“We will exhaust the coup masterminds/supporters until they lose control and all state institutions fall apart. In that moment, the coup perpetrators will not find supporters, only hungry mobs that will eat them!”
The above statement was written by Jihadist leader Assem Abdul-Majid on his Facebook account and reported by Egyptian Daily Al-Masry Alyoum October 9, 2013.
Despite the stagnation of its founding principles since the killing of its founder Hassan Al-Banna in 1949, the accumulating experience of the Brotherhood Group in political work across its more than 8 decades history makes its fall after June 30, 2013 Egyptian popular revolution an event of highly risky outcomes.
The first of such consequences is turning the Group – the mother of all Islamist movements in Egypt and across the world – to violence. The group has already resorted to violent speech and practice, but it now tries to legitimize its violence by not acknowledging the June 30 revolution and dubbing it as a military coup, ignoring the fact that ousted President Morsi himself ignited that revolution 7 months earlier through issuing the constitutional decree that fortified all his decisions!
The group continues to confront the revolution, the state and its institutions by considering it as Jihad sometimes or resisting military rule sometimes! The group also considers its current fight, at other times, as a defense of ballot box legitimacy, despite the group’s monopolization of interpreting such legitimacy in different ways that suit its interests only!
The Brotherhood’s defensive logic that justifies their fight against “post June 30 Egypt” varies from the religious person who calls for Jihad to the political leader who defends the democracy of elections only, while mildly admitting the group committed “minor mistakes”. There is also a small group of leftist human rights activists, who are obsessed with fear of military rule, ignoring the Brotherhood’s alliance with the Military Council during the first transition period before June 2012.
Such fears or concerns are definitely understandable and viable, but the Brotherhood never expressed them or even pays attention to them along their one year of rule. On the contrary, the Brotherhood committed horrible mistakes and caused several crises, thinking they were supported by the public, but eventually the Egyptian public revolted against them!
It is rather important now to question the effects of the Brotherhood turning to violent confrontation and refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Egyptian state after June 30 on the Group’s branches outside Egypt. Does this mean that the group is now closer in its thinking to the logic of al-Qaeda, which is now regaining its strength in several regions around the globe?! Will the group’s branches resort to violent confrontation with the regimes of countries that ban them?!
Sunni Islamist political heritage has always been supporting the legitimacy of the standing regime even if it were not a popular one. That heritage, since the rule of Abdul-Malik Ibn Marwan and his father (Umayyid Dynasty), as per Al-Gowainy in his book “Salvation of Nations”, has always been applied. However, the Brotherhood, which mixed Jihad with democracy, insist on resisting the standing regime through sit-ins, demonstrations, blocking roads and fighting against institutions.
These changes in the group’s thinking could be traced back to several incidents and situations. The first is one of their so-called moderate sheikh leaders calling on Muslims around the world to launch “Jihad” in Egypt – July 26! Another statement is the one made by of the group’s leaders – currently in jail – linking the stop of terrorist operations in Sinai to the return of ousted president Morsi to his position – August 7! Despite attempts by the group and its defenders to cover violent practices and disclaim terrorist actions, which the group has been legitimizing if not being directly responsible for, the group still refuses any reconciliation and insists on reinstating Morsi.
This means no less than resisting the legitimacy of post June 30 revolution, which rebelled against the rule of the Brotherhood! The group insists on launching open war against the majority of Egyptians and all its demonstrations witness violent clashes with Egyptians, whether in Alexandria or other governorates across Egypt.
The group and its allies believe that the direct confrontation with the state and army in Egypt is useless. So, they resort to attrition and strategic maneuvering to weaken the state. This is the same tactic employed by al-Qaeda, following the fall of Taliban regime and it was explained by al-Qaeda’s thinker Abu Bakr Naji in his book “Managing Barbarism”. Weakening the state means adopting a scenario that leads eventually to depict it as a failure both in image and performance, hence losing popular support again leading to another revolution. This is clear in the opening statement of this article by Abdul-Majid!
