There are growing signs that radical Islamic groups are trying to hijack the pro-democracy uprising that is currently sweeping the Arab world.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is already trying to exploit the popular uprisings to score political gains.

If the pro-democracy, anti-government movements in these countries fail to distance themselves from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt and Tunisia could easily fall into the hands of Iran's proxies.

The fundamentalist Muslims in the two countries have until now kept a low profile, staying out of the spotlight as much as possible.

But this does not mean that the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies are not working behind the scenes to help bring down secular Arab regimes.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has said that uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are the result of "the Islamic awakening" in Middle East countries, and a growing number of political analysts in the Arab world seem to share the same opinion.

They point out that while the Islamists did not played a major role in bringing down the regime of President Zine al-Abideen Bin Ali -- with the exception of Al-Jazeera --- they are nonetheless poised to become part of the new political establishment in Tunisia.

Thousands of Tunisians turned out to welcome Rashid Ghannouchi, the exiled leader of Ennahda – the country's Muslim Brotherhood equivalent.

Hamas's prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, was one of the first leaders to phone Ghannouchi to congratulate him on his return home. The phone call is seen in the context of Hamas's efforts to win political allies in the Arab world.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has given emerging opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei political backing in his decision not to meet newly-appointed Vice-President Omar Suleiman.

This means that although the Islamists have kept a low profile in the street demonstrations, they are deeply involved in the key political decisions that will determine the outcome of this popular uprising.

The decision not to meet with Suleiman and negotiate an orderly transfer of power is a vote for the further radicalization of the current crisis.

The well-meaning pro-democracy protesters in Cairo, Tunis, Amman and other Arab capitals have set in motion a process of political change, but the Islamist extremists hiding in the shadows are just biding their time, waiting for the moment when they can turn these developments to their own, more sinister, advantage.

The US Administration would do well to send a forceful message to the Facebook and Twitter agitators throughout the Arab world to keep their revolution clean from Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hizbullah -- all of whom who are poised to create a new fundamentalist Middle East.

  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter

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