On July 4, five young members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood were dismissed from the organization. Their crime? They were involved in the founding of a new political party which was not authorized by the religious organization. Similar to complaints voiced by the youth against former President Hosni Mubarak, these youths felt as though their leaders were not listening to their concerns. As Egypt moves past the Mubarak era of oppression, not even the close-knit Muslim Brotherhood is able to escape the claim that it does not give enough say to its younger members.
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, is without question a major player in Egypt’s political and social scene. Suffering under decades of brutality under Mubarak’s regime, the organization was slow to join the protests that brought down Mubarak earlier this year, fearful of the inevitable security crackdown and that they might be seen as co-opting the revolution.
After Mubarak’s ouster, in order to press their social gains, the organization decided to form a new political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, which last month was officially accredited as a political party. Previously the group ran members as independents to get around the ban of religious-based parties under Mubarak, but with newfound freedom in Egypt, they decided to form a political party. The group, however, stated that members could only join the Freedom and Justice Party and senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood were given leadership roles.
The group also stated that no members could run in the presidential election. Despite this decision, a well-known reformist in the organization, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, announced plans to run for president. This did not sit well with the group, which later expelled him from the party.
These heavy-handed tactics, along with the expulsion of a popular member, did not sit well with youth activists. On June 26, youth members formed another political party, the Egyptian Current Party (Hizb Al Tayyar Al Masry). This new party had 150 co-founders and also tested the Brotherhood’s ban of joining any other political party.
The party’s tactics does not appear to be doing it any favors. While a smaller party, Hizb Al Nahda (Revival Party) was formed with little fanfare in the spring, the case of expelling members and freezing the membership of 4000 youths working on Aboul Fotouh’s election campaign brings back memories of Mubarak’s refusal to allow any dissenters political space. What’s even more puzzling is the decision was made without consulting the five, one of which expressed his ardent desire to retain his membership in the organization.
In an interview with the author, Mohammed Abbas, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Current Party, and the Youth Revolution Coalition (a loose coalition of multiple youth groups including those from the Muslim Brotherhood), said he intends to stay a member of both the party and the organization. When asked if he intended to stay a member of the Muslim Brotherhood after the dismissal of his fellow party members, and the possibility he too could suffer the same fate, Abbas, uneasy at the question, stated that he would remain with the party.
While Egypt has already undergone one revolution because its president lost touch with his people, especially the youth, no group is safe unless it ensures its younger members a place at the grown-up table.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Bertman