As Egypt's Election Nears, Has The Muslim Brotherhood Lost Its Mojo?

A year and a half after the beginning of the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood is in many ways enjoying a historical triumph. But in Egypt, where it was born, the movement is challenged by a splintering of political Islam -- and by its own political err

A poster for Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy (gr33ndata)
A poster for Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy (gr33ndata)
Christophe Ayad

CAIRO - Two hours into the meeting, a young man stands up and abruptly breaks the boredom. "Are you planning to answer my question? Will you accept, or not, that a woman or a Copt has the right to become President?"

As the audience sits in stunned silence, the young gadfly repeats the question, before an ally adds in: "I know what you do here; you only choose the questions which suit you."

They then lift a sign parodying the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsy, who sits on the dais, nervously fiddling with his papers. The electoral meeting was supposed to be calm. The "Smart Village" is a technological hub just outside the capital that provides headquarters for a dozen or so high-tech companies. The Muslim Brothers came here to convince this well-to-do audience, of young, plugged-in Egytians, that their economic program is serious. Mohamed Morsy, in other words, came here to speak about business, not Sharia law.

But soon after this first outburst, brawny men from the security service rush toward the two rabble-rousers, and drag them out of the hall, while they are still yelling: "You Muslim Brothers are all liars! You're like the old regime, you don't accept contradictions!" Once outside, one of the protesters also receives a swift hit on the head. Oh, Muslims Brothers, are you just a bit testy these days?

Morsy, an apparatchik as grey as his beard and as square as his glasses, hovers desperately low in the polls – below 10%. Meanwhile, his sworn enemy Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former Muslim Brother kicked out of the group in 2011, tallies more than twice the support. Still, the Brotherhood – and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party – should not be underestimated, as voting is set to begin Wednesday in the first Egyptian presidential election since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime.

It wasn't long ago that the Muslim Brotherhood appeared to be in the driver's seat, having won 47% of the country's lower house of Parliament seats during the late 2011 and early 2012 legislative elections. Their triumph was accompanied by a victory at the national upper house, Majlis Al-Choura.

Eighty-four years after Hassan Al-Banna created the movement, the teacher's prediction seemed to be coming true: the Arab world and its beacon, Egypt, seem to be ready to take the plunge of a pacific Islamic revolution. Tunisia and Egypt already, Yemen soon, and why not Syria, one day… A year and a half after the beginning of the Arab Spring, which ended many of the regions autocratic powers, the Muslim Brotherhood is a blooming success, picking up the fruits of a movement it didn't even launch.

Still, it remains difficult to dream about unity among the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Arab world, because the situation varies too greatly from one country to another.

Breakaways and divorces

Much ground has been covered since 1928, and many martyrs fell under the repression. But the time has come. "The strategic error of the Muslim Brotherhood is that they thought they were at a historic moment, but they weren't actually ready. They don't understand that the "deep state," that is to say what embodies the former regime, won't let them rule." The man passing this judgment, Mohamed Habib, knows the Brotherhood very well, as he was its No. 2 until 2009. He even wanted to be its "supreme leader," until an internal fight put him aside. During autumn 2011, he broke away from the movement, sickened by their ambiguities and calculations during the revolution.

Habib describes a fossilized, pyramidal organization, led by a group devoted to Khaïrat Al-Chater, a multimillionaire businessman and the current second-in-command of the Brotherhood. He was the first choice for the presidential election, but earlier convictions prevented him from running for office. And that's why the pale-faced Mohamed Morsy found himself in his place.

The apparent weakness of the Muslim Brothers shouldn't be ascribed solely to the lack of charisma of their candidate. They also accumulated a series of tactical mistakes. Constantly vacillating between the sides of the revolutionaries and the army, the Brotherhood lost the trust of both. On the one hand, the young revolutionaries blame the Brothers for deserting Tahrir Square to protect their electoral standing. On the other hand, the army blames them for breaking an agreement promising the resignation of the Kamal Al-Ganzouri government, appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to lead the country after Mubarak's fall. There is now an open conflict with the military forces, particularly on the weight of the army in the economy, on which the Muslim Brotherhood have a more liberal view.

The Brotherhood is now isolated politically, suffering from competition from Salafi parties, which won one-fourth of the legislative votes. Within a year, political Islam in Egypt is overcrowded with parties and would-be leaders from all corners. Above all, the Muslim Brotherhood trapped itself by an early promise not to have a candidate for the presidential election, after Mubarak's fall. But they finally understood that Parliament is just a discussion forum without real power, and that only executive power really mattered. It was also a priority to fight against the multiplication of Islamist candidacies.

But the Brotherhood's policy is not clear: Morsy is known for his conservative opinions – notably against the right for women and Copts to run for president – whereas the Brotherhood made every effort to reassure Westerners and liberal Egyptians about its openness and moderation.

In spite of all its liabilities, and Egyptian fickleness, the Muslim Brotherhood's popularity in the countryside and poor urban areas shouldn't be underestimated. In these districts, they often were the only safety net. When the time will come to vote, the Brotherhood's ability to unite, and its underground work, may make the difference, in spite of the polls.

Read the original article in French

Photo - gr33ndata

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council

Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke

During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press

Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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