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  • It would be no exaggeration to say that the resignation of the Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) supreme guide (or more accurately his delegation of his responsibilities to his deputy) has ushered in the worst leadership crisis the Islamist organisation has experienced in over half a century. The last time it seemed in such disarray was during the leadership of the second supreme guide, Hassan El-Hodeibi, during the confrontation between the MB and the Nasserist regime in 1954. That crisis ended with the dismissal or departure of a large number of MB leaders, most of them from the Al-Azhar contingent.
  • Against such diversity we can nevertheless speak of two divergent trends. One favours open political involvement in student or syndicate circles and other areas of public life. Known as the reformist trend, it has drawn the contours of the MB's image in the sphere of public life. Abdel-Moneim Abul- Fotouh is the most prominent exponent of this trend among the group's senior leaders. The other trend runs the organisational operations of the group, in which capacity they oversee recruitment activities, hierarchical appointments and relations, and the design and implementation of material and programmes for indoctrination. The most important exponent of this conservative trend in the MB leadership is Mahmoud Ezzat.
  • The most recent manifestation of the prevalence of this outlook was the election of Mahdi Akef as the supreme guide in 2004. Akef epitomised the desire to perpetuate the internal concord between the two basic trends. At the time he was elected -- at the age of 76 -- he stood in the middle of the two generations in the leadership bureau. On one side there was the old guard who were mostly over 80, on the other the generation that had become Islamist activists in the universities in the 1970s and who were mainly in their 50s. Akef represents a convergence between the two trends and age groups in other ways. Barely 12 when he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, he was trained by the organisation's founder, Hassan El-Banna. In addition to belonging to the generation of founders, he early joined the organisation's underground paramilitary wing. At the same time he enjoys considerable credibility and popularity among the younger and more open- minded MB generations involved in public affairs. He was the spiritual father of the project to found the Wasat (Centre) Party, which was to represent the MB in the public domain before the leadership crisis ended with the dismissal or resignation of most of the party's founders. As supreme guide, Mahdi Akef sought to preserve the concord between the two trends. However, various developments, some brought on by Akef himself, diminished the possibility of sustaining a workable formula for mutually complementary coexistence.

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  • "The policies of repression and arrests make it very difficult" to move toward a more moderate Brotherhood because they strengthen conservatives in the group.
  • "It is in the government's advantage to keep the Brotherhood ultra-conservative,"
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