Egypt's long banned Muslim Brotherhood will form a political party for upcoming elections, as the nation's new military leaders convened a panel of experts to amend the nation's constitution. The panel, which will include former Brotherhood lawmaker Sobhi Saleh, is paving the way towards democracy even as skepticism reigns over the Brotherhood's politics.
"The Muslim Brotherhood group believes in the freedom of the formation of political parties. They are eager to have a political party," spokesman Mohammed Mursi said in a statement on the Brotherhood website. Egypt's constitution still bans religious groups from forming political parties.
The group's history of violent rhetoric and desire for an Islamic state in Egypt have been a cause for concern. Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) recently released a translation of Jihad is the way, a book by the previous Egyptian Brotherhood leader, Mustafa Mashhur. In it, Mashhur calls for "realizing the great task of establishing an Islamic state and strengthening the religion and spreading it around the world."
However, the threat posed by the Brotherhood hasn't always been realized, even by key figures in the America's intelligence leaders. Similar warnings about the threat posed by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran were missed a generation ago.
This confusion may, in large part, be caused by the cagey, and often times contradictory, statements offered up by Brotherhood leaders. But by piecing together the policy stances issued by the group's leadership over time, a clear image emerges of what the Brotherhood truly is about. This picture would likely include policies aimed at "preserving honor"—explained at length by Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Ali Abdel Fattah in an interview published Monday in USA Today. "The Brotherhood would seek 'the preservation of honor' by stoning adulterers," the newspaper reported, "punishing gays, requiring Muslim women to cover their heads and shoulders in public and killing Muslims who leave their faith, said Abdel Fattah..."
As in the case with Hizballah, European politicians appear to be following a policy of cooperating with all parties. "I will speak with all representatives of the opposition," said European Union Vice President Catherine Ashton in an interview with Der Spiegel. "The success of the elections depends on their being supported by the entire society. Everyone, including the Muslim Brothers, must be involved in this process, whether or not we agree with them."