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Book review: The Brotherhood's suicide, then Morsi's ouster

Author Ammar Ali Hassan argues in his latest book that the Muslim Brotherhood's one-year rule ended its 80-year history in Egypt with premeditated suicide

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Friday 27 Sep 2013
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Intihar Al-Ikhwan (The Muslim Brotherhood's Suicide) by 'Ammar Ali Hassan, Dar Nahdat Misr Publishing, Cairo, 2013. pp.262

It is obvious that researcher 'Ammar Ali Hassan finished his latest book "The Muslim Brotherhood's Suicide" just before the emergence of the Tamarod movement and its "historical" role in delivering Egypt from Brotherhood rule. Since the book was published in August 2013, the author must have certainly completed it before this date, which explains why the book did not tackle the movement in any way.

The author's main objective is to assert that the Muslim Brotherhood – as political organisation, as regime encompassing different institutions, and even as ideology – has committed premeditated suicide. The year during which the Brotherhood ruled the country, according to the author, offered but supplementary resolve on the intent for suicide.

Ali Hassan evidently relied on articles, analyses and commentaries published in newspapers and magazines about the Brotherhood's rule, which lends his book vibrancy and a sense of engagement in the various crises undergone by the country during the past year. 

The book comprises three main chapters from which derive related issues, to provide a panoramic view of the details involved in the "empowerment project" which the Brotherhood had begun to implement with the aim of controlling the state's vital stations and rebuilding its institutions according to the plan they devised along with their allies from other Islamist groups.

While the author exerted noticeable effort in discussing the details of the first two chapters – "Internal Defects" and "Problems with the Other" – the third and final chapter – "Thought and Movement Alternatives" – perhaps required more attention.

In the first chapter, Hassan discusses what he describes as the Brotherhood's "defects" to be none but fundamental components in the Brotherhood's structure and ideology that could never allow the group's survival. 

For one, because of the secrecy that characterises working underground, and the fears of infiltration by state security agents, the Brotherhood became akin to an ethnic group – through inter-marriages, closed affinities, kinship, familial connections, income sources and edification programmes.

Among the internal defects is some Brotherhood members' possession of financial empires worth LE500 million in capitals, in addition to overseas financial operations worth billions of dollars. Thus, it can be argued that the "Brotherhood Capitalism" – which rests primarily on distribution and services – rather than encompassing national development is instead concerned with infiltrating state institutions. 

Furthermore, the Brotherhood's financial resources represent a powerful tool it utilises to bind individual members to the group and assist its families. It is important to note that these very resources also provide influence, utilised by many a Brotherhood member in favour of the group's candidates during elections. 

Hassan concludes here that the Brotherhood's economic practices amounted to no more than an attempt at beautifying Western capitalism, using different cosmetics. Their economic policy, the author adds, is identical to that of the Mubarak regime: distinguishing the monopolistic few, encouraging the economy of luxury goods and borrowing from the state's institutions. 

In similar fashion, Hassan reveals the Brotherhood's internal defects one after the other, until he reaches what Egyptians witnessed for the first time in the Brotherhood's entire 80-year history: the ethical downfall. This revelation was made manifest through systematic lying, broken presidential promises, trade on the martyrs' blood and trade on the revolution itself, broken laws, manipulation of legitimacy and a reversal of standpoints with opposition forces after the Brotherhood's rise to power. 

In addition to the ethical downfall, the Brotherhood once again resorted to violence in all its forms: by requesting the assistance of those among their allies who practised it -- like certain Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya instruments and factions from the Salafist movement; by creating a suitable atmosphere for violence through committing all the actions that obstruct the political horizon; by attempting to change the rules of the game by impeding the path leading to intellectual and political pluralism.

Hassan devoted the second chapter – "Problems with the Other" – to discuss the relationship between the group and several others, such as the Salafists. As the Brotherhood reserved the entire political cake to them, and devoured whatever could empower them and only them, the future of relationships with other political and religious groups did not portend well. The situation was further complicated by the existence of a Salafist faction that cannot be tamed: the Salafist Jihadist group.

The relationship between the Brotherhood and the military also bode ill for the near future, as the Brotherhood was not intent on keeping the military a professional institution, the author explains, seeking ways of smoothly infiltrating in order to gain control and gradually transform it into an army serving the Muslim Brotherhood's project. Ironically, the Brotherhood were the first to invite the military into the political arena after Mubarak's fall, "once, believing it was their security arm; another time to exterminate the civilian alternative. Thus, they forced some of their opponents as well as the man on the streets, who were fed up of [the Brotherhood], to call the military in to intervene."

In the final chapter – "Thought and Movement Alternatives – Hassan reaches the conclusion that, despite what was discussed in the previous chapters, something can be done to address the Muslim Brotherhood menace. For instance, he calls for restoring Sufism to its former glory and invoking it to play the role it did for decades: defence of the noble values which people need in every time and place, such as amity, tolerance and contentment.

Other options proposed by Hassan include supporting Al-Azhar's consolidation of moderate Islam in the Muslim world, and erecting alternative cultural institutions that address extremism and fanaticism as well as ridding the educational curricula from bigotry. The suggested alternatives, however, are flawed by generalisations and lack specific practical plans.

Finally, despite the dire need to work through the alternatives drawn by Hassan – provided that specific plans should emanate from them – Egypt was in need to call in a potential force numerous researchers seem to have bypassed. I mean the force of the Tamarod youth, which seemed to spring out of the blue, as if we had recalled a power outside the political arena altogether.
 

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