Amira Nowaira writes: As the brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters in Cairo and several other Egyptian cities continued unabated for six days running, the Muslim Brotherhood stayed out of the fray, declaring clearly that it would not join the protests.
In deciding to stay away from these protests, the Brotherhood may have committed its gravest mistake to date. The footage showing a dead protester being dragged by a security officer and dumped near a rubbish heap, appearing on many satellite channels and the internet, has not only shocked and enraged Egyptians, but it has sent them out on to the streets in their thousands to protest against this outrage.
In going out they had no political calculations in mind and no gains to make. They simply wanted their voices to be heard. By staying away, the Brotherhood has sent the message that it rated its self-interest higher than Egyptian blood and its decision has angered many Egyptians, including some of its own members.
While this highlights the rift that has been growing over the past few months between the Brotherhood and a significant segment of the population, it also brings to light the various challenges facing the Brotherhood since the overthrow of Mubarak.
The first is that after having worked for most of its history as an underground movement, the Brotherhood has suddenly found itself exposed to the public gaze. While such exposure has afforded its members far more visibility and freedom of movement than they have ever enjoyed, it has also made them the object of public scrutiny, criticism and at times even scorn.