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Women Swarm Muslim Brotherhood, Say They're Trying to Make it Moderate

In the midst of sporadic violence and constant deprivation, a shimmer of hope comes to Haggana, a slum outside of Cairo.

Members of the Muslim Sisterhood bring impoverished families security in the form of food packages. The bags contain little sustenance, but it's usually enough to keep families going until the next visit. Subsidized health care and religious education are also among the Sisterhood's offerings.

Imam Abdella has been a member of the Sisterhood since she before she graduated from college. She told CNN she's just trying to take care of a group of Egyptians the government has long forgotten and that violence, like the disturbances earlier this year, happen when people feel they've come too close to losing all human worth. "The mass uprising in January was about social justice and giving people back their dignity," she said.

Abdella has been doing charity work with the Muslim Sisterhood for 17 years. The Sisterhood is the name for female members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an old and large opposition group in Egypt. Founded in 1928 as an Islamic charitable social movement, the Brotherhood has won the favor of Egypt's poor and is now becoming more politicized. Where the funding for the organization's charitable gifts comes from hasn't been released,  but unconfirmed reports from CNN suggest the money is coming at least partly from extremist organizations.

Women in the Sisterhood say they want their new political image to be anything but extreme. They've painted themselves as moderate reformists and hope to change the image of the party.

"This is a new dawn," a female party member Manal Ismail told CNN. "We have been waiting so long for this day. Today we are celebrating the end of tyranny and our new-found freedom."

The women, Ismail said, want to be at the forefront of the Brotherhood's political campaign and it seems like the group is moving in that direction. At the launch ceremony of the Brotherhood's new Justice and Freedom party, both women and men sat in the same room. They say justice and freedom for women comes from respecting original codes of law. Women like Ismail, argue that while some of the old Sharia laws don't apply to modern times (like the one that says women who commit adultery must be stoned), they do think that Sharia codes must be the backbone of whatever political front they support.

But a long history of association with extremist groups is hard for even the most optimistic women to shake free. Some Egyptians aren't buying the idea that the group is even trying to be moderate at all.

"The Muslim Brotherhood are not to be trusted. They are just after a power grab," Ramadan Ismail, a mechanic in the working-class district of Imbaba told CNN.

This is a relatively common reaction to the group and some say it's not altogether unexpected, especially given the organization's recent backing of an extremist with a long record of encouraging violence against the Jews and Israel. More radical members of the group have in the past advocated jihad against what Kotb described as "ignorant societies in need of transformation." Some remain concerned about where the organization gets its money.

Some Egyptians wonder whether the themes of justice, freedom and moderation will pan out, or if the words just sound nice for the party's political campaign.

To hear more of what some of the members of the Sisterhood have to say about their involvement in politics, watch this video from CNN.

One last thing…
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