Thursday, November 22, 2007

Young Brothers in Cyberspace

by Marc Lynch from MERIP (US: Washington, DC)

One troubled, reform-minded Society of Muslim Brothers’ member claimed in an interview that reformist bloggers make up only about 15% of the youth. The rest are mostly salafis from the provinces with little interest in politics. Such salafi youth care more deeply about the expression of faith and austere personal behavior, and seem to hold much more conservative social and political views. Their relations with Coptic Christians have often been tense, especially in Alexandria and in the south, in stark distinction to the more forthcoming attitudes of the bloggers. Where the bloggers think nothing of discussing movies or music, the salafis cultivate a spartan aesthetic that radiates disdain for popular culture. And despite the urban-rural presentation of the divide by many of the blogger-activists, the retrograde cultural politics of the salafists can be seen at the universities ... The bloggers of the Muslim Brothers represent a growing intellectual and political force within the movement that could, over time, help tip it in a reformist direction. But they face considerable challenges: a leadership wary of change, a regime increasingly prone to arresting troublesome Internet activists, and a salafi counter-trend that could well take the Muslim Brothers in another direction entirely.

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