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Mubarak’s resignation is good sign?

Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square after hearing the news of the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. After 18 days of widespread protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has now left Cairo for his home in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheik, announced that he would step down. - Getty Image
by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

(February 12, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) After 30 years in Presidency, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11, 2011 amid heavy protest by his opponents. The former air force commander, 82, attained the presidency in 1981 after militants assassinated his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, who was shot dead at a military parade in Cairo. Mr. Mubarak himself survived six assassination attempts.

Under Hosni Mubarak’s rule, Egypt maintained peace with Israel and close ties with the West. Mr. Mubarak's government was a key ally of the United States in efforts to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The embattled president also earned Western support for cracking down on Islamic extremism. Egypt’s notorious Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood members were particularly angry on Mr. Mubarak for his stern action against this group’s terror activities.

For past two plus weeks, people were seen demonstrating on the street demanding resignation of Hosni Mubarak, who finally handed over power to military, which already has taken control of the state.

Mr. Mubarak took a step toward democratic reform in 2005 by allowing the nation's first multi-candidate presidential election, but he later jailed his main opponent, Ayman Nour, on corruption charges. In the most recent parliamentary elections, the president's National Democratic Party crushed the opposition amid widespread accusations of intimidation and vote rigging.

Economically, though Mr. Mubarak's reforms led to a boom in Egypt's economy, they are blamed for widening the gap between rich and poor. Anger grew over high unemployment and poverty.

Mubarak’s departure came after violence killed more than 300 people, according to the United Nations, with police sometimes firing on demonstrators and pro-Mubarak forces attacking as well. Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world, which holds more than 50 percent of all known oil reserves. Mubarak kept peace with Israel, with which Egypt had had formal peace for only two years when he took office, supported U.S. counterterrorism efforts, backed Iranian sanctions over its nuclear program and helped broker Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. At the same time, Mubarak, an 82-year-old with jet-black hair, controlled a regime condemned by the U.S. government for its lack of basic freedoms at home, for its widespread suppression of political opposition and for the torture of Egyptian citizens, which was often carried out with impunity, according to the State Department.

Hosni Mubarak was elected president five times. Four were by referendum in which he was the only candidate, and one, in 2005, was an election against an array of weak candidates. Throughout his reign, he retained the state-of-emergency rules that restricted political activity and free speech.

Like Egypt’s three other presidents since the revolution of 1952, Mubarak came from the military. Almost three decades after he assumed power, that same military would announce that it recognized “the legitimacy of the people’s demands” and promise not to fire on peaceful demonstrators.

Until the crisis that began with demonstrations Jan. 25, Mubarak had never appointed a vice president or officially designated anyone as his likely successor. The rise of his son, Gamal, up the ranks of the ruling National Democratic Party led Egyptians to conjecture that he would succeed his father. Both men repeatedly denied this.

Mubarak’s most visible political opponents were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic group that had renounced violence in the 1970s. Dissatisfaction among Egyptians over corruption and economic inequality fuelled its growth.

In 2005, Mubarak opened presidential elections to multiple candidates. The regulations were so restrictive that no strong challengers emerged; the runner-up, lawyer Ayman Nour, won only 7 percent of the vote to Mubarak’s 88 percent. After the election, Nour was jailed for four years on fraud charges that human-rights groups say were trumped up.

In elections later in 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood won 88 seats in the 454-member parliament - a surprise result that prompted a crackdown on Islamic activists and on anti-Mubarak secular politicians, judges, newspaper editors, bloggers and street demonstrators. Hundreds of Brotherhood activists were rounded up and some put on trial in closed-door military courts.

In 2007, a constitutional amendment forbade parties with religious ties, eliminating the Muslim Brotherhood from fielding a presidential candidate. Rules on running as an independent were also tightened, making a Brotherhood-affiliated nominee unlikely. Following the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, it is anticipated that, Muslim Brotherhood may now move its focus to other Arab states with the target of ultimately establishing Iran type Mullah Regimes in those countries. It is important to assess the growing strength of Muslim Brotherhood in the world.

