Leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood Essam El-Erian used his official twitter account on Wednesday to criticise the Arab left, provoking the ire of Egypt's left.
El-Erian, chairman of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, accused the Arab-left of receiving international funding, being anti-religion and looking down on the people, and claimed that these were the reasons for their failure in the region.
"It's hard to impose a foreign experience on strong cultures such as Islam," said El-Erian, calling on liberals to study the reasons behind the failure of communists and leftists in the Arab world.
While this is by no means the first attack on the left from the Muslim Brotherhood, still it was enough to provoke some leftists especially those who have supported the Brotherhood during the repression of the Mubarak-era.
"It was those leftist youth and lawyers who defended the Brotherhood against state security during the time of Mubarak at a time when many Islamists refrained from doing so," Revolutionary Socialist member and prominent figure Hossam El-Hamalawy told Ahram Online.
The activist rejected the "unacceptable" comments, pointing out that it is not the first time that the Brotherhood launches such attacks on the left, adding that, "they are using the same language of Mubarak's National Democratic Party and State Security."
On 24 December 2011 Brotherhood lawyer Gamal Tag El-Din filed a complaint to the public prosecutor accusing members of the Revolutionary Socialists Yasser Abd El-Qawy, Sameh Naguib and Hesham Yousri of inciting violence and aiming for the destruction of the state.
Tag El-Din later withdrew his complaint, after it stirred anger among both liberals and leftists.
El-Hamalawy further condemns El-Erian's comments, saying that he finds it "shocking coming from Essam El-Erian when the historic ties between the Brotherhood and the Gulf and others abroad are widely known." Pointing to the irony of being accused of receiving foreign funds, he said "if there is any group in Egypt receiving foreign funding, then there is no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood are one of those groups."
"The Brotherhood are accusing us of receiving international funding when right now they are sitting with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to ask for loans. It is shocking for this statement to come out today in particular," said El-Hamalawy.
Earlier on Wednesday President Mohamed Morsi – former chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party – requested a $4.8 billion loan from the IMF to boost Egypt’s flailing economy during his meeting with IMF chief Christine Lagarde.
In protest, a number of leftist groups including the Revolutionary Socialists, the Egyptian Communist Party and the Popular Socialist Alliance called for a demonstration on Wednesday. They refuse the austerity measures associated with the loans, and describe it as a continuation of the tactics of the former regime that spread poverty through making the country indebted to international institutions.
"The real problem now is that the Brotherhood are attacking other currents; they campaigned against Hamdeen Sabbahi, ElBaradei and now the left," said leftist activist Wael Khalil who endorsed Morsi in the presidential runoffs after the candidate he backed Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh failed to make it to the runoffs.
Khalil is a member of the National Front for the Protection of the Revolution, a group that formed to back Morsi in the runoffs against Mubarak-era minister Ahmed Shafiq. However, determined to remain independent, Khalil later turned down an offer to join Morsi's presidential team.
Khaled Abdel-Hameed co-founder of the Socialist Popular Alliance and one of many revolutionary figures who chose to endorse Mohamed Morsi in the presidential also criticised El-Erian's statements.
"Accusation of being agents of the west and of receiving foreign funding are the same accusation that has been used by state security against members of the opposition," he said.
"There is a difference between criticism and accusations, I would have hoped that Essam El-Erian would make that distinction and not fall in that trap. We have always defended him when he was jailed in the past," added Abdel-Hameed who was a member of the now-dissolved Revolutionary Youth Coalition that brought together youth activists from across the political spectrum including the Brotherhood.
It is not just leftists, however, who found the comments problematic and provocative. Islamist researcher Ibrahim El-Hodaiby also expressed his discontent with the accusations, saying that he "would like to see an anti-western stance from the Muslim Brotherhood."
"All what I've seen from the Brotherhood when it comes to foreign policies are a continuation of comforting the US and Israel," said El-Hodaiby stressing that on the other hand the main principles of the left "are achieving social justice and opposing Israel."
"There are definitely problems with the Egyptian left and I agree that sometimes they should be criticised but I have a problem that such critiques come from the MB," said El-Hodaiby.