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Morsi: Behind the masks of sorrow

Mohamed Fouad , Monday 24 Jun 2019
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“We killed you, the last of the prophets…”

With these words, activist and Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman lamented the death of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. She may have not realised that this poem was written by poet Nizar Qabbani to lament former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who was known as one of the worst enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

A moment of raw emotion is one of many positions which deserve a closer look, to understand the full impact of the death of Morsi.

Various responses have surfaced in the wake of his death last week during a court session, responses which were influenced by the political position of each individual.

However, politics was not the only factor; a deeper moral aspect was also at work.  

Reproduction of the distress narrative

What is certainly interesting to look at is the impact of Morsi’s death on the Muslim Brotherhood as an organisation. In order to explain the impact of this event, we must take into account what happened at the end of the fourth decade of the last century, when the group was going through the greatest crisis in its history.

After the assassination of then Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud El-Nuqrashi, Brotherhood founder Hassan El-Banna disowned what was then known as “the secret organisation” for their role in this assassination. This became known as the group’s first crisis. 

Morsi’s death plays a major part in a similar existential conflict. The group's reality is now very similar to the times of El-Banna, and its organisational weakness is similar to that of 1949.

The dispute between the “General Office” and the “Guidance Office,” two major organisational components of the group, have caused some group leaders to head to Turkey and have set the Brotherhood on a path to internal collision.

What happened in the 1940s was overcome when then-Brotherhood leader El-Banna was assassinated. Despite the enormity of the event and its impact on the group, it was an internal opportunity to preserve and reintegrate.

We are caught in a similar situation. Allegations of human rights violations and other rumours circulating in the hours following Morsi’s passing have provided an opportunity to build a bridge and to try to collect the organisational diaspora. The internal dispute, which dates from months ago, could now be on the path to resolution.

The death of Morsi is generally accepted as part of the distress narrative that is often used by the Brotherhood.

This narrative believes that harsh conditions compel reunification and help the organisation overcome disputes, even though the "death" event may not be of political importance.

The situation is not different from the rhetoric that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to export through his successive statements describing the late Morsi as a martyr.

Erdogan's narrative is certainly geared to his crowd. As it is widely known that during his presidency Morsi was merely a symbol controlled by the Guidance Office, the Turkish president appears to be on a self-serving path.

The political scene following Morsi’s death

Perhaps close observers may remember an initiative by former Egyptian presidential candidate Ayman Nour, which was known as "the 100 personalities to save Egypt.”

It was an attempt by the factions of the group to form an acceptable national alternative internally and externally, but it failed within the Brotherhood before it reached the Egyptian state. This failure to launch was largely driven by the lack of clarity regarding the fate of Morsi, although most factions were rumoured to be ready to go beyond the idea of ​​Morsi's return to power, which was a central idea in the struggle of the group.

The injustice that Muslim Brotherhood claimed to suffer was largely based on Morsi’s ouster from power. His return was therefore a just cause which could not be abandoned as long as he lived. The passing of Morsi provides a clear resolution to this issue. 

What’s next?

Faces of sadness that fill the current space and the intense confusion that has engulfed several sides will pass quickly as time will yet again will prove to be a healer.

The future scene will be about the internal struggle of the Brotherhood as a group. Will the current event contribute to its stabilisation while it is facing one of the most severe crises in its history, or will the departure of Morsi be the beginning of the end for the group?

Mohamed Fouad is a member of Egypt’s House of Representatives.

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