BEIRUT, Oct 31—Islamist women, increasingly restless with their subordinate status in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, are pushing for greater representation and a wider role, according to a new paper from the Carnegie Middle East Center.
Omayma Abdel-Latif explores the role of women within the movement, including recent debates following the release of the 2007 draft party platform that denied women the right to the country’s top position. She studies the growing impact of young leaders and female activists and examines what type of change is possible, despite major obstacles.
- Women are not represented in the Brotherhood’s decision-making bodies and their political activities are seen as separate from those of the organization.
- The Brotherhood’s leadership has limited participation by women, yet those at the mid-level favor more power-sharing rights for women—signaling an important generational shift within the movement.
- Critics of a wider role for women claim that their policies shield women from exposure to the repressive detention policies of the state. However, the growing involvement of women in the movement’s street activism and electoral politics raises questions about the longevity of the arrangement.
“Far from being resolved, the issue of the position of women in the Muslim Brotherhood is at the center of a lively debate. However, there is no evidence that this debate is threatening the unity of the movement. The questioning by women activists of their role, and their call for broader participation in decision-making bodies, are parts of the normal dynamics of change, not signs of a “rebellion of the Sisters,” as some observers described it. The Muslim Brotherhood, like any other sociopolitical movement, is not a static body. It is influenced by the social and political milieu in which it operates.”
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- Omayma Abdel-Latif is a research and program associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. Prior to joining Carnegie, she was assistant editor-in-chief at Al-Ahram Weekly, the Middle East’s leading English weekly. She has done extensive work on Islamist movements, with special emphasis on the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. She also covered a wide range of issues including Islamic–Western relations, political reform in Egypt, and political transition in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.
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