“You’re in the seat of the supreme spiritual guide of the Brotherhood,” Dr. Essam el-Erian, member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance council, told me, laughing.
I sprung out of my seat and apologized.
“Oh no, please, it’s absolutely fine – besides, if a member of the Brotherhood sat there someone would assume that he wants to be a guide – but you’re not one of us, so that’s quite fine. Sit, please, I insist!”
His good mood betrayed a confident, borderline pompous future outlook.
It’s understandable though – why wouldn’t he be confident? The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organized opposition force so far, appears at first sight atop the winners list of the Jan. 25 revolution. It is being invited to meetings with the Armed Forces’ supreme council in its capacity of head of state, it is on the way to establishing a political party, the “Freedom and Justice Party,” for the first time in its history of more than 80 years, and one of its most famous sympathizing imams, Youssef el-Qaradawi, has returned to Egypt from exile and sent waves across society when he led a million-person Friday prayer in Tahrir last week.
When asked about future plans, Dr. el-Erian is confident. He speaks slowly, in detached words. “For the sake of preserving national cohesion, we will not be fielding a candidate for the presidential elections. We will not seek to be a majority in the parliament either. Probably target 35 or 40 percent; we’d like to see all parties represented. Remember when Hamas got a majority – they didn’t want it.” He tells me the Brotherhood won’t be fielding candidates in all constituencies. I ask him whether he believed that, if they fielded candidates countrywide, the Brotherhood could indeed gain a parliamentary majority.
He smiles – an amused, confident smile. “I told you. We’re simply not attempting to be the majority.”
But along with its apparent wins, the organization is being faced by a number of new challenges it is yet to decide how to best address; the months to come may be less smooth than it hopes and far from winning a potential majority, many believe that the Brotherhood is losing ground.
For one, the Brotherhood will enter a competitive, perhaps even harsh, public political arena, and will be viewed by the Egyptian public, especially its newly politicized youth, under the same light as other political parties – a new situation for the organization. From now on, the Brotherhood will officially be part of the political game, alongside a number of old and new actors. Its position as sole opposition, which had allowed it to win nearly one-fifth of the seats of the Parliament in 2005, will be diluted into a wider and more diverse political spectrum.
Second, in 2005, as in previous elections, the Brotherhood had fielded candidates as independents or through other parties – gaining the benefits of political participation without being held accountable as a party for its members’ actions. This will no longer be an option. As it steps into the political arena, the Brotherhood will now be compelled to compromise and cut deals with its political opponents and partners, another first in the Brotherhood’s political maturity process, after an 80-years-long adolescence.
A third point is that the Muslim Brotherhood is also conceding another staple in its rhetoric: its excuses. They had always relied on its “outcast” position and blaming the government for demonizing it and seeking to elbow them off the public opinion board – a valid accusation, but one that ran its course the day they were invited to the first post-Mubarak discussion panel with the army, as one of the country’s legitimate political forces. The organization will now be fully accountable to the public.
Finally, the Jan. 25 revolution uncovered a new fault line within the Brotherhood, between the old establishment and the younger generation – the “Brotherhood Youth.” Characterized by a greater openness toward other movements, the Brotherhood Youth were part of the nebulous coalition of youth groups that met and coordinated before and throughout the revolution.
It took the rest of the organization several days after Jan. 25 to realize that the movement on the street was irrevocable and decided to toe the line, at times stepping on the youth wing’s feet. The public face of the organization remains that of the old guard, represented primarily in the guidance council, but the internal strife is far from being won, as the youth wing is bound to slowly gain in political stature and to attempt to exert its pressure within the organization.
It is difficult to predict the influence of the Brotherhood in the phase to come, but with a compulsory period of political breaking in stemming from its new “legalized” status, the Brotherhood will need some time to find its bearings in a political scene becoming complex by the day.
*Mohamed El Dahshan is an economist and writer based in Cairo, Egypt.
Catitan sut:Ikhwan sekali lagi terpaksa berada di persimpangan, Ikhwan kini berada di dalam keadaan yang memerlukan pimpinan mereka menentukan hala-tuju mereka: di samping untuk melestarikan keutuhan asas-asas dakwah yang dibina oleh Imam Hassan al-Banna, mereka juga perlu menentukan kedudukan mereka dalam politik baru Masir.
Mereka sebelum ini dituduh sebagai kumpulan yang mahu kefahaman mereka dilaksanakan dalam negara, tetapi tidak mahu mengambil tanggung-jawab tersebut secara resmi. Mereka sehingga kini adalah pertubuhan yang tidak berdaftar dengan kerajaan, tetapi mempunyai rangkaian dalam masyarakat yang begitu menjalar. Oleh itu timbullah bermacam sangkaan dan tuduhan terhadap mereka termasuk militant dan ektremis.
Ikhwan di anggotai oleh golongan ulama, cendiakawan, profesional. pelajar dan orang biasa. Mereka merangkumi golongan yang terlibat dengan aliran salafi, golongan mazhabi dan asya'irah, serta golongan cenderung kepada tasauf dan golongan yang menolak institusi tasauf, serta golongan yang terlibat dengan pilihanraya dan golongan yang menolak penglibatan dalam pilihanraya. Apa yang mempersatukan mereka ialah kaedah asas dakwah yang dipelopori oleh Imam Hassan al-Banna.
Agaknya kita sangat perlu belajar dari perjalanan dan pengalaman Ikhwan, di samping kita berusaha memahami hikmah amaliah dari Risalah an-Nur, Syaikh Said Nursi serta Jamaah Tabligh, Maulana Ilyas