In 1997 Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mustafa Mashhur told journalist Khalid Daoud that he thought Egypt's Coptic Christians and Orthodox Jews should pay the long-abandoned Jizya poll tax, levied on non-Muslims in exchange for protection from the state, rationalized by the fact that non-Muslims are exempt from military service while it is compulsory for Muslims. He went on to say, "we do not mind having Christians members in the People's Assembly...the top officials, especially in the army, should be Muslims since we are a Muslim country...This is necessary because when a Christian country attacks the Muslim country and the army has Christian elements, they can facilitate our defeat by the enemy."

The Society of the Muslim Brothers [popularly known as ‘Al Ikhwan’ or Muslim Brotherhood] is an extremist Islamist group spread within Arab states. It was formed in March 1928 by Hassan al-Banna in Egypt. The Brotherhood is financed by contributions from its members, who are required to allocate a portion of their income to the movement. Some of these contributions are from members who live in oil-rich countries. By 1948, the Brotherhood had about half a million members. The Muslim Brotherhood also tried to build up something like an Islamist International, thus founding groups in Lebanon [in 1936], Syria [1937], and Transjordan [1946]. It also recruited among the foreign students in Cairo. Its headquarters in Cairo became a center and meeting place for representatives from the whole Muslim world. Underground links of Muslim Brotherhood with Nazis began during the 1930s and were close during the Second World War, involving agitation against the British, Jewish immigration to Palestine, espionage and sabotage, as well as support for terrorist activities orchestrated by Haj Amin el-Hussaini in British Mandate Palestine, as a wide range of declassified documents from the British, American and Nazi German governmental archives, as well as from personal accounts and memoirs from that period, confirm.

In Bahrain, the Muslim Brotherhood is represented by the Al Eslah Society and its political wing, the Al-Menbar Islamic Society. Following parliamentary elections in 2002, Al-Menbar became the joint largest party with eight seats in the forty seats Chamber of Deputies.

Muslim Brotherhood in Syria was founded in the 1930s [according to lexicorient.com] or in 1945, a year before independence from France, [according to journalist Robin Wright]. Syria based Muslim Brotherhood has external headquarters in London and Cyprus. The leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, who lives as a political refugee in London.

The Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was formed in 1942, and is a strong factor in Jordanian politics. While most political parties and movements were banned for a long time in Jordan such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Brotherhood was exempted and allowed to operate by the Jordanian monarchy. The Jordanian Brotherhood has formed its own political party, the Islamic Action Front, which has the largest number of seats of any party in the Jordanian parliament.

The Muslim Brotherhood's brand of Islam and Islamic politics differs from the strict Salafi creed, Wahhabiya, officially held by the state of Saudi Arabia. Despite this, the Brotherhood has been tolerated by the Saudi government, and maintains a presence in the country. The Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait is represented in the Kuwaiti parliament by Hadas.

The Muslim Brotherhood reached Algeria during the later years of the French colonial presence in the country [1830–1962]. Sheikh Ahmad Sahnoun led the organization in Algeria between 1953 and 1954 during the French colonialism. Brotherhood members and sympathizers took part in the uprising against France in 1954–1962, but the movement was marginalized during the largely secular FLN one-party rule which was installed at independence in 1962. It remained unofficially active, sometimes protesting the government and calling for increased Islamization and Arabization of the country's politics. When a multi-party system was introduced in Algeria in the early 1990s, the Muslim Brotherhood formed the Movement for the Society of Peace [MSP, previously known as Hamas], led by Mahfoud Nahnah until his death in 2003 [he was succeeded by present party leader Boudjerra Soltani].

Until the election of mega-terrorist group Hamas in Gaza, Sudan was the only country where the Brotherhood was most successful in gaining power, its members making up a large part of the government officialdom following the 1989 coup d'état by General Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Always close to Egyptian politics, Sudan has had a Muslim Brotherhood presence since 1949.

