Underground for decades as the only credible opposition to Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood has recently become a mainstream, and officially registered, political party - gaining a near majority in the recent parliamentary elections. Though dominated by male leaders, their new party “HorreyawalAddalah” (Freedom and Justice Party), provides a space for women, but it is unclear if this is for political motives, or a sign of increasing modernity. While a few female candidates were elected to the parliament, the position of women in the “Brotherhood” remains tenuous and unclear. For example, Sara, a young Muslim sister of 18, complains about the place of the woman in the organisation - how women do not have the same rights, the same power to make decisions as men. Sara is not alone, as many of the young sisters I met want to work internally to change the mentality of the Brotherhood towards women, and claim their rights.
These “Muslim Sisters” played an important role during the Egyptian uprising and will be key in the construction of a new Egypt – one they want to be based on, or influenced by, Islamic practices. But that is only part of the story, as these women have for years been quietly involved in social/charity work (schools, hospitals, interest free loans, etc.) – for which the Brotherhood gained its reputation, popularity and social capital. Beyond the political and social engagement, the sisters all take part in religious activities, and once a week gather in “Osra” (family in Arabic) to discuss Koranic suras while reflecting on their personal experiences. Their lives are organised around Islam, and their stated priorities are to be a good mother, a good wife and most importantly - a good Muslim. The full picture is more complex though, as most of the sisters wear western clothes under the “abbayas” (the long Islamic robe), are educated, post pictures on facebook and seek equal rights and treatment.