The reluctant partnership between the Muslim Brotherhood and human rights NGOs in Egypt

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The Muslim Brotherhood and human rights NGOs (non-government organizations) have found common ground for contesting the highly exclusive nature of politics in the Arab world's largest state. Some observers have sought to highlight this co-operation as the emergence of a permanent, unified opposition in Egypt, a form of liberal Islamic political activism under the joint tutelage of these two movements. However, this optimism may be premature. This chapter explores how, since 1952, Egypt has witnessed the entrenchment of single-party authoritarian rule with minimal space for the expression of political opposition. Methods of restricting political pluralism have changed over time from overt state repression to more subtle methods of co-option and legal manipulation, each seeking to achieve the same result, the neutralization of opposition. Currently, the Muslim Brotherhood remains potentially the single most viable opposition to the regime despite its illegal but tolerated status. Alternatively, human rights NGOs are highly vocal and visible in their criticism of the regime, despite a marked lack of domestic support within Egypt. It is the legal expertise of human rights NGOs and the domestic popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood that has resulted in these two groups finding increasing common ground and means of cooperation. This co-operation is expressive of restricted space for political action, rather than a deeper engagement and dialogue between human rights organizations and the Muslim Brotherhood. In other words, this co-operation is functional, leaving key areas of dispute between the two groups untouched.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIslam and Human Rights in Practice
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives Across the Ummah
EditorsShahram Akbarzadeh, Benjamin MacQueen
Place of PublicationUK
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781134059263
ISBN (Print)0415449596, 9780415449595
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

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