extreme Salafi groups. In other words, by playing a minor role in the sit-in, the Ikhwan demonstrated that there would be no easy partnership with the left while still trying to present itself as the moderate alternative to groups like Gama’a Islamiyya. Marc Lynch was in Cairo and Alexandria for the sit-in and arrived at a somewhat similar conclusion:
The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, faces a delicate situation. While it clearly relished the show of Islamist power, it also now has to worry about a backlash against that display of strength and the blurring of long-cultivated distinctions from other trends such as the salafis. It has long sought to position itself as the moderate face of Islamism, triangulating against the more radical salafis and Gama’a to capture the pious middle ground. Sharing the stage with those forces on July 29, not only infuriated potential secular coalition partners but could also complicate its long-term efforts to reassure mainstream voters. Brotherhood leaders such as Essam el-Erian and Mohammed el-Beltagy were almost immediately backpedaling, disavowing the more controversial slogans and claiming to have honored the agreements with the other political forces even if the salafis violated the deal (the salafis, for their part, claim to have never signed the deal in the first place). Muslim Brotherhood youth activists I spoke with after the rally were furious about how it had unfolded, and many even refused to participate.
Lynch notes that the Brotherhood is clearly uncomfortable with the extremist demands of the Salafi groups, but still supports the establishment of an Islamic state. Yet as Lynch mentions elsewhere in his piece, many people remain unsure as to what an Islamic state would actually look like (aside from maintaining Article 2 of the constitution). Read Lynch’s whole piece – it is a great first-hand account of what happened last week.
Photo from 3Arabawy