WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station, recently spoke with Dr. Samer Shehata about an interview conducted by DePaul University’s Laith al-Saud with leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Dr. Shehata remarked that though the interviewees represented a small, well-educated segment of the diverse organization, the interview cleared up much of the misinformation that surrounds the Brotherhood. For example, it showed that though the organization is not a secular one, it is not working to establish “a theocratic state, in the sense of Iran.” It also demonstrated that the Brotherhood’s Islamist politics are not incompatible with democracy. However, Dr. Shehata commented that questions remain about some of the organization’s tenets, and noted that the Brotherhood must firmly support full rights and political participation for women and religious minorities if it wants to play a legitimate role in post-revolution Egypt.
Dr. Shehata also spoke about the increasing splintering within the Muslim Brotherhood. This splintering, which is occurring along socioeconomic, political, and generational lines, has led to a significant number of Brotherhood members forming their own political parties. Though these new parties are offshoots of the organization, Dr. Shehata believes it is unlikely that they will join together to seek a coalition government. In fact, some of the more progressive factions of the movement have in recent weeks been making political overtures to more liberal, secular parties in the hopes of forming a coalition with them.
Yet the splintering of the Islamist movement is far from the most pressing matter facing Egypt. Dr. Shehata notes that Egypt has yet to reform what he calls its “brutal security state,” an apparatus of approximately 1.2 million people that has been dehumanizing the country’s citizens for decades. As such, he says, there must be “a fundamental change in the relationships between the police, security state, and citizens.” Furthermore, the economy is still suffering due to the stagnant tourist industry and the hesitancy of both foreign and native businesses to invest in the country. Doubts also persist about the Supreme Council of the Armed Force’s commitment to democratic reform.