The euphoria with which the West first welcomed the Middle East revolts
has long subsided, as Islamists’ electoral victories across the region
spark fears that the “Arab Spring” has devolved into an Islamic winter.
But developments in Egypt and Jordan last week have forced the region's
oldest and largest Islamist group – the Muslim Brotherhood – to wonder
whether the road to political rule may be bumpier than anticipated.
week, the Egyptian Brotherhood’s presidential ambitions suffered a blow
when the country’s electoral committee disqualified its main candidate,
Khairat al-Shater, over a prior criminal conviction. On Wednesday,
Shater lashed out at the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for
what he described as a plot to keep the Brotherhood out of power.
military council does not have the serious intention to transfer
power,” Shater said, accusing the officers – who forced out fellow
general Hosni Mubarak after street protests last year – of reneging on
promises to step aside.
“We must wake up, because there is an attempt to hijack the revolution,” he said.
Shater out, the Brotherhood’s replacement candidate is Mohamed Mursi,
chairman of its Freedom and Justice Party. Mursi is both less
charismatic and less recognizable than his predecessor, and could
struggle at the polls.
“Is this the man that never smiles? Why
would I vote for someone I’ve never heard of and who I know nothing
about?” a Cairo security guard told Reuters, referring to Mursi.
Jordan, parliament moved last week to ban the Brotherhood’s political
party – and the country’s largest parliamentary faction – from running
in upcoming elections. The DPA news agency reported that 46 of 83
lawmakers voted to add a clause in election regulations stipulating that
no party could be formed on an “ethnic, sectarian or religious basis.”
is only the latest in a series of measures by deputies to limit the
influence of political parties and any dissenting views in parliament
and political life in general,” said Zaki Bani Rsheid, political bureau
chief for the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood’s Jordanian branch.
“We believe all Jordanian citizens – not only Islamists – should have
the right to form a political party without conditions.”
countries’ political establishment now jostle to sideline the
Brotherhood. On Wednesday, Egypt’s grand mufti visited Jerusalem’s Al-
Aksa Mosque along with a member of the Jordanian royal family.
Brotherhood factions in both Cairo and Amman condemned the visit.
he did cannot be justified and cannot be endorsed,” a top Egyptian
Brotherhood official said on the movement’s website. Grand Mufti Ali
Gomaa is a political appointee – named to the post in 2003 by Mubarak.
Joining Gomaa in his Jerusalem visit was Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin
Mohammed, the cousin of King Abdullah II and his adviser on religious
“In line with Islamic edicts issued by respected clerics
and consultations with Christian religious leaders, we consider these
trips as acts of normalization that serve the schemes of the enemy,”
Islamic Action Front chairman Hamzeh Mansur said.
preachers, thinkers, intellectuals and journalists should intensify
their efforts to warn the public against the dangerous risks behind such
visits, which must not continue,” added Mansur, who also heads a
committee against normalization of relations with Israel.
and Christian religious establishments in the Arab world have
traditionally objected to visiting Islamic holy places in Jerusalem as
long as the eastern city remains under Israeli control. But speaking in
Qatar in February, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called
on Arabs and Muslims to visit the city, assuring them such a move would
in no way represent “normalization” with the Jewish state.
“Visiting a prisoner is an act of support and does not mean normalization with the warden,” Abbas said at the time.
visit comes two weeks after that of another of the monarch’s cousins,
Prince Hashim bin Al Hussein. Jerusalem’s Islamic holy sites are in the
custody of the Jordanian Wakf – the Islamic religious trusteeship – a
holdover from the Jordanian occupation of east Jerusalem and the West
Bank between 1948 and 1967.
Last week in Egypt, the Brotherhood
faced criticism from a number of youth activists who led the
anti-Mubarak uprising more than a year ago. A coalition of 34 youth
groups signed a joint statement on Wednesday, blaming both the Supreme
Council of the Armed Forces and the Brotherhood for allowing the goals
of the revolution to falter.
Youth activists have criticized the
SCAF for months, but the statement marked the first explicit
condemnation of the Brotherhood’s conduct during the uprising’s
“The Muslim Brotherhood bear part of the
responsibility for weakening the revolution’s momentum and diverting its
path as they preferred their narrow party interests over that of the
people,” the statement said, Egypt’s Al- Ahram newspaper reported on Thursday.
revolution arose against a police and military state, but the
Brotherhood were mainly against Mubarak alone,” youth activist Khaled
Teleima told the paper. “The Brotherhood were against Mubarak but not
for the revolution.”
Reuters contributed to this report.