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Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood influence felt at Tahrir Square

Analysis: Banned group is central to protests, and may be integral to Egypt's future.

The Muslim Brotherhood candidates ran as independents and won 20 percent of the seats in parliament. More recently, in the fall of 2010, they suffered some setbacks. But overall, the party is strong and poised to take a leadership role in a post-Mubarak Egypt.

In an interview at the party’s Council of Ministers’ office in Heliopolis, a senior Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Mursi, professed the movement’s concern that the demonstration not be seen as their event.

“We the Muslim Brotherhood are a part of the people. The people are protesting and the Brotherhood is there with them. We are not alone in our presence at Tahrir Square and we don’t control it,” Mursi said.

Mursi was the Brotherhood leader who over the weekend attended talks with Suleiman along with some 40 other opposition leaders. Suleiman, the former head of intelligence, has long been the nemesis of the Brotherhood and for him to to invite a leader of the outlawed movement into the halls of power was a moment of sweet justice for the Brotherhood, and presumably a bitter pill for Suleiman.

But accepting the invitation to dialogue with the Mubarak-appointed vice president is controversial among the Brotherhood rank and file. Some saw it as a sell out, and the issue was widely discussed inside Tahrir Square on the day after their historic acceptance into the halls of power.

Mursi was a bit defensive about it, saying, “This is only a first step. It doesn’t mean we are hijacking the movement of the people in the square. The square is a big symbol that we all own our own destiny and control our own affairs … But we also need to calm this down and that is why we accepted to enter into the dialogue with the government.”

The Brotherhood is a disciplined movement, which numbers in the millions, and it is not easy to find any one offering public dissent. But there were some voices that expressed concern about the move.

Abdul Rahman Ayyash, a Brotherhood supporter who is also a well-known blogger, said he did not understand why the leadership made the decision to talk with the government when it could be perceived as offering the government legitimacy.

“We shouldn’t be asking them to do us any favors and we shouldn’t be offering to do any favors for them,” said Ayyash, referring to the Mubarak regime. “We should just be demanding that Mubarak leave and that he leave now.”