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Rift between revolutionaries, Brotherhood widens in anniversary aftermath
Last week’s 1st anniversary of Tahrir Square uprising only widened gap between revolutionary forces and the Muslim Brotherhood which controls parliament
Sherif Tarek, Tuesday 31 Jan 2012
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Tahrir Square
Protesters chant slogans at a rally to mark the first anniversary of the “Friday of Rage,” in Tahrir Square (Photo: AP)

The first anniversary of Egypt’s January 25 Revolution might have given revolutionaries the momentum they need to continue pursuing their outstanding demands. At the same time, however, the anniversary and its aftermath have left the rift between liberal and leftist political groups and the Muslim Brotherhood – which swept recent parliamentary elections – much wider. 

Since March 2011, the Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) have both incurred the wrath of secularists for what the latter describe as “deviating from the path of the uprising to pursue their own interests.” Their detractors point to the group’s decision to refrain from taking part in a number of protests calling for the fulfilment of revolutionary demands, and for their apparent closeness to Egypt’s military rulers.

With deadly clashes between protesters and security forces erupting in Cairo both before and during Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary polls, the Brotherhood’s foremost priority, say critics, has been securing the lion’s share of seats in the assembly – a goal they eventually achieved after refusing to support anti-government demonstrators.

As the Brotherhood’s attitude towards the violent clashes generated resentment against the group and its party late last year, their assertion that the revolution commemoration should be marked by celebrations appeared to have been – for their detractors, at least – the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“I’m not here to celebrate or sing or dance. I came here to demand retribution for the killers of the revolution’s martyrs and those responsible for injuring protesters,” said Muslim cleric Mazhar Shaheen, who delivered the sermon ahead of midday prayers on the “Friday of Dignity,” on 27 January, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Toppled president Hosni Mubarak, his two sons, ex-interior minister Habib El-Adly, and six of the latter’s former assistants are still standing trial on charges of instigating the use of live ammunition by the ministry’s Central Security Forces (CSF) against unarmed protesters during the 18-day uprising early last year.

Many critics believe the trial lacks credibility, pointing out that not a single policeman had yet been convicted for gunning down anti-regime demonstrators. “It would be idiocy to celebrate while the parents of slain protesters are still shedding tears and while many others remain in detention,” Shaheen, dubbed the “revolution’s Sheikh,” declared to the applause of Tahrir Square demonstrators.

In the run-up to the uprising’s anniversary, revolutionary groups decided to take to the streets en masse to call on Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to immediately hand over power to a civilian administration. They also issued additional demands, including the speedy prosecution – to the full extent of the law – of those responsible for killing and injuring protesters.

The Brotherhood, on the other hand, remained in the square until Saturday, 28 January, with the stated aim of providing security, citing speculation that hired thugs might try to sabotage state institutions. They stuck to their plan on 25 January, reaping the fruits of their decision the following Friday, when thousands of protesters verbally attacked the group and demanded their departure from the flashpoint square.

“We want a secular state, not a Brotherhood or Salafist one!” and “I can hear the mothers of the fallen saying ‘the Brotherhood has traded my sons blood for power’!” were among some of the chants repeated by revolutionaries. Some activists even hurled plastic bottles and other projectiles at the Brotherhood’s podium erected in Tahrir Square.  

The spat did not lead to casualties, but it nevertheless intensified existing divisions between the Brotherhood and secularist political currents. It also drew a strongly-worded criticism of the group from Kamal El-Helbawy, a former Brotherhood spokesperson who is still deemed one of the group’s leading lights.

“Be part of the Egyptian people. Don’t repeat the same mistakes you have made throughout history by letting the ego of your intelligence push you to political opportunism,” El-Helbawy addressed the group in a public statement.

“Would a troubled man flagrantly celebrate the death of his son?” he went on to ask. “The least you can do is to stand silent out of respect for the martyrs that allowed you to become a legal group.”

Later, on the anniversary of the 28 January 2011 “Friday of Rage,” thousands converged on Qasr Al-Nil Bridge, which arguably saw the bloodiest confrontations between protesters and police forces during last year’s uprising, both to pray for the souls of slain protesters and commemorate their sacrifices.

Leading the prayers, Sheikh Attia Hamam expressed hope that the Brotherhood would be rewarded with “isolation and suffering for their own tricks.” He also heaped scorn on the ruling SCAF in a scene that left some observers flabbergasted, including prominent political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan.

“I was upset to hear anti-Brotherhood slogans as people likened them to the military council,” he said. “I was terrified by the Imam, who declared that the SCAF and the Brotherhood had betrayed the revolution’ … I never wished to see such a day.

“I sympathised with some of the Brotherhood’s young cadres when they shouted ‘one hand’ [a symbol of national unity] as they were puzzled by what had happened earlier in Tahrir,” Hassan added. “We would like the leaders of the group to explain how things managed to go that far.”

Columnist Mohamed El-Agati was more direct about his feelings towards the Brotherhood and the FJP.

“Dr. Ammar, look at the justifications for the group’s reactions and you will know why,” he said. “It’s the same approach adopted by the Mubarak regime and the [now defunct] National Democratic Party, but with a beard.”

Reactions by Brotherhood members were mainly defensive. Leading group member Mahmoud Ghozlan, for example, said: “In the Brotherhood’s vast experience we have found that every time such an unethical attack occurs, popular support for the group increases.”