The more important variable, however, is the fact that despite the media frenzy by the various Brotherhood wings inside Egypt and around the globe, they still lost the sympathy of the Egyptian people! The group has issued around 400 statements, 123 of them under the name of the so-called coalition speaking for them. The group failed in its attempts to use the ideological card of applying Shariah (Islamic rule) among the Muslim population. This could easily be understood as Morsi himself did not apply it or even take one step in that direction. Al-Qaeda chief himself – Ayman al-Zawahri – criticized Morsi for not applying Shariah in a statement issued July 7, 2013!
In addition, the Salafist Al-Nour Party, by agreeing on the roadmap and joining it, caused a serious rift among the ranks of the followers of so-called “Islamist project” championed by the Brotherhood, let alone of course the disastrous performance of the group while ruling Egypt. Al-Nour Party itself has presented several initiatives to the ousted Brotherhood President, some of which in coordination with the Salvation Front (leader of the civil opposition), in attempts to defuse the political deadlock, following the catastrophic constitutional declaration in November 2012. Morsi and the group refused all initiatives. In my opinion, positions and stands taken by Salafists seem clearer, stronger and more coherent compared to the group’s stands which are all confused and tend to mix Jihad with democracy in their practices.
The Group’s Strategy After June 30:
Following their fall, the group could never admit their failure, why? Because this simply means acknowledging the failure of their ideas and principles raised for almost a century. Not only this, it also means the failure of all other political Islamist movements everywhere!
To realize the quick domino effect of the group’s failure in Egypt, we can have a look at what happened in Tunisia! The ruling al-Nahda Movement (Islamist) was forced to give in to opposition pressures and to agree on a national dialogue process. The opposition gained a written promise from al-Nahda’s Prime Minister that he will quit within three weeks and the national dialogue started October 25th. This is evidence that political Islam is failing, even if al-Nahda’s Chief Rashid al-Ghannoushi refuses to acknowledge it and considers it western propaganda, in an article he published a day before October 25th!
In General, political Islam movements -- unlike Jihadist and Salafist ones -- are known for their ability to adapt to challenges regardless of the means. To start with, the thinking of such movements do not adopt a certain creed or certain Fiqh or ideas. No, they always maneuver and choose whatever suits their interests at a certain situation in a totally pragmatic approach that lacks even justification sometimes!
Historically, the experiences of political Islam movements display pragmatism as well. Since the 1980s and 1990s, the Brotherhood managed to widen the gap between themselves and the various regimes around the Arab World. They were even accused by al-Qaeda of allying with the United States CIA against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq. Abu Bakr Naji, in his book “Traitors” put the Brotherhood on top of the list of traitors to Jihadists in the region! The Brotherhood took the side of the military against the Salvation Front of Algeria in 1989. They also supported the US invasion of Iraq – opposing the position of most Sunnis in Iraq.
The group’s representatives in Afghanistan are still allies of Karazai and some of them – notably Karb Al-Rasoul Sayyaf and Singhet Allah Mujaddady were granted seats in parliament after the fall of Taliban in 2001. They also joined the political process after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In Syria, their representation is the weakest compared to other revolutionary and other Islamist organizations there!
The features of the Brotherhood Dilemma could be traced down to the following dimensions:
1. Attempts to restore the Jan.\ June Revolutions:
This is represented in several headlines which the media mechanism of the Brotherhood and its branches and sympathizers in and out of Egypt is trying to enforce; turning the August 14, 2013 bloody ending of Raba’h and al-Nahda sit-ins, enforcing the use of July 3 military coup, as opposed to June 30 revolution, in addition to using concerns about militarizing the state and fear of restoring the Mubarak security regime. Coupled with that, we also find the usage of criticism to the performance of the current interim cabinet and continuous calls for demonstrations under Brotherhood slogans.
