December 14, 2006 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Acting to capitalize on remarks made by Egypt's Cultural Minister - Farouk Hosni - that the wearing of the traditional Muslim hijab [head scarf] by women in that country was a sign of backwardness, members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood staged a series of violent protests at their stronghold Al-Azhar University just outside of Cairo on Sunday.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the radical Islamist group responsible for the assassination of Anwar Sadat and from which grew al-Qaeda. Since its inception in 1928 it has been agitating for Egypt to become an Islamist theocracy and has recently had strong electoral success, holding 88 of 454 seats in the country's parliament.
Egyptian officials are concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood is in the process of building on its political power and developing a military wing. Adding credence to that speculation many of the al-Azhar demonstrators were wearing military style garb.
The Middle East Newsline is reporting that the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood's military wing has been confirmed by unidentified government officials:
"'They don't walk around with firearms, at least not as far as we know,' an official said. 'But they are trained to attack.'
Officials said Brotherhood militiamen have been trained in karate, Kung Fu and other martial arts. They said the force has been seen at Al Azhar University, regarded as the seat of Sunni Islam and a Brotherhood stronghold."
At least 140 members of the group were arrested as a result of the protests along with the Brotherhood's financier and third in command Mohammed Khayrat el-Shater who was apprehended at his home.
Sources within the Brotherhood are claiming that hundreds have been taken into custody in follow-up raids made within Al-Azhar's dormitories. The university has been the site of student unrest since members of the group were barred from participation in school elections.
Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak has moved strongly to counter the Muslim Brotherhood's growing popularity. In May, the organization's Political Department Director Essam el-Erian and Mohamed Mursi, an influential member were detained. The two were released on Sunday, an emboldening factor thought to have helped fuel the Al-Azhar demonstrations.
©1999-2007 PipeLineNews.org, all rights reserved.