The protests in Egypt have become more intense as acts of violence by pro-Mubarak have reportedly infiltrated the massive gathering of individuals speaking out against the Hosni Mubarak government. I interviewed a young Egyptian protester by phone on Wednesday. Cynthia Farahat is an Egyptian dissident who described herself as a “conservative in the American sense of the word.” She told me that supporters of Mubarak are stirring up violence by assaulting those who are protesting the government.
“I had joined the protest myself, and I have seen an extraordinary display of peace and civility that I never expected to see in a third world in Arab Islamic country. I was overwhelmed by the display of peaceful protesters and the tolerance. It was actually amazing,” she explained.
“My friends are there. Mubarak’s side attacked them today. I couldn’t get to Tahrir. I tried to go but, they closed all entrances to Tahrir Square, and many of my friends said because I am a girl and I have a political history, I might be targeted there. So they refused to let me go, but they are being attacked right now, and some people called me with Molotov cocktails [who are] Mubarak supporters,” she said.
“Most of these people are policemen. They are secret police. They caught them. They checked their IDs. Some of them of course not all of them,” she said. ” They were handed to the military who kept them in a government building until they can do something about it.”
It seems the Muslim Brotherhood wasted no time in taking advantage of the chaos in Egypt right now. It was difficult at first to see who was fueling the protests, as Brotherhood supporters were apparently small in numbers in the street protests but their long-time organized influenced, despite their opposition to the Mubarak, behind the scenes at higher levels remains a concern on Capitol Hill.
“My worry is that [the Muslim Brotherhood] are a very large organization and they could be exercising a more influence than what you see in front of the CNN cameras. It’s an organization that’s spawned three other terrorist organizations—Islamic Jihad, Al-Qaeda, and Hamas,” Senator Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, told me on Wednesday night. “We don’t know the names of the leaders as well as we should, which is why I gave the speech on the floor—to go through who the top leader of guidance is and then what he said about the West and Sharia law.”
“[The Muslim Brotherhood] was one of my major concerns. When the 25th of January protests started, I was,ironically, one of the people who were very apprehensive about it and not encouraging it in anyway, because the media was everywhere, and the West and in Egypt were trying to portray it as a movement that was coming out of Islamists,” said Cynthia. So I was among the people who refused to go on the first days. I was very apprehensive about the nature of these protests. Later, my perspective completely changed, because I have seen video of my friends and my colleagues protesting. The Muslim Brotherhood had a very insignificant almost no presence in the protest at all.”
Ms. Farahat added that not only was the Brotherhood small in numbers but were also rejected by protesters she saw.
“The Muslim Brotherhood, and I saw it the other day—I was watching, they tried to recite the slogan ‘Islam is the solution, and they were attacked by the rest of the protesters and forced to shut-up. They were just asked to shut-up. It wasn’t about the Muslim Brotherhood. [The protesters] were not going to allow [the Brotherhood] to hijack the diverse event.”
Ms. Farahat believes opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which was organized in 1928 and known to have ties to groups engaging in terrorist activity, are not popular in Egypt.
“When a few of the Islamic crowds try to break the protests to pray theywere rejected by the rest of the protesters. Rejecting a prayer is a very unusual sight in an Islamic country. The protesters sort of look at the Muslim Brotherhood as part of the opposition of Mubarak’s regime,” she explained.
“The significant thing is the opposition is almost totally rejected by most of the protesters, and they are seen as players with the Mubarak regime. That’s why they are refused any conversation or any dialogue with the new vice president Omar Suleiman…because they are trying to gain popularity among the masses .”
However, Senator Kirk cautions that history shows the power that eventually takes over the environment seen in Egypt today is usually absent among the crowds of people making demands in the streets.
“The radical Islamists were not the front of the Iranian Revolution. It was President Bakhtiar, who was the temporary president. Once it was shown he had no real control over the state, he was swept aside, and the real power came to the fore,” he said. “It’s very much like the Russian Revolution. A very friendly President Karensky was brought to power and once it was seen that he was week, the Communists were able to remove him.”
“The real power is often times not on the square. Generally, Revolutions—the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Iranian Revolution—the decisive power is not seen in the square. It’s about a year later,” the Illinois Senator warned.
President Mubarak announced on Tuesday he would not be running for re-election and the Obama administration noted that it would be comfortable with opposition
groups like the Muslim Brotherhood to have a part in the reformed Egyptian government if it rejected violence. Such a ceding of will by the administration does not bode well for the future.