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Tuesday, 04 August 2020

The Muslim Brotherhood: Fomenting chaos in Egypt

The 30 June Revolution dealt a major blow to the Muslim Brotherhood, but the group still represents a threat to Egypt

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 1 Jul 2020
 June 30
Tahrir Square packed with protesters on 30 June
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Social media is awash with photos and videos showing millions celebrating in Tahrir Square following the removal of late president Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood regime on 3 July 2013.

Television channels have hosted political analysts who have examined Morsi’s last hours in office when millions threatened to storm Al-Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in Heliopolis to evict him and the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

“The 30 June Revolution was not just a popular uprising against an outlawed or a terrorist group, but also a massive popular movement against a group which attempted to change the moderate identity of this country,” President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said on Monday while inaugurating the Baron Empain Palace in Heliopolis.

“This group, and those who stand behind it, thought they were about to achieve their objective of ruling Egypt. Then they were taken aback by millions going out to declare their rejection of the group and its attempts to hijack the country for its own interests.”

A statement issued on 29 June by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli noted that the revolution saved Egypt from chaos. “Around us there are a lot of countries which faced this scenario, but thanks to God and to the awareness of the people we saved Egypt on 30 June 2013,” said Madbouli.

“An uprising against religious fascism” is how Mohamed Fayek, head of the National Council of Human Rights, describes the 30 June Revolution.

Atef Nasr, head of the parliamentary majority party Mostaqbal Watan party, considers the mass demonstrations a rebellion against “the forces of darkness and the religious autocracy of the supreme guide’s rule.”

In an article published in Al-Ahram on 29 June Yousri Abdallah, a researcher on political Islam at Helwan University, compared Egypt’s 30 June Revolution with the 1789 French Revolution against the autocracy of Louis XVI and the Catholic Church, and the English Revolution of 1688 which led to the overthrow of James II and the Catholic Church.

“People revolted against Brotherhood rule after just one year in office, not out of economic reasons but because of religious autocracy and the way its leaders were attempting to institute a Brotherhood dynasty in which they would inherit power from each other,” said Abdallah.

President Al-Sisi said in a TV interview following the removal of Morsi in 2013 that Brotherhood leaders, most notably the group’s wealthy financier Khairat Al-Shater, “told me we are here to stay in office for at least 500 years”.

Abdallah said “when people gathered in Tahrir Square in January 2011 to ask for the removal of former president Hosni Mubarak they raised the slogans of freedom, democracy, and bread.

“They did not ask for the implementation of Islamic Sharia or the resurrection of the Islamic Caliphate. Once the Muslim Brotherhood came to office the people recognised that the country was being manipulated in the direction of both political and religious autocracy.

“The group embarked upon a Brotherhoodisation programme which focused on spreading the ideology of political Islam and jihad. They moved to oppress the group’s opponents and critics, and gather the threads of power across Egypt in their hands.”

Al-Ahram political analyst Hassan Abu Taleb says that “after just one month or two of Morsi being catapulted to power the public began to feel that they had been deceived and that the country was in the process of being hijacked.

“As a result popular movements, including the rebel campaign Tamarod, began to mobilise. Their objective was to save Egypt from becoming a fanatical country joining forces with global Islamic jihadist movements.”

Less than a month before his removal Morsi said at a public rally at Cairo Stadium that Egypt would sever ties with the Al-Assad regime in Syria and join jihadists there. Extremist clerics around him also urged him to get rid of his secularist critics.

“This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It convinced civilian opposition forces and popular movements that they must close ranks and stand up to Morsi and the Brotherhood,” says Abu Taleb.

In June seven years ago most of Egypt’s opposition figures — including former chief of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei — came out against Morsi.

In an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm in mid-June 2013 ElBaradei pleaded with Morsi to leave office peacefully.

“Morsi has lost the confidence of most Egyptians, and I urge him to do like Hosni Mubarak and leave office peacefully,” said ElBaradei. “If Morsi refuses to leave, I hope the army will intervene to support the will of the people and force him from power. It is the duty of the army to support the people’s aspirations.”

Responding to the calls of opposition figures, and to the Tamarod campaign which collected 30 million signatures in favour of ousting Morsi, millions took to the streets on 30 June demanding Egypt be rid not just of Morsi but of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Anti-Brotherhood protests continued for four days, with demonstrators threatening to storm the presidential palace, arrest Morsi and put him on trial. On 3 July 2013 representatives from opposition forces, including ElBaradei, the Salafist Nour Party, civil society organisations, and the then minister of defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, met to announce the removal of Morsi and the appointment of the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adli Mansour as interim president. Morsi, like Mubarak in 2011, was placed under house arrest.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood refused to abandon power peacefully. They organised armed sit-ins in major squares in Cairo and Giza and threatened to use the terrorist Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis group in Sinai to spread violence across Egypt.

Most of the group’s leaders fled the country, choosing to seek refuge in friendly Qatar and Turkey. Seven years later, the group has used the massive financial support it receives to launch five satellite channels broadcasting from Istanbul and London and targeting the stability of Egypt around the clock.

Tharwat Al-Khirbawi, a lawyer who left the Brotherhood’s ranks in 2002, said in a recent TV interview with Al-Qahira wall-Nas TV that “undaunted by the removal of Morsi in the country in which they were created almost 100 years ago the group moved quickly to retaliate.

“With millions of dollars at their disposal they set up offices in at least 50 countries all of which work to reverse what they call the coup which removed them from power in Egypt. The Brotherhood still represents a major threat to the internal stability of Egypt and will continue to be so for some time.”

In a speech on Monday, President Al-Sisi said, “When we were in the middle of our 30 June Revolution we were aware that we were battling a very dangerous and treacherous international terrorist organisation. Although they were forced out of power in a mass popular revolution they have never stopped their attempts to foment waves and waves of armed violence to spread instability.”

Abu Taleb says that after their removal from office the Brotherhood instigated three waves of terrorism.

“First, they mobilised groups espousing their ideology — like Sinai’s Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and Gond Masr (the Soldiers of Egypt) — to kill police officers and soldiers, judges and moderate clerics. Then they started to bomb official buildings and infrastructure projects. When they discovered their tactics were failing they focused on launching an electronic and online war from Turkey and Qatar.

“Groups of Brotherhood affiliates based in Istanbul and Doha work day and night to spread misinformation to stabilise Egypt. The Brotherhood has a big media centre through which it has close contacts with the British and American media.”

Abu Taleb says the Brotherhood has been able to gain a strong foothold in Libya in recent weeks.

“It controls what is called the Government of the National Accord [GNA] which, with Turkish military support, controls Tripoli, Libya’s capital, and the strategic Mediterranean port of Misrata. The GNA in Tripoli is coordinating with Qatar and the Islamist An-Nahda party in neighbouring Tunisia as it seeks to extend its control across Libya and threaten the stability of Egypt.”

While visiting an Egyptian military base near Alexandria on 20 June, President Al-Sisi warned that Egypt would militarily intervene if the Brotherhood-affiliated GNA tried to seize control of the oil-rich region around the eastern towns of Sirte and Al-Jufra.

Abu Taleb believes that “the rise of Muslim Brotherhood regimes in North Africa would be a danger, not only for Egypt but for the entire continent.

“This is why we believe that the Brotherhood still represents a big threat to Egypt and it will continue to do so for some time.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 July, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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