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So, who are Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood?

Outside the country, not much is really known about the Muslim Brotherhood - the party which has now seen Mohamad Morsi installed as Egypt's President.

The New Yorker sheds light on the organisation in this piece "Brothers' Keepers".

"Mysteries have surrounded the Muslim Brotherhood since its founding, in 1928. Nobody knows how many members there are, or how much money the organization receives, or where it all comes from. The chain of command is murky; the goals and the guiding philosophy are not clearly stated. The Egyptian revolution, which has rolled and lurched and staggered along for nearly two years, and which included Brothers among its original protesters, has failed to answer these basic questions. But the past year has solved one mystery: we now know how the Muslim Brotherhood behaves when it gets a taste of power.

The Brothers did give advance warning. The organization has never recognized the State of Israel, and it denies that Al Qaeda carried out the attacks of 9/11. In May, when Mohamed Morsi was campaigning for President as the candidate from the group’s Freedom and Justice Party, he stood on a stage outside Cairo University and shouted, “I swear before God and I swear to you all, regardless of what is written in the constitution, Sharia will be applied!” A day earlier, at another Morsi rally, a speaker declared, “Yes, we do want everything! We want the parliament! We want the President! We want the cabinet and the ministries! We want everything to be Islamic! We want the drainage systems to be Islamic!” But such messages were leavened by more moderate fare. Yasser Ali, a Party spokesman, emphasized the desire “to form a truly national coalition” with other political groups. “We feel that to be alone in the sea is not good for Egypt,” he said, in March. “It would be a domestic problem, and bad for the region.”

Those words proved to be prophetic. Ever since November 22nd, when President Morsi issued a declaration that granted him broad powers above the reach of any court, Egypt has become increasingly tense and politically fractured. After Morsi’s declaration, a Brotherhood-dominated constituent assembly rushed to finish a draft of a new constitution. More than a quarter of the assembly members resigned in protest, and there were clear violations of protocol, but the document was rammed through in a sixteen-hour voting session. Despite months of work, some articles were introduced only in that final session. The result is a slippery foundation for the future: a number of basic rights—including freedom of the press, due process for justice, and equality for women and minorities—aren’t adequately protected.

But the most revealing moment of the crisis occurred a week and a half ago. With protesters camped outside the Presidential Palace, in Cairo, Brotherhood members led a group of men who attacked peaceful demonstrators and tore down their tents. The violence kicked off an evening of escalating counterattacks; in the end, nine people died and more than a thousand were injured, with both sides sustaining heavy casualties. Some protesters, women among them, were detained and tortured by civilian groups that included members of the Brotherhood. Morsi, in a clumsy and dishonest speech to the nation, blamed it all on “thugs” and a “fifth column” organized by the remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. But there was no question who had started the fighting. It was the first clearly documented case of political violence in more than fifty years of Muslim Brotherhood activity in Egypt.

Nonviolence has always been a point of pride for the organization. Some of its offshoot groups, like Hamas, have engaged in terrorism, but the Brotherhood never endorsed acts of violence in Egypt, despite decades of oppression under Mubarak that included the imprisonment of most of its leaders. That restraint, however, like the talk of coöperation, seems to have evaporated with the first taste of power. Sometimes an organization is nonviolent on principle, and sometimes it is nonviolent simply because it finds itself in a position of weakness."


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