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The Muslim Brotherhood during the Revolution

During the revolution, the brotherhood was not at the forefront of political activity and did not officially get involved in the initial protests. Instead, they seemed to take a strategic political position to provide support to the protesters, all the while not serving as leaders of the antigovernment movement. In fact, they deliberately allowed non-Islamists to be the leaders of the protests. The organization seemed to be eager to avoid upsetting either the protesters or the government, unsure where the revolution might lead. On February 6, the “Brotherhood [said] in a statement that it ‘[had] decided to participate in a dialogue round in order to understand how serious the officials are in dealing with the demands of the people.’”21 Moreover, some senior members of the party took an official position that “backed off its demand that Mr. Mubarak step down immediately and make other concessions, for apparently little concrete in return.”22 This move, which seemed to be an attempt to avoid a direct challenge to Mubarak, produced a strong backlash within Egyptian society, as well as increasing tensions within the brotherhood itself and among the youth of the brotherhood who had formed alliances in the street.

It was not that the brotherhood supported the government, as they historically have been major challengers to the Mubarak regime, but rather that it seemed to be aware of the political costs that would be associated with serving as the leading (and openly direct) opposition to the Mubarak regime during this time. In fact, “the Brothers, ever cautious and aware that they bear the brunt of regime repression when they join protests, were slow to participate in the demonstrations that broke out on Jan. 25 and have struggled to craft a united front ever since.”23 And during the funeral of Mustafa Sawi, the first person killed in the 2011 Egyptian protests, the brotherhood was not visible in an official capacity. The organization itself “insists it is little more than a bit player in the outpouring of resistance to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.”24 For former brotherhood general guide Mohammed Mahdi Akef, “this is on purpose. . . . We want to be part of the fabric of society.”25 Therefore notions of the brotherhood’s religious or ideological politics were obscured during the uprisings.

Indeed, where, exactly, it would emerge after the revolution had yet to be seen, for it had strategically and ideologically taken a backseat during the uprising, refusing to confront the regime head on.

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