Prime-time TV show hits Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:24am EDT
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By Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO (Reuters) - A prime-time TV show charting the rise of Egypt's main opposition movement the Muslim Brotherhood is gripping audiences and angering leaders of the group, who see an attempt to tarnish its name before elections this year.

The sweeping historical drama shows how the Brotherhood's call for a return to Islam's roots took hold in colonial 1920s Egypt and gained traction after independence as its criticism of Western influence on Muslim society resonated among the poor.

The 35 million Egyptian pound ($6.15 million) series is being aired every night on Egypt's main state-owned channel during the holy month of Ramadan, when TV ratings soar as families and friends gather in the evening.

"The government would never allow a series on the Brotherhood to be shown on its TV channels unless it is happy with it... The government is very cautious toward anything that involves the group," said film critic Tarek el-Shenawy.

Egypt's secular-leaning government, a staunch Western ally, has been wary of any group with Islamist leanings since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 by Islamist militants.

A three-decade-old emergency law affords the police sweeping powers to quash dissent and the authorities have carried out periodic crackdowns on the Brotherhood, squeezed it out of mainstream politics and detained its senior figures.

The movement, which is banned from formal politics, remains popular among the underprivileged, partly because it offers social and economic services in deprived neighborhoods.

It secured a fifth of the seats in parliament in 2005 by fielding candidates as independents and remains the only opposition group able to muster significant support in the run-up to a legislative election late this year.   Continued...