Relaxing near the entrance to a blood-stained alley off Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, prominent engineer and political activist Mamdouh Hamza, 63, credits the Muslim Brotherhood with saving the day. “We needed them,” he says. “They were very important to the resistance.” A short distance down the alley, amid a warren of shuttered shops, is the makeshift hospital that treated the hundreds of anti-regime protesters who were bludgeoned, stabbed, shot, burned by Molotov cocktails, or hit by flying rocks during last week’s pitched battle against President Hosni Mubarak’s men. But the protesters managed to hold their ground—thanks to the Brotherhood’s reinforcements, Hamza says, scanning the crowd in the square. “Half the people here, or maybe 40 percent, are Muslim Brotherhood,” he says. “They were a very important factor.”
The big question now is this: how much more important a factor will they become? The Brotherhood’s hardline Islamist roots frighten a lot of people, both outside Egypt and in. Addressing Israel’s Knesset last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invoked the specter of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, which brought the ayatollahs to power and transformed a staunch ally of Israel into one of its most implacable and dangerous enemies. Members of the U.S. Congress expressed similar fears. And so, of course, did Mubarak, who has presented himself as Egypt’s last line of defense against a radical Islamist deluge ever since the October 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, by followers of a Muslim Brotherhood splinter group. He told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour last week that although he’s fed up with ruling, he can’t abandon his post now or “chaos” would come.
I'm still unsure whether the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood should be feared as much as a continuation of the status quo