Muslim Brotherhood: Wild Card In Egypt Power Game The nation's oldest and most organized opposition group, long banned by the Mubarak government, inspires loyalty among some, fear among others. But throughout the anti-Mubarak uprising, the Brotherhood moved gingerly, trying to establish itself as a centrist force.
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Muslim Brotherhood: Wild Card In Egypt Power Game

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Muslim Brotherhood: Wild Card In Egypt Power Game

Muslim Brotherhood: Wild Card In Egypt Power Game

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

One of the most organized opposition groups in Egypt had little to do with the uprising that led to a revolution there. The Muslim Brotherhood held back until the protests got going and never tried to actually lead them. Still, everyone is wondering now what role the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood will play in the new Egypt.

INSKEEP: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has the story.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Among those arrested was Sobhi Saleh of Alexandria, a former lawmaker who headed a parliamentary bloc aligned with the banned movement.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

SARHADDI NELSON: Supporters freed Saleh from an area prison and he soon was out protesting again.

MONTAGNE: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: Khaled Fahmy chairs the history department of the American University in Cairo.

INSKEEP: Most of the leaders of the Brotherhood are themselves well educated. They are professionals - doctors and physicians and pharmacists and engineers and they talk to their peers.

SARHADDI NELSON: He and many other Egyptians interviewed for this story believe the Brotherhood has as much right as anyone here to help shape their country's future, as long as it doesn't try and take over. Brotherhood officials say they have no such plans.

MONTAGNE: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: Reached in London, Middle East analyst Fawaz Gerges says that the Brotherhood's passive approach is not surprising.

MONTAGNE: They are trying to position themselves as a centrist, mainstream force as opposed to a radical and militant force.

SARHADDI NELSON: Gerges says the Brotherhood is also eager to avoid provoking Egypt's military government into a crackdown.

MONTAGNE: Because they realize if they mobilize their followers, if they try to go unilateral, they might end up with the Algerian model of the 1990s when the Islamists won an outright victory and that particular victory basically led to a civil war between the Islamists on the one hand and the army.

SARHADDI NELSON: That doesn't mean the Brotherhood will give up its quest for a more Islamic Egypt, says historian Khaled Fahmy.

INSKEEP: They are a very important player, and again, as long as they agree on the principle of equality and the principle of the rule of law, I think they should be included in the political discussion of the future of Egypt.

SARHADDI NELSON: But blogger Gigi Ibrahim, who is part of the youth movement that helped bring down Mubarak, is more skeptical.

MONTAGNE: They've been created to scare us from democracy. And now that they we have democracy, it will be interesting of who they really are.

SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.

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