Other young members of the Brotherhood, who joined hands with secular liberals and socialists at Tahrir Square in January, have broken out on their own as well. Mohammed al-Kasaas, a 30-something film editor who joined the Brotherhood while in college, exemplifies many Egyptians looking for a middle way. Mr. Kasaas was on the ground floor of the Egyptian revolution. In the early years of the last decade, he joined nascent protests against presumed plans to make Mubarak's son Gamal Egypt's next leader. He participated in the anti-Mubarak "Enough" demonstrations in 2005. In 2008, he joined the April 6 Youth Coalition, a free speech and democracy group that started in support of labor action in Mahallah and evolved into a major organizer of the Tahrir Square protests.
He spent years switching cellphones and sleeping on friends' floors to avoid state surveillance. He and a number of other young Brothers took part in the early days of the Tahrir protests against the wishes of the Brotherhood leadership, which feared inciting a government crackdown and seemed leery of joining hands with a largely secular protest movement. Shaped by these experiences, he drifted away from the group, becoming a critic of its top-down style and willingness to make accommodations with the military.
"I didn't quit. I was fired," he says in an interview at a cafe of his ouster from the Brotherhood in July. He publicly criticized the group as too close to SCAF (the Brotherhood has often echoed the military's warnings about "foreign hands" in Egyptian affairs), and as unaccountable to its membership.
"I don't want the Brotherhood to be a political party. It should be a civil group whose members can join whatever party they like," he says. "If we try to legislate religion, we're going to divide Egypt."
Now, he's one of the founders of the Egyptian Current Party, led largely by former Brothers. It's Islamic in character, but Kasaas insists there's nothing religious in its agenda.
"Is alcohol forbidden in Islam? Of course," he says. "But Muslims shouldn't drink because they're Muslims, not because of what the government does or doesn't do."