Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood came late to Tahrir [Freedom or Liberation] Square to call on Hosni Mubarak to step down. Its leader refused, at first, to enter negotiations with Mubarak's newly appoint vice president Omar Suleiman, the former spymaster, unless the 'pharaon' resigned. Today in a stunning reversal, the Brotherhood stands side by side will secular and Christian representatives to talk turkey with Suleiman.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, speaking in Germany, said that this was welcome news. Israel's Shimon Peres in one of his facile slogans -- there can be no peace without democracy, and no democracy without peace -- hypocritically shuddered at the thought that the Muslim Brotherhood wanted nothing more than to gain power and impose a radical Islamic state, say, on the Irani model. Did he forget that Israel enjoyed a 30 year romp in bed with Mubarak, a 'lover' not known for democratic leanings?
Every talking head you could find on the conventional American media jabbered endlessly on the long shadow of radical Islam that the Brotherhood cast even over Washington. Such nattering simply pointed to the fact that these magpies of the press, and yes in the government, knew next to nothing about what's happening in Egypt, let alone its 20 century history.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has been in the political wilderness since 1954 when it took on Gamal Nassar who banned it, threw its leaders into prison, or sent them into exile, as the example of the much quoted and very 'respectable' intellectual and author, Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Al Bana who foundered the movement in the 1920s shows, by settling, for example, seeking asylum and citizenship in Switerland. Others journied elsewhere.
After almost 60 years of internal banishment -- even though it members ran for office as independents, and represent 20 per cent of the voters -- the Brotherhood grasped the opportunity to join the political mainstream by hanging on to the coat tails of the students and secular and smaller religious parties formenting what they call 'revolution', and is a turnaround of Egypt on the scale that would please Muhammed Ali. And although the decision is rightfully viewed as opportunistic by its fellow protesters, the Brotherhood is a tamer avatar of its old self. It wants respectability and recognition and is willing to don, it seems, Turkish apparel to enter as a party into the new Parliament after elections.
The US, the UK, and above all Israel should kiss the ground the Muslim Brotherhood walks on. Its decision to negotiate, among others, with Omar Suleiman gives them, tactically speaking, breathing space. Its leaders may modify relations with Israel, but if they follow the Turkish star they won't abrogate the peace treaty with the Zionist state, but redefine it. For Washington and London, ironically, denouncing it vigorously, the Brotherhood will soon be welcome by the power elite in the US and the UK.
The proof is in the pudding Bin Laden & co's reaction: they violently denounced Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood for the obvious and usual reasons.
It appears at first and second and even third blush, the Brotherhood leaders are willing to play by the rules. They do recognise that the secular forces rose up against Mubarak whilst they hesitated, and that a secular state will remain with the military [which has long found it] support a non religious Egypt. So for the Brotherhood like Henri IV, 'le caire en vaut une messe'!