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Egypt's Brotherhood seeks to 'mend fences' ahead of 25 Jan anniversary

Battered by toughest crackdown in its 85-year history, the once-ruling Muslim Brotherhood movement seek to rally opposition against Egypt's interim authorities in a new change of policy

Ayat Al-Tawy , Wednesday 22 Jan 2014
MB headquarters
The Muslim Brotherhood headquarters attacked and torched on 30 June (Photo:AP)
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Almost seven months since its free fall from power, the Muslim Brotherhood appears to be seeking rapprochement with some of the people who opposed the rule of the group.

Days before the third anniversary of the 2011 popular revolt that brought the Islamist movement of deposed president Mohamed Morsi to power, the group called for "unity… and confronting attempts by the military to sow division and conflict."

The Brotherhood had previously denounced groups that participated in the 30 June demonstrations that led to Morsi's ouster and the group had not up till now admitted mistakes.

In a statement on Tuesday carried by the Muslim Brotherhood's website, the group called for "unity and selflessness" to achieve the goals of the revolution, saying that "international and internal plots seized on mistakes we, the revolutionaries, committed… feud and conflict ensued."

The Islamist movement accuses the military of staging a coup against Morsi, the country's first freely-elected civilian president.

Morsi was ousted in July after millions protested his year-long reign as critics have accused him of power-grabbing and sending the economy tumbling.

"No doubt we have all learned the lesson that the country is for all the people with all its individuals, factions and forces – and [shall be] managed by a real participation of all spectra without exclusion or monopoly," said the Brotherhood's statement.

Analysts described the statement as a manoeuvre by a group that was once Egypt's most organised political organisation to win a place back in the political landscape after being debilitated by a sustained security crackdown since Morsi's overthrow in July.

Changing Tack

"The Brotherhood's betting on legitimacy is no longer a valid motto after the [constitutional] referendum has bolstered democratic credentials of [interim] authorities," Ahmed Ban, a political Islam analyst and a former Brotherhood member, told Ahram Online.

Egyptians overwhelmingly approved a new draft charter in a referendum last week by 98.1% of ballots cast.

Ban believes that the Brotherhood, recently designated a terrorist organisation by authorities, has little alternative but to seek to lure back disenchanted opposition groups – whether political players, the public or the groups' own dissidents – to challenge the state's newly-conferred legitimacy.

But the call, Ban argues, would find little favour not only due to Egyptians' disillusionment with Islamists but because "the people's vein has become anti-revolution" in favour of stability and order after three years of turmoil.

The group took responsibility for wrongly  "trusting the military council" that took power after the downfall of strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011, according to Tuesday's statement, which the Brotherhood now accuses of "murder…and greed to seize power."

The Brotherhood also said all other groups also committed mistakes during Morsi's year in office.

"[The Brotherhood] talk as if they are a political party, ignoring the fact that they were the authorities," said Wael Khalil of the Revolutionary Path Front, a group that opposes both the Brotherhood and the military.

Khalil argues that the public would not listen unless the movement provides guarantees that violations during its rule won't be repeated, including shunning "sectarian" discourse, and holding their leadership responsible for violence and killings [ they committed].

During the Brotherhood's rule, tens of activists died in clashes with police or at the hand of supporters of the group.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in violence since Morsi's removal. Hundreds of police and army soldiers were also killed in bombings and shootings.

Following the violent dispersal of two pro-Morsi protest camps weeks after Morsi's exit, dozens of churches and Christian-owned property nationwide came under attack allegedly by supporters of the ousted leader.

Much of the Brotherhood's top echelon, including Morsi, is behind bars and facing trial for violence and killings.

Tug of War

Observers say the Brotherhood's move intends to recreate a broad-based opposition bloc that existed during the first 18 days of the 2011 revolt, and to halt the group's alienation that occurred when their popularity nosedived during Morsi's troubled rule.

"Both the state and the Brotherhood are now in competition over attracting the dynamic faction of politics: the youth and the revolutionary movements," Hisham Fouad, spokesman of the Revolutionary Socialists movement, said.

Fouad argues the state has been on alert after "youth reluctance" to participate in the 14-15 January constitutional referendum, saying that the government is also anxious of a comeback by the figures of Mubarak's regime that would largely undermine its credentials.

He echoed expectations that the group's "imprecise" message would not go down well, given that it has put the blame for failings while in power equally on all players.

"There is a ploy underlying this sugar-coated statement to fulfil the [Brotherhood's] narrow-minded interests," said Abdel Rahman El-Gohary of the Kefaya movement, a leading opposition group during Mubarak's reign.

"There must be an unequivocal apology for their crimes against Egyptians and an acknowledgement of the popular will on 30 June," El-Gohary added, in reference to mass protests that culminated with Morsi's removal in early July.

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