Leading FJP figure Ahmed Abou Baraka, for his part, stated: “We cannot separate the revolutionaries from the Brotherhood. The latter was established in 1928 during a state of revolution. It has fought injustice and seen tens of thousands of its members martyred in different eras, under presidents Nasser, Sadaat and Mubarak.”

He added: “Those who want us to apologise should themselves apologise to the Egyptian people for asking the SCAF to remain in power for years when they said that Egypt’s political forces were not ready for parliamentary elections.”

In March, the SCAF held a popular referendum on proposed constitutional amendments that were approved by the overwhelming majority of Egyptians. The choice meant that the SCAF would remain in power for six months starting last April, with the option of extending the transitional phase by another three months.

The amendments also stipulated that People’s Assembly elections be held right away, to be followed respectively by elections for the Shura Council (the upper, consultative house of Egypt’s parliament), presidential polls and the drafting of a new constitution.

What happened in reality, however, was a different story.

The SCAF has now been in power for almost a year and has repeatedly promised to hand over executive authority in June following scheduled presidential elections. Facing pressure from continuous demonstrations, nonetheless, the military council is reportedly mulling the idea of stepping down in the short-term future – an option the Brotherhood has never supported.

“We agree that power must be transferred from the military council to an elected civilian authority,” said FJP Secretary-General Mohamed El-Beltagi. “But the FJP also believes we should remain committed to the current timeline that calls for a handover of power in June.”

As it currently stands, a new national charter is also due to be drawn up before upcoming presidential polls, even though the results of the March referendum stipulated the opposite.





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Karim Hari
01-02-2012 04:20pm
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Historic inaccuracy
To Salma: Why do you think they got jailed by the regime than. because they spoke out against the corruption Years before the Kifaya Movement even existed .We can question there motives which were utopian in my view back then. But I can guarantee you that if the "bearded" MB would had come out in the mass rallies openly. The west would had give card blanche to Mubarak to crush it. That the reason they kept a low profile since as we all know it`s them who get jailed. They have no western liberal backing nor they have the Backing of the Bordello Gulf States.
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5



Hector M
01-02-2012 08:38am
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Secularist Propaganda
Brotherhood’s foremost priority is to establish the system to move forward. The purpose of protests is achievd the biggest evil dictator who boated Egypt is not Tunisia is out for good. It is time to to build the country by all Egyptions and start on constitution, and establish a just society in Egypt. Egypt is long way to go, and they have not even started yet. I wish all Egyptions good luck to achieve this noble objective.
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4



Hector M
01-02-2012 08:38am
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Secularist Propaganda
Brotherhood’s foremost priority is to establish the system to move forward. The purpose of protests is achievd the biggest evil dictator who boated Egypt is not Tunisia is out for good. It is time to to build the country by all Egyptions and start on constitution, and establish a just society in Egypt. Egypt is long way to go, and they have not even started yet. I wish all Egyptions good luck to achieve this noble objective.
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3



Zaki
31-01-2012 09:35am
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Egypt's revolution anniversary message and urgent need for unity
The Egyptions should be firmly united now. The biggest enemies of Egypt, Israel, and the US are trying to create disunity amongEgyptians. The revolutionar youths are not experienced with enemy tactics. FJP has lot of experience with crooks. IRI, NDI and others caught Red handed doing illegal activities.
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A woman
03-02-2012 10:16pm
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Ridiculous
Don't point your finger to outside enemies! That's more than ridiculous. The worst enemies of Egypt are inside the country. This hippocracy is not to topple anymore and an insult to any intelligent person.
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karim Hari
31-01-2012 05:05am
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Secularism
“We want a secular state, not a Brotherhood or Salafist one!” What do you think about the secularist Assad Regime in Syria or the former Ben Ali Secularist Regime?
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Zaki
01-02-2012 08:24am
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Response to Secularism
Who are you to want secular state. In democracy it is implemented what majority wants. People chose MB with highest approval. You are minority and want to impose secularims on majority. Who do you think you are.
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Karim Hari
31-01-2012 04:40am
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Secularist Propaganda
" the Brotherhood’s foremost priority, say critics, has been securing the lion’s share of seats in the assembly – a goal they eventually achieved after refusing to support anti-government demonstrators." The brotherhood would have won the election anyway. because they have helped the poor and confronted the regimes prior to the so called secular forces. They have suffered the most under dictatorial regimes. How about the MB suing the whole state of egypt and get compensation for all there suffering and killings of ten of thousands of MB Members. We can begin with the murder of Sayid Qutb . The only sellouts were and are the secularist forces. They worked with the regime throughout the decades as Junior Partners. As they worked with the west on the destruction of revolutions in Algeria in 1992. I remember very well how they helped the algerian Military Junta by printing there lies that after the islamic Party of Algeria won the first free election in the arab world would than go and
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Hector
01-02-2012 08:31am
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Comments on Secularist Propaganda
You are right, I agree 100% with you. MB should not continue protests.
Salma
31-01-2012 12:25pm
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Karim's comments is historically inaccurate
Who says the Islamists confronted the former regime? When Kifaya, which included no islamists, was chanting against Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood members were the ones to hush demonstrators so as not to make confrontations with the regime. and now when demonstrators wanted to chant against military rule they were hushed again by the MB. Your comments are a falsification of history and just for the record demonstrators did not chant against the MB because they are islamists but because they made deals with the ruling military council and compromised the revolution's demands.

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