Tahrir Square is the symbol of a divided nation.Events in Egypt live
And, as the battle for Egypt rages, increasing attention is turning to what is seen as the best organised opposition – the Muslim Brotherhood.
Cautious at the start of the latest protests, it is now openly demanding the immediate departure of President Mubarak, rejecting his offer to go in September.
“We have heard these false promises many times and nothing has been achieved,” said Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Rashad Al-Bayoumi.
“He has not achieved anything over the last 33 years, so what could we expect him to achieve in eight months?”
The Brotherhood is currently in a coalition of opposition groups. Officially banned, it may have initially stayed away from the frontline amid fears its presence could be used to justify heightened repression.
Because while it is allowed to operate within limits, many members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been jailed.
Founded in 1928, partly in response to the British occupation of Egypt, it was one of the first and most successful movements to advocate Islam as a political programme in a modern context.
In elections in 2005, the Brotherhood made a breakthrough. With its candidates standing as independents, it won around a fifth of the seats in parliament. Some say that without fraud at the polls, its score would have been even higher.
Even though it is Egypt’s biggest opposition group, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is not a party. All religious-based political activity and parties were banned in 2007 by controversial constitutional amendments
While troubled by its potential rise to power, Egypt’s Western allies can’t argue that the Brotherhood is a terrorist organisation as it renounced violence long ago, unlike its ally Hamas. Yet, like the Palestinian group, its social network and charitable activity make up for shortcomings in state provision and earn it popular respect.
None of the Brotherhood’s candidates won in the first round of last November’s poll, denounced by the group as rigged.
Confrontational towards Israel and hence towards the US, its aim is to introduce Islamic rule in Egypt by democratic means.