Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Saturday, 16 January 2010

Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt elects new leader

Mohammed Badi
Analysts say Mr Badi is likely to steer the Brotherhood away from activism

Egypt's outlawed opposition Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has named a conservative figure, Mohammed Badie, as its new leader.

Mr Badie, 66, a veterinary professor at Beni Suef University, is the group's eighth "general guide" since 1928.

His election by senior members follows internal elections last year in which conservatives did well and prominent reformists were defeated.

He succeeds Mohammed Mahdi Akif, who became the first leader to step down.

The Brotherhood has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with charity work.

Show the world the true Islam, the Islam of moderation and forgiveness that respects pluralism in the whole world
Mohammed Badie

It has been banned from open political activity since 1954, and leading activists are frequently arrested and imprisoned by the authorities.

Despite this, Brotherhood members standing as independent candidates won 20% of the seats in the last parliamentary election in 2005, its best ever result.

Regional impact

After the announcement of his election by the group's Shura Council on Saturday, Mr Badie told members: "Show the world the true Islam, the Islam of moderation and forgiveness that respects pluralism in the whole world."

Egypt's oldest and largest Islamist organisation
Founded by Hasan al-Banna in 1928
Group has influenced Islamist movements worldwide
Mixes political activism with charity work
Banned from open political activity
Rejects the use of violence and supports democratic principles
Wants to create a state governed by Islamic law
Slogan: "Islam is the Solution"

Analysts say a conservative leader is likely to steer the Brotherhood away from political activism, and instead focus on religious and social work.

The government has also passed laws making it harder for he group to contest future elections, including October's parliamentary polls.

"There are two causes for the regression of political work. The first is intense government pressures and the constitutional changes made on participation in elections," commentator Diaa Rashwan told the AFP news agency.

"The other factor is that Mr Badie is not involved in public work - he is part of the ideological work," he added.

Another analyst, Khalil al-Anani, warned that the Brotherhood's withdrawal from political life, coupled with the government's continuing crackdown on Islamists, might leave a vacuum that more militant voices could fill in the future.

The BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo says the path the Brotherhood chooses under Mr Badie will have implications beyond Egypt.

It is related to other Islamist groups in the Arab world, many of whom are also debating the merits of political engagement, she says.

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