Somalia's wing of the Muslim Brotherhood is known by the name Harakat Al-Islah or "Reform Movement". Nonetheless, the Brotherhood, as mentioned earlier, has inspired many Islamist organizations in Somalia. Muslim Brotherhood ideology reached Somalia in the 1960s, but Al-Islah movement was formed in 1978 and slowly grew in the 1980s.

Like their counterparts elsewhere in the Islamic world in general, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has influenced the Tunisia’s Islamists. One of the notable organizations that was influenced and inspired by the Brotherhood is Al-Nahda [The Revival or Renaissance Party], which is Tunisia's 2nd major Islamist grouping after Hizb ut-Tahrir. An Islamist named Rashid Ghannouchi founded the organization in 1981. While studying in Damascus and Paris, Rashid Ghannouchi embraced the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In United States, Muslim Brotherhood has been active since the 1960s. Its stated goals have included propagating Islam and creating havens for Muslims in the US, and integrating Muslims. A main strategy has been dawah or Islamic renewal and outreach. In the 1960s, groups such as U.S. military personnel, prison inmates and African-Americans were specifically targeted for dawah. In most cases, Muslim Brotherhood operates inside United States under the cover of Tablighi Jamaat. Organizations in the US started by activists involved with the Muslim Brotherhood include the Muslim Students Association in 1963, North American Islamic Trust in 1971, the Islamic Society of North America in 1981, the American Muslim Council in 1990, the Muslim American Society in 1992, and the International Institute of Islamic Thought in the 1980s.

U.S. White House counterterrorism Chief Juan Zarate said, "The Muslim Brotherhood is a group that worries us not because it deals with philosophical or ideological ideas but because it defends the use of violence against civilians."

Raymond Ibrahim, editor of The Al Qaeda Reader, who notes that Muhammad himself described war as "deceit" and that Muslim Brotherhood disciples, past and present, merely duplicate the "everlasting words of Allah," as iterated in the Qur'an.

Mega-terrorist group Hamas hailed the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak as “the start of the victory of the Egyptian revolution” as jubilations erupted across the Gaza Strip.

In initial statements, Jewish groups congratulated Egyptians on ousting Hosni Mubarak and expressed hope for continued peace with Israel.

"The demonstrations by the people of Egypt against the regime’s authoritarianism and repression, and their demands for greater freedom, political accountability and transparency, have been inspiring to all who cherish democracy and liberty," the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement Friday after Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had relinquished his powers to the army. "The people of Egypt must now channel their passion for change into the more difficult task of building the foundations for a true open, inclusive and stable democracy."

The statement noted uncertainty about "the new role of the military is and how they will govern" as well as "serious questions about what role the Muslim Brotherhood will play in the transition and beyond, and how this will impact Egypt's policies, and its relations with the West and the State of Israel."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said it "congratulates and commends the Egyptian people’s courageous and non-violent transformation of their country." It continued: "We hope that future developments will help institutionalize individual and political freedoms and that the new Egyptian government will continue to maintain the legacy of peaceful coexistence with all its neighbors, including the state of Israel."

The Union for Reform Judaism quoted the Babylonian Talmud: "A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted."

"We hope and pray that the transition in Egypt will be one of calm and peace and that the next leader of Egypt will be chosen through open and democratic elections," said the statement from URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie. "We further pray that the next government will continue Egypt's leadership in the area of regional security and work to protect both Egypt's and the world's interest in continuing peace with Israel."

It is too early to comment if Mubarak’s resignation is a good sign for democracy, but, undoubtedly, it is a matter of great concern to see that Muslim Brotherhood is now actually becoming the next potential party to grab power in Cairo. No peace-loving individual will welcome such situation. On the other hand, Hosni Mubarak’s resignation leaves a very strong signal for every government in the world that, excessive repressions on people finally do not bring anything good for the government. Once again, it has become crystal clear that, there is nothing mightier than the people itself.

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