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Calls for dialogue with Brotherhood face strong opposition in cabinet

Egypt's PM El-Beblawi and Interior Minister Ibrahim prioritise national security over reconciliation and dialogue

Dina Ezzat, Tuesday 29 Oct 2013
PM Hazem El-Beblawi
PM Hazem El-Beblawi (Photo:Reuters)
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The state and the Prime Minister have made it a "priority" to fix Egypt's security situation, which means "controlling the Muslim Brotherhood and limiting their capacities," a source in PM Hazem El-Beblawi's cabinet told Ahram Online.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source added, this "does not mean the government wants to exclude anyone, but rather that security is a priority of the people."

The official's remarks highlight the bottom-line of El-Beblawi's cabinet, which has faced months of unease in the wake of former president Mohamed Morsi's ouster in July.

The current cabinet includes leftovers from former prime minister Hisham Qandil's administration, such as Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, as well as new liberal faces such as Deputy Prime Minister Ziyad Baheddine.

Ibrahim, who is leading a “war” to marginalise all those calling for state dialogue with the Islamist camp, stands in stark contrast to Baheddine, who has faced "tough resistance," since his national reconciliation initiative in August, according to a cabinet member.

Government sources say that almost four months later, the “dialogue camp" has dwindled amid clear intimidation.

"There were about seven ministers in that camp, and the rest were supporting Mohamed Ibrahim, or at least not against him. Today, it is only Ziyad Baheddine and [finance minister] Ahmed Galal, with occasional indirect support from the Foreign Affairs Minister [Nabil Fahmy] on matters concerning international opinion," said one source.

Widespread dislike for the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies, still apparent four months after Morsi's ouster, has allowed the 'Mohamed Ibrahim camp' to gain strength, the source added.

An Interior Ministry official said, "The use of force by police against the terrorists is well supported by the public, who are desperate for a return to security and are not opposed to putting all Muslim Brotherhood members in jail."

The source credited "the vital role of the media" for this "overwhelming sentiment," insisting that the mistakes of the Brotherhood during their year in power have "made people see the reality of this group."

During several cabinet confrontations, especially following the resignation of interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei over the violent dispersal of two Islamist camps, Ibrahim made direct attacks on those who urge restraint, emphasising that they are not facing the reality of police officers on the ground.

More recently, Beblawi sided openly with Ibrahim over a draft demonstrations law, whilst trying privately to accommodate Baheddine and Galal.

Sources close to Baheddine and Galal say that the two men feel truly isolated, but are still hopeful, as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi have not vetoed opposition to the draft protest law and equally controversial anti-terrorism bill, which have been labelled catastrophic by human rights groups.

According to a source in Beblawi's office, the PM seems to be moving towards a suggestion by an advisory board to abandon the two drafts and leave them to the discretion of the parliament that is due to be elected next winter, a solution that official sources say interim President Adly Mansour also favours.

 Politics expert at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, Amr Hashem, says that the tug of war within the Beblawi cabinet is ‘expected,’ given its transitional nature and the complicated tasks it is faced with.

“This is not a cohesive government. It has members with contradicting political alignments and priorities. It is a difficult time to attempt to align those defending human rights and those facing fire on the streets from a group receiving foreign support and working against national security,” Hashem argued.

“Priority should go to national security, even at the expense of human rights, which should be put on the backburner for now,” he added.

Hashem is joined by a number of commentators and political scientists in the Ibrahim camp who are not just opposed to reconciliation, but insist on maximum security.

Salafist political figure Ashraf Thabet, deputy speaker of the defunct parliament of 2012, argues that a middle ground is being overlooked, perhaps deliberately.

According to Thabet,“the call for dialogue is not about immediate reconciliation or the dropping of any unbiased legal charges against those in custody” since the 3 July ouster of Morsi.

A leading figure of the Salafist Nour Party, which sided openly with Morsi's deposition, Thabet worries that “the firm rejection of dialogue will prevent reconciliation and complicate the way forward, undermining the chances of political stability and economic prosperity.”

Thabet argued that the will of the people, as expressed in nation-wide demonstrations on 30 June, has to be considered in the political decisions of the state. However, he cautioned, this should not negate “the will of the people that was expressed on 25 January and demanded an end to all violations of human rights," adding that "a balance between the two is not impossible for the government.”

In comments to Ahram Online, government sources questioned public commitment to the demands of 25 January. According to one, “many are now in favour of turning a blind eye to strict security measures, to allow for stability and economic prosperity, without going back to the years of harsh security that prevailed under Hosni Mubarak,” adding, “this is the line the government is observing; short of this, the people would be angry.”

Beblawi has refuted accusations against his cabinet for being too hesitant in taking action against the Islamists. “Our hands are not shaken, but we are following the law strictly,” he clarified in a recent press conference.

