CAIRO (Reuters) - The new leader of the Muslim Brotherhood said on Tuesday government efforts to squeeze Egypt's biggest opposition group out of politics would only spur on "deviant" and potentially violent Islamic movements.
Mohamed Badie, 66, told Reuters the group would campaign in this year's parliamentary election, but a state crackdown would likely prevent a repeat of its success in 2005 when it secured a fifth of the seats.
The government of President Hosni Mubarak, whose predecessor was gunned down by Islamic militants, is wary of any group with Islamist leanings, including the Brotherhood which long ago renounced violence and insists it seeks peaceful reform.
Since 2005, the authorities have gradually pushed the officially banned Brotherhood out of mainstream politics and regularly rounded up its members. The Brotherhood secured its seats in parliament by fielding candidates as independents.
"The Muslim Brotherhood, which carries the banner of moderate Islam, must be given the chance to teach Egyptian society to benefit the nation and its people," Badie, picked as the group's new leader this month, said in an interview.
"When we were prevented from playing the role of spreading moderate Islam, thorns sprouted in Egypt's soil and so did terrorism," he said, adding he rejected "deviant and 'takfiri' ideology", referring to groups that declared people infidels.
Analysts see no sign of a return to the 1990s when al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, a group spurned by the Brotherhood, took up arms in a bid to set up purist Islamic state in Egypt. But they say pushing the Brotherhood out of politics may leave a gap for militants to fill and could lead to sporadic violence.
Badie echoed those comments, saying Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party had monopolised decision-making.