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Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood eyes big political role

By Maggie Michael

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, April 30 2011 1:10 p.m. MDT

Egyptian Secretary General of Muslim brotherhood Mahmoud Hussein, center, reads a statement in front of a banner that reads in Arabic "A press conference for the Muslim brotherhood about the decisions of the general Shura council" during a press conference in the Muslim brotherhood headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, April 30, 2011. The once outlawed Muslim Brotherhood says it will contest half of the seats in Egypt's parliamentary elections in September, revealing plans to become a major force in the country's post-revolution politics.

Khalil Hamra, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

CAIRO — The once outlawed Muslim Brotherhood said Saturday its new political party will contest half of the seats in Egypt's parliamentary elections in September, revealing plans to become a major force in the country's post-revolution politics.

The country's largest Islamic group and the best organized opposition movement during ousted President Hosni Mubarak's three decades of autocratic rule sought to ease concerns that it is intent on bringing about an Islamist-dominated parliament.

"This is not a religious party, not a theocratic party," its newly named leader, Mahmoud Mosri, told reporters Saturday. He described the platform of the new Freedom and Justice party as civil but with an Islamic background.

The popular uprising that toppled Mubarak on Feb. 11 was driven by broad swaths of Egyptian society, and secular-minded youth activists, in particular, watched with concern as Brotherhood supporters joined the revolution once it was clear it had momentum.

They fear it will forge alliances with other Islamic groups, like ultraconservative Salafists, to dominate parliament and impose Islamic Sharia law in all aspects of life, limit freedom of expression and dubbing their rivals infidels.

The new party will test to what extent the Brotherhood is willing to moderate its rigid religious discourse to try to win broader political support.

It is well positioned to win big in September's elections. Having survived years of attempts by Mubarak's regime to suppress it, the Brotherhood is the best organized political force in the country now that the ex-president's ruling party has been disbanded.

The activists behind the uprising have yet to catch up and fear they will not be ready by September to rally large numbers of voters.

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