2. Resorting to Violence & Jihadists’ support:
The group’s demonstrations tend to confront the security forces, try to disable state institutions, especially universities and refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the current regime. It is ironic though as the group itself denied its opposition the same rights while the Brotherhood was ruling – before June 30 revolution! The group is trying to use all these tools in a desperate bid to restore the mechanisms of the two Egyptian revolutions. The use of slogans like Raba’h (The four yellow fingers’ symbol) and the creation of Ultras Morsi group and other similar tools are nothing but attempts to resurrect a symbolism similar to Tunisia’s Boazizy (The young man who set himself on fire) or the Egyptian Khaled Said (the young man who was tortured to death by security forces)!
3. Declared and undeclared Jihadi support for the Brotherhood:
This is represented in terrorist operations by Jihadi groups in Sinai, assumed contacts between Brotherhood and Jihadi leaders before and after June 30, in addition to the obvious Jihadi spirit reflected in the performance of Brotherhood youth themselves during their demonstrations where they insist on the return of Morsi, refuses any reconciliation or initiatives unless the ousted man is reinstated.
It is likely that resorting to violence and the closer relations between the Brotherhood and Jihadists reflect a common fear among all walks of political Islam movements. That common fear is simply the return of pre Arab Spring regimes which were successful in putting the Islamist movements under leash!
4. Seeking to globalize the issue:
The international organization of the Brotherhood is acting around the clock, holding conferences in Turkey, Pakistan and other countries around the four corners of the universe in a bid to globalize the Egyptian issue. They are hiring lobbying US and western firms to influence decision-makers in Washington and European capitals. They publish paid propaganda articles in major western and US dailies and also their vast web of regional and international public relations. The quest for globalizing the issue is also reflected in the stands of both Turkey and Qatar. Turkey has already requested the UN Security Council to discuss the situation of Egypt in August 15, 2013. These stands coincide with a hesitant US stand that reflects disagreements within the ranks of the US administration itself, which could easily be spotted through analyzing statements by President Obama and US Defense Minister regarding the Egyptian issue!
5. Using Mistakes committed by the Egyptian interim cabinet:
The Brotherhood and their allies are trying to make use of the weakness and divide among the ranks of civil powers after June 30. This is the same situation following the Jan. 25, 2011 revolution, when the Islamist powers filled the vacuum and worked hard to lobby among the people. Of course, the performance of Islamists as opposition is contradictory to their own performance while they were in power. The Brotherhood and their allies are now using criticism of the interim government performance and the formation of the committee tasked with amending the 2012 constitution to create a state of rebellion, hoping it would result in massive protests against the current regime!
The history of committees assigned to amend or write Egyptian constitutions tells us a lot about the current one and what to expect despite the group’s campaigns! The committee of 30, for example, wrote one of Egypt’s best constitutions ever in 1923, even though it was dubbed “The Committee of Thugs” by Saad Zaghloul! Also, the Committee of 50 wrote the 1954 constitution, which was rejected by the July 23, 1952 Military junta after their coup against the then president Mohamed Naguib!
The most notable mistake by the current cabinet, however, may be the media policies and closure of religious channels or the rejection of any critics, like the case of the sarcastic show of Dr. Bassem Yusuf who aired one episode October 26! In addition, the outrageous hypocrisy of General El-Sisi and attempts to push him to run for office could be one of the worst performances currently! The General himself is still resisting the calls for him to run, insisting – as he himself stated in August 18 – that it was “more honorable to protect the people’s will than to rule them”!
6. Pushing in the Direction of Militarizing the State:
This seems to be the last resort, where the Brotherhood’s resistance and attempts to destroy the state becomes a justification for despotism on the part of the state! This was the case during Naser era in Egypt and in Syrian in the 1980s, when the Brotherhood tried to seize power and the result was a dictatorship accepted by the people, as a shield against the rule of Islamists. It seems the Brotherhood is now trying to push in the direction of that scenario, in a bid to destroy the current regime.