Friday, 2 August 2013

The future of the Muslim Brotherhood

Supporters of Mohamed Morsi remain defiant. They insist he be restored to power. They say they will continue their protests until he is. However, the transitional authorities have made clear that it is not an option. The Muslim Brotherhood is being pulled in different directions. There were already splits between those who wanted a more political role, who formed the Freedom and Justice Party, and the old leadership around the Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie. Mr Badie said the army's removal of Morsi was equivalent to destroying one of Islam's holiest sites, the Kaaba in Mecca. "I swear by God that what Sisi did in Egypt is more criminal than if he had carried an axe and demolished the holy Kaaba stone by stone."
There have also been defections over the past to different splinter groups but the security services have targeted these, too. They have detained the leaders of the moderate al-Wasat party, Aboul-Ela Madi and his deputy Essam Sultan, charging them with responsibility for the death of protesters during recent violence.
There is always a risk that some members will split off and pursue their political ends of confrontation with the state through violence - a tactic adopted by the extremist Gamaat al-Islamiyaa in the 1990s with disastrous consequences.
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy has said that turning to violence would be political suicide, and that the Brotherhood should be part of the country's political future. He warned that deepening political divisions would lead "ultimately to more tragedies". He accused the Brotherhood of inciting violence, posing a threat to the security of the country. "If they decide to withdraw from politics, it will be disappointing. If they decide to pursue violence, then you are looking at a completely different confrontation. Even if I personally reject their positions or ideology, they have to find their place in Egypt's political life. We are looking for reconciliation among all Egyptians; I don't think we are at a situation where we will allow the situation to get out of hand."
That reconciliation appears a long way off with the polarisation of political forces over the past two years. The military and the security establishment have resumed the old talk of the Muslim Brotherhood posing a security threat to the state - justification for the harsh measures, the detentions and the violent crackdowns they have introduced.
Already human rights activists are warning that the army action is not only putting the clock back to before the fall of Mubarak but even earlier to the repressive Nasser period.
The president has given Prime Minister Hazem el-Belbawi the power to grant the military the right to arrest citizens - but the military has shown it is more than capable of doing what it wants, including removing the president without recourse to such legal niceties.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

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