The Fox News faithful and the rest of the right-wing bedwetters are already hard at work trying to make the uprising in Egypt into an Islamic threat from the Muslim Brotherhood. (Not to mention their panic attacks that this will raise the price of oil. Boy, their allegiance to democracy is still as shallow as ever!)
CAIRO - The Muslim Brotherhood found its first martyr in Egypt's popular uprising Friday, when a teenager named Mustafa Sawi was shot dead in front of the Interior Ministry. But the country's oldest and best organized opposition group had to take a back seat at his public funeral the next day, as the Muslim Brotherhood insists it is little more than a bit player in the outpouring of resistance to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
"This is on purpose," Mohammed Mahdi Akef, who retired last year as leader of the group at the age of 82, said Sunday. "We want to be part of the fabric of society."
But as Egyptian society begins to weave a whole new cloth, the Muslim Brotherhood, alternately used and demonized by Mubarak over the years, has been slow to contribute. An organization dedicated to the creation of a more thoroughly Islamic Egyptian state, and still technically illegal here, the 83-year-old group has been weakened by a generational divide and overtaken by the protests that broke out with little warning here last week.
The Muslim Brotherhood is still capable of provoking alarm here. Last week, as the protests gathered steam, many of its senior members were rounded up and put in prison.
Individual members have been active in the demonstrations, but like other political groups here it has refrained from waving its banners or promoting itself during the protests. At Sawi's funeral procession, which wound through central Tahrir Square on Saturday, there was no visible evidence of his membership.
"The moment is bigger than any individual force or actor," Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said Sunday. "The Brothers have been effectively sidelined."
The outpouring of so many different elements of society in the demonstrations has to have taught the Muslim Brotherhood a lesson, he said. "They must realize now that there's no way they represent the majority."