• 13:35
  • Thursday ,15 August 2013

Questioning the future of the Muslim Brotherhood

By Hicham Mourad; Ahram Online



Thursday ,15 August 2013

Questioning the future of the Muslim Brotherhood
Supporters of the former president are not solely to blame; violence as well as excessive and disproportionate use of force also comes from the opposite side. Still, the strategy of the Brotherhood is to seek "the brawl" to move things forward, in order to better negotiate its political future and the fate of its leaders, many of whom risk imprisonment on various charges.
The leadership of the Brotherhood believe that strictly peaceful protests, already difficult to maintain, would change nothing about the new situation (the dismissal of Morsi and the lawsuits against the leaders of the group) and that provoking violence - which will seem unintentional - would be in favour of its supporters, since they would probably be the main victims, in face of police or military repression. It could then cry martyrdom (as was the case during the deadly clashes near the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in as well as outside the headquarters of the Republican Guard) and attract both local and international support.
The link between this Brotherhood policy and the outbreak of violence is clearer and acquires a dangerous dimension in the Sinai Peninsula. The statements by officials of the Brotherhood leave no doubt about the relationship between the removal of Morsi and the increasing attacks, sometimes with heavy weapons, perpetrated by militants in connection with the Palestinian Hamas, in this border province of Israel and the Gaza Strip.
The reaction of the army was swift. The defence minister, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, called the Egyptians on 24 July to protest, to give him a mandate to crack down on those responsible for “violence” and “terrorism.”
The day after the protests, the army gave the Muslim Brotherhood a 48-hour ultimatum to join the "national dialogue" recently inaugurated by the acting president. The message was clear: the Brotherhood must choose between political action and military escalation. Upon its refusal to reconsider its policy, it is a dangerous escalation which will prevail, with predictable negative consequences on the national dialogue and the process of democratic transition, which are intended to be inclusive.
Unless a compromise is reached with the government, a possibility that is moving away, the escalation with the army will probably be fatal to the current leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, who risk prison sentences for various charges, including incitement to violence and intelligence with foreign powers - Palestinian Hamas.
Such convictions will only encourage and accelerate questioning of the doctrine and policy of the Brotherhood, whose leadership is challenged by some of its base. The movement of the "Brothers against violence", created after the overthrow of Morsi, opposes, as its name suggests, the politics of violence followed by the current leadership. It has drawn up petitions to withdraw confidence from the supreme guide, Mohamed Badie.
The Brotherhood -whose leadership is mainly composed of hardliners and dogmatic Qotbists, in reference to the famous radical ideologue of the group in the 50s and 60s, Sayed Qotb– has already suffered a split by a group of young members in July 2011 who disagree with the closed doctrine of the Brotherhood and the undemocratic methods of its leadership.
They formed the Egyptian Current Party and movement, which call for a more modern and less conservative vision of Islam. With its support for a civil state and its programme free of mentions of sharia, the party is symptomatic of the generational conflict within the Brotherhood between an ageing leadership, attached to a traditional view of political Islam, opposed to evolution, and the middle officials and younger members more open to the world, who want to take over.
Such questioning seems inevitable given the obvious failure of the Muslim Brotherhood during their first experience in power. The first challenge should touch the siege mentality, born of decades of repression, the culture of secrecy and hunger for power that prevented the Brotherhood from becoming a party open to society, capable of initiating dialogue, of compromising, and of maintaining partnerships with other political forces.
Instead, the group tended, during its short tenure in power, to marginalise and to eliminate actual or potential partners. It ended up making enemies everywhere, including among Islamists. The subordination of the Freedom and Justice Party to the guidance bureau of the Brotherhood denied it freedom of action and interfered with its ability to take necessary decisions. This reality was also, and above all, applied to the relationship between the Brotherhood and the deposed president Morsi.
Second, the experience of the Brotherhood in power showed their lack of vision to address the serious political, economic and social problems of Egypt. The slogan, constantly chanted by the Brotherhood, "Islam is the solution", proved to be hollow. It served its ambitions and strategy when it was in opposition. But once in power, it was unable to provide solutions to the problems of the country. In other words, Islam is a religion that can lead the way in clearly defined areas. But it is not a political ideology which can manage the whole of society and the state, and propose practical and contemporary solutions to their problems.
Finally, the attempts of the Muslim Brotherhood to impose their own vision of Islam and Islamic values have failed. These were attempts to impose a new hegemonic vision of society, a totalitarian regime with religious colours. In doing so, the Brotherhood ignored the fact that one of the main reasons for the uprising against the authoritarian regime of Mubarak was to create an open and democratic political system where citizens can freely exercise their fundamental rights. Instead, the group showed during its time in power that it sought to establish a rigid authoritarian regime, this time in the name of religion.