Muslim Brotherhood Falters as Egypt Outflanks Islamists

[Wall Street Journal] Yaroslav Trofimov - Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is on the defensive. Just recently, the Brothers' political rise seemed unstoppable. Candidates linked with the group gained a record 20% of seats in Egypt's 2005 parliamentary elections. Across the border in Gaza, another election the following year propelled the Brotherhood's Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, into power. Since then, Egypt's government jailed key Brotherhood members, crimped its financing and changed the constitution to clip religious parties' wings. "When we're not advancing, we are retreating. And right now we are not spreading, we are not achieving our goals," the Brotherhood's second-in-command, Mohamed Habib, said in an interview. The regime pressed its public-relations campaign against the Brotherhood last month, when it said it had cracked a cell of Lebanon's Hizbullah militia that was spying in Egypt and smuggling weapons to Hamas. State media painted the Brotherhood as an unpatriotic hireling of Iran, which sponsors Hamas and Hizbullah. The latest controversy surrounding the Brotherhood stemmed from its behavior during the Gaza war. The Brotherhood organized two massive street demonstrations in Alexandria and Cairo during the war, attacking President Mubarak's regime for failing to help Gaza's Hamas rulers. But calls by some Brotherhood leaders to send fighters to Gaza alienated many Egyptians who have no desire to see their own country, at peace with Israel since 1979, embroiled in war. "They went too far and just frightened the street," says Mahmoud Abaza, the leader of the Wafd party and the leader of the opposition in parliament. "It was a miscalculation.

2009-05-22 06:00:00

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