Can the Muslim Brotherhood unite Egypt?

The Egyptian government has invited the controversial Muslim Brotherhood to join talks about the nation's future. Is this a sign of where the country is heading?

Muslim Brotherhood negotiates Egypt's future with the country's political leaders.
(Image credit: Corbis)

In a remarkable shift, the Egyptian government invited the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Islamist group, to participate in negotiations over the country's future between opposition groups, Egyptian "wise men," and Vice President Omar Suleiman. The Brotherhood agreed Sunday to participate. In reaction, President Obama said that, while the Brotherhood is "well organized," they are just "one faction" and "don't have majority support in Egypt." Will that change now that President Hosni Mubarak's government is opening a door to the controversial group? (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk Show Briefing about the U.S. and Egypt)

We can't risk Islamist rule: This legitimization of the Muslim Brotherhood is a "dangerous turn" in the uprising, says Abe Greenwald in Commentary. The Brotherhood clearly "expects to rule," and the Obama team can't allow that "unacceptable outcome for Americans and democrats in and outside of Egypt." Obama has to use our leverage, making clear that U.S. aid will depend on "the nature and goals of Egypt's next government."

"The Brotherhood makes its move, the U.S. looks on"

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The Muslim Brotherhood won't last: "Let me try to offer a dose of reassurance," says Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. If Egyptians win the right to a fair vote, they will elect some Muslim Brotherhood leaders, along with assorted "demagogues, nationalists, and jingoists." But "partly because of Western anxieties, fundamentalist Muslims have rarely run anything" in Egypt, and they will be voted out once the public sees how "incompetent at governing" they are.

"Militants, women, and Tahrir Sq."

The Brotherhood's future depends on the U.S.: "Egypt is not Iran in a dozen important ways," says Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post. And the Brotherhood won't hijack the "secular" uprising — yet. But if the U.S. brokers a transition to a Pakistan-like "sham democracy" where the military continues to pull the strings, Egyptians will become "more hard-line, more religious, and more violent." That's when the Brotherhood's "retrograde and pernicious" views might win.

"Egypt's real parallel to Iran's revolution"

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