Al-Ikhwan Bein As-S’ood wa Al-Ri'asa wa Ta'akol Ashr'iyah (The Muslim Brotherhood Between the Rise and the Presidency and the Erosion of Legitimacy) by Dr. Mohammed Habeeb, Cairo: Sama Publishing, 2013. 175 pp.
This book derives its significance from a number of elements. Firstly, its author, Dr. Mohammed Habeeb, was first deputy to the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation in 2004, but after spending more than forty years in the organisation and even being imprisoned and detained for several years in defence of its ideas, he resigned in July 2011.
Secondly, this book, which its author devoted to the mandate of Morsi and the Brotherhood, was published just before the president was deposed. This means that it was published at the height of the debates, demonstrations, sit-ins and protests against Morsi prior to his ouster.
Thirdly, the author dedicated many chapters to his newspaper essays, which constitute an almost daily commentary on political events. This adds further accuracy to the book, and interest for readers, because of its direct comment on events at the moment of their occurrence.
Of course, Habeeb knew Morsi and they had worked together in the past. This gives Habeeb’s testimony an exceptional impact. The Guidance Bureau assigned Habeeb the task of supervising the Brotherhood parliamentary bloc in 2000, with 17 members, among them Morsi. At the time, Morsi's performance was bad and his Brotherhood colleagues complained about him, according to Habeeb. Afterwards, Morsi participated with Habeeb in the "Committee of Fifty for Political Reform", as representatives of the Brotherhood in 2004. Again, Morsi's performance was mediocre.
Morsi's rise to become a member of the Guidance Bureau was mere coincidence, Habeeb recalls; the year 2000 witnessed the death of four members of the Guidance Bureau, substitutes were chosen, and Morsi was among them.
Habeeb remembered that Morsi was present, along with Essam El-Erian, at some of the meetings with some USA delegations from universities and research centres. When El-Shater was arrested in 2006, Morsi was assigned the task of communicating with the Brotherhood members abroad. Habeeb states this has happened without the knowledge of either the Guidance Bureau or the First Deputy to the Supreme Guide, Habeeb himself.
Finally, Morsi directly supervised the group’s website Ikhwanonline and the English language equivalent site. Habeeb asserts that the "performance of the two sites was feeble and below the expected level." In mid-2009, Morsi was assigned the task of supervising the Brotherhood in Cairo, but the author postponed discussing this element to his next book, "The Muslim Brotherhood and The Bitter Harvest.”
Afterwards, during the January 25 revolution, Morsi along with Saad El-Katatni and a number of representatives of parties and political forces was put in charge of conducting a dialogue with Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's vice president at the time.
The Brotherhood Shura Council convened for the first time, after a freezing period that lasted years during Mubarak's rule, endorsing in its first session a decision against nominating a candidate for the expected presidential elections. The second session witnessed severe pressures before convening, driving the Shura Council to accept the idea of nominating a candidate, with 56 members voting in favour and 52 against. On this specific incident, Habeeb commented as follows:
"This proves that about half the Shura Council realised the volume of challenges both internal and external that the group will have to address if its candidate should win the presidential elections.”
Their first choice was Khairat El-Shater, but legal issues led to his substitution by Morsi. The author, then, begins his observations about Morsi's mistakes from the very first moment. For instance, when Morsi pledged to solve four main problems during his first hundred days, namely; garbage, lack of bread and fuel, and traffic chaos, it was obvious that they were merely election slogans. “When he raised the slogan ‘Renaissance is the People's Will,’ soon the voters realised that there was no Renaissance Project in the first place,” writes Habeeb.
Habeeb argues that Morsi's mistakes started within a week of his electoral victory. On 8 July 2012, Morsi decreed parliament would be reconvened, after the High Constitutional Court had issued a verdict dissolving it. This drove the Constitutional Court to issue a verdict stopping the parliament from reconvening. As for the letter which Morsi sent to Shimon Peres about the appointment of a new Egyptian ambassador to Israel, Habeeb describes it as "scandalous." He devotes pages to the armed attack executed by masked men on 5 August 2012 in Sinai which left 16 soldiers dead. It is worth mentioning that a week after this massacre, on 12 August, members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces were dismissed. The author considers this decision to be one of the consequences of the massacre, because it revealed a serious deterioration in the performance of the SCAF.
If almost the first half of the book was devoted to the rise of the Brotherhood to power and the several predicaments it caused, the other half deals with what the author calls a "legitimacy erosion.” Habeeb regards the period beginning with the Constitutional Declaration in November 2012 until the end of May 2013 as the period when Morsi's legitimacy eroded "to the point that some expected that the man would not complete his (presidential) mandate, while others demanded early presidential elections."
Habeeb cites examples such as the massacre at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in December 2012. He comments: "I spent 42 years as a member of the Brotherhood. They were the best years in my life, defending it, advocating for it. I could not believe that it would take a decision to send youths to the Ittihadiya palace,” knowing that it would result in the “torture and killing of Morsi's opponents at the hands of members of the Brotherhood itself."
The incidents the book describes stop at the end of May 2013, which gives the book real significance as testimony to a particular historical moment, from a former leading figure within the Brotherhood.