Sunday, January 30, 2011

What role for the Ikhwan?

I draw readers' attention to Hossam Tommam's timely paper (Arabic version) on the Brotherhood, published (coincidentally) on the first day of protests, January 25, 2011,  by the ever-thoughtful Arab Reform Initiative.  Tommam highlights the recent domination of the Brotherhood's conservative wing, reflecting the Mubarak regime's closing of political avenues and the judgment that the political wing had failed in its project to engage with the political system.  

One might add that the growth of Salafism in Egypt, has also added to the retrenchment of the conservative brothers.  This latter factor is discussed in the recent Boston University Ph.D. dissertation ("Democratization of Islamist Movements in Egypt and Morocco," 2011) by Dr. Ashraf el-Sherif.  Dr. el-Sherif has conducted an enormous amount of fieldwork and interviews, and he notes that the rising popularity of Neo-Salafism in Egypt has posed a challenge to the Ikhwan from their right flank.  The Neo-Salafist challenge is one factor in the Ikhwan's conservative wing recapturing of the leadership.  The Neo-Salafists are disdainful toward politics, and challenge the Islamist bona fides of the Brothers.

Thus, the Days of Anger protests, to which the Brothers took a back seat initially, are occurring at a time when the Ikhwan's leadership apparatus is less well equipped to respond than the former leadership.  It will be interesting to see how this factor conditions their participation in the political game that is now being shaped.


Alex Strick van Linschoten said...

Do you have a link for that PhD disseration by Dr. el-Sherif?

Alex (@strickvl on twitter)

arn said...

I don't think it is catalogued yet--too new.