CAIRO – For the first time in six decades, the Muslim Brotherhood has held a conference for its female members in an effort to revive the role of women in post-revolution Egypt.
"It is a historic moment worthy of thanks to Allah," Khayrat Al-Shatter, the deputy chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood, told the opening session of the conference on Saturday, July 1, cited by the group's website.
"This conference is the first for the Sisters and Muslim women for nearly sixty years."
Themed the "Muslim Sisterhood", the one-day conference brought together 2,000 Brotherhood's female members.
"I congratulate all of us and Egypt which recently regained its freedom," Shatter said, referring to a popular revolution that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February.
"We pray to Allah that His grace will guide us until we reimburse full freedom for the whole nation and achieve its renaissance."
Established in 1928 in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most powerful opposition force in Egypt.
For years, the Muslim Brotherhood was banned and its leaders were repressed by governments since the 1950s.
But the group has emerged as the most powerful group after Mubarak's overthrow.
The Muslim Brotherhood established its first women's division, the Muslim Sisters Group, in 1932.
But women were traditionally kept behind the scenes, ostensibly out of fear they would be subjected to arrest and abuse by the police.
The Brotherhood first nominated a woman for parliament in the 2000 elections and also fielded women in 2005 and 2010, although no women ever entered parliament.
The conference is an effort by the Muslim Brotherhood to revive the role of women in post-revolution Egypt.
"You should act in all fields -- political, social and educational," Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Badie told the conference.
"May you assist your brothers with your vision, knowledge and suggestions."
But analysts believe that the women conference is a public relations campaign to dispel concerns about the group's role in post-revolution Egypt.
"There's talk about giving women a greater role within the Muslim Brotherhood," Gamal Abd Al-Gawad, director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, told The Media Line.
"But this is largely cosmetic. They won’t participate in real politics."
The growing political role of the Muslim Brotherhood has sent off alarm bells in the West, particularly the United States.
Washington said earlier this month that it would hold contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood opposes the US policies in the Middle East and its wavering support to Israel.It has historic links with the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and shares its belief in armed struggle against Israel.
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