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Fissures Erupt in the Muslim Brotherhood

Haaretz reports that several prominent members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have left the mother ship. Some are establishing new parties — direct rivals to the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party — and bringing young Brothers along with them. Others are running for president of Egypt, which the Brotherhood has expressly forbidden at this stage.

The wave of defections appears to have been set off by the Brotherhood’s expulsion of Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fottouh, according to Hossam Tamam, an Egyptian expert in Islamic groups. Following his ouster, Abul-Fottouh put his own name on the presidential ballot.

This fellow bears watching. According to Haaretz, he was viewed before his expulsion as the moderate face of the Brotherhood. “In many of his writings, he has interpreted the veil not as Islamic dress code but rather a traditional dress like the Indian Sari, more of a national identity than a religious obligation,” they write. “He also supports rights of any Egyptian, even atheist.”

The most recent political party to splinter off from the Brotherhood is al-Riyada, or The Pioneers. It’s run by ex-Brother Khaled Dawoud and consists of members of the Brotherhood’s “reformist” camp. Their platform is the separation of mosque and state. Islam, al-Riyada maintains, is the centerpiece of Egyptian life, so there is no need to impose it politically. “The culture of Egypt is Islamic, why do we need to elaborate?” Dawoud told AP.

The Brothers are promising to expel any members who join competing parties — rather a feeble threat, as the horses are too far off by the time they get to al-Riyada to hear the slam of the stable door. “Al-Riyada is very significant because they are the reformists within the group who were isolated for so long,” Hossam Tamam says. “For the first time, we see an Islamic group that doesn’t identify itself through Islamic Sharia. This is very important.”