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J,M.Jordan
31-10-2013 07:40pm
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MB only won elections because nobody had yet seen what they do once in power.
They don't care a dime for what's in Egypts best interest. So that'll never ever happen again period.
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Albert Hourani
31-10-2013 09:11pm
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The Islamists are sincere and clean, don't pay attention to the dishonest media
They tried to create massive industries, reduce corruptio and guarantee human rightrs and civil liberties, unlike the fascist junta, which in concert with the Coptic Church, murdered thousands in cold blood, killed civil liberties, muzzled the non-conformist media and maintained a reign of terror everywher in Egypt.
Jack Amir, Beirut
31-10-2013 09:04pm
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You don't ban a weak political party, the Ikhwan are now stronger than any other party
The people of Egypt who elected them know better, not the few arrogant secularists and other free masons. The Islamists would still win any new elections. This is the reason the fascists are banning the Ikhwan. Governments don't ban dead horses?
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Husni Muhammed, Amman Jordan
30-10-2013 07:31pm
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The beast democrats under the sun
The MB follows Islam, Islamis an egalitarianreligion based on equality and justs. Calling the Islamist fascists and terrorist is not according to knowledge. It is according to ignorance, hate and fanatacism
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Husni Muhammed, Amman Jordan
30-10-2013 07:31pm
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The beast democrats under the sun
The real fascists are those who reject the voice of the people. The Islamists are not fasciast, they are the best democrats under the sun. They won democratic elections three times, which was rejected by the losers who claim to be liberals...when they are actually more fascist than Adolph Hitler.
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Alex Flinn
30-10-2013 06:21pm
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Experience from Northern Ireland
The real world means talking to all segments of the population. When all segments of a country’s population are not included in determining the future of the nation, the end result is a failed state like Somalia or endless violence like Iraq. The choice is stark, democracy or chaos.
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3



Sherif
30-10-2013 05:59am
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No negotiation with terrorists
There can be no successful negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood. Eighty years of history supports this fact. Egyptians must learn from previous bitter lessons that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization that has no place in Egyptian politics or any modern society that aspires for freedom of speech and religion.
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George Hakim
31-10-2013 09:25pm
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The MB were the onlypeople who resisted the police state
You had eighty years of tyranny and fascism, and the MB ere the only people who resisted the police state.
George Saber, Shubra, Cairo
30-10-2013 06:57pm
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fornication with truth
The real Nazi-like terrorists are those who have murdered 5000 Egyptians and overthrown the democratically elected president. Calling MB terrorists amounts to fornicating with truth and language.
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Pharaoh
30-10-2013 01:44am
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dialogue is important
It's important to have a dialogue to understand the values everyone is holding onto. This argument puts all of the different values into a nice cohesive hierarchy. Egypt needs a purely secular structured democratic government but the government is not the nation. Differentiate between the country and the nation. It needs to strengthen the military role in protecting the national unity and the egyptian race which defines Egypt as a nation. The military gives us our beloved Pharaoh back. Islamic identity needs to be given more symbolic power. This means the judicial authorities need to be bounded by the islamic shariah interpreted by specialized azhar scholars. Al azhar needs to create a corporate body with organizational by-laws and include the muslim constituents. This is how it is done in America, when it comes to religious bodies with power. This will then implement shariah by-laws on muslims only but is bounded by the judicial authority and the rule of the laws of the land. This means that certain norms can be implemented by the organization however no ruling or verdict can be enforced except by the rule of law. All the laws need to go through judicial review to ensure it is in accord with the egyptian nation. It is time to rationally design a secular country with all the freedoms but an egyptian nation with powerful Islamic symbolic values. This nation will not intrude on other values because the nation will not require assimilation. One of the benefits of Islam (classical one from al azhar) is it desires for everyone to keep their heritage and does not compel anyone to be a muslim. This will create a multicultural unassimilated country with a nation that can learn and grow from the multiple heritages and religions. I suggest we completely forgo the arab identity, since we are linguistically arabic. Think more of an arabophone economic union similar to the European union.
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Ahmed Yosef
31-10-2013 09:22pm
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Secularism in Egypt means fascism
Ali Fathi: you don't know what you are talking about. Secularism in Egypt means hostility to religion especially Islam. Why is it that political parties based on atheism are allowed, while political parties based on Islam are banned. Secularism in Egypt is not like secularism in the US. In Egypt it means fascism.
Ali Fathy
31-10-2013 09:28am
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Secularism and respect of religion is Egyptian society
Disagree with you. Deep inside Egypt is secular and respects religion. As June 30 proved with millions in the streets it can not tolerate extremism. After the infamous Cairo stadium rally with Mossi, when his aides and closest allies insulted Shias, secular sand Christians in the his presence, I understood that they re alliens of Egyptian society. Expected millions to turn against them, this is what happened.
Pharaoh
31-10-2013 02:30am
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Mahdi
Secularism may be the fulfillment of the prophecy when Islam and christianity will merge. We may be the Mahdi of the world.
Ahmed sedqi
30-10-2013 07:00pm
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Secularism is alien to the Egyptian society
Secularism can not be imposed on a Muslim people. Secularism is part of Christianity, it is not part of Islam.
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Hasan Shahata
29-10-2013 08:53pm
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the Islamist opposituion won't go away
This is a fascist government which made its way to power through massacres and coercion. It is totally disqualified for making peace with the Islamist opposition-which won't go away.
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Reslan
30-10-2013 07:24am
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100%
You are taking about 95% (????) of parlimentarian, now it is 100% biased polticians who has know values among Egyptions.Just see as they are talking abt safet and security do our nation is safer now or before, thi is just a propoganda to make their own agenda according to Isreal and USA with gulf children.
Watching you
30-10-2013 06:09am
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Brain child
Saif 95% of the parliament were elected by Egyptians. Those of whom you voted did not get enough votes because Egyptians knew they were losers. That parliament was devolved by same so called judges who want to try president Morsi. Do you get it now ?
Saif
30-10-2013 12:30am
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Fascists
Are you saying that the Islamists where the tolerant liberals?? If anything, the only fascists where the Muslim brotherhood and it's sister parties. My ultimate proof is the parliament that was 95 percent MB. Did your forget about that??
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