The two-headed Muslim Brotherhood

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 24 Oct 2021

Al-Ahram Weekly reports on the escalating conflict between the London- and Turkish-based wings of the Muslim Brotherhood

Muslim Brotherhood flag

On 11 October, Ibrahim Mounir, the London-based acting supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, dismissed six of the group’s leaders — Mahmoud Hussein, the Brotherhood’s secretary-general; Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, chairman of the Association of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Expatriates; Hammam Ali Youssef, chairman of the Brotherhood’s office in Turkey, and three members of the Brotherhood’s Shura Council, Medhat Al-Haddad, Mamdouh Mabrouk, and Ragab Al-Banna — all of whom currently reside in Istanbul.

Mounir appointed London-based Osama Suleiman and Sohaib Abdel-Maqsoud as the group’s spokespersons, replacing Turkish-based Talaat Fahmi.

In a statement, Mounir accused Brotherhood leaders in Turkey of corruption, telling the London-based Muslim Brotherhood TV channel Al-Hiwar on 15 October that the dismissals were part of “an internal corrective movement” that included dissolving the Brotherhood’s administrative office and Shura Council in Turkey.

Mounir’s decisions were rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood’s office in Turkey which mooted the possibility of dismissing Mounir from his post as acting supreme guide. The Hussein-led wing in Istanbul said “Mounir’s decisions represent a coup against the group,” and revealed that it was “in the process of naming a new supreme guide who can gain the approval of Brotherhood members”.

Amr Abdel-Moneim, a researcher on Islamist movements, told Arabiya TV there has long been talk of corruption among the Brotherhood’s leaders in Turkey.

“The group’s Turkish administrative office receives an estimated $1.7 billion monthly in financial donations from different sources,” said Abdel-Moneim, and younger members of the group, including many who fled Egypt following the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in 2013, accuse the old guard of using the money to enrich themselves.

Amr Farouk, another researcher, told Sky News TV that the conflict between the group’s two wings “erupted some months ago, when Egypt and Turkey began to move towards reconciliation”. As part of that process, Turkey clamped down on the group’s anti-Egyptian television channels, and expelled a number of its media specialists.

“Young members now face the threat of being deported from Turkey. They complain of the hardships they face and blame the group’s leadership in Istanbul of doing nothing to help them.”

MP Mustafa Bakri, editor of the weekly Al-Osbou, believes the Muslim Brotherhood is facing an existential crisis.

“After losing power in Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco, the group found many doors closing. Even Turkey and Qatar are moving to their support and reconcile with Egypt.”

Turkey, which once welcomed the group, is now seeking to uproot it, says Bakri, noting that the only place in which the group now has a safe haven is London.

Bakri argues the crisis within the Brotherhood stems from its lack of credible leadership following the arrest and referral to trial on charges of terrorism and espionage of Mahmoud Ezzat, the group’s supreme guide. Cairo’s Criminal Court announced last week that it will deliver its judgement on Ezzat’s case on 19 December.

In his interview with Al-Hiwar channel, Mounir conceded Ezzat’s arrest had left the Brotherhood rudderless.

“This is one of the worst crises through which the Muslim Brotherhood has passed and it began when the group was removed from office in Egypt and its then supreme guide — Mohamed Badie — was arrested.”

Farouk says young Brothers are angry not only at the corruption of the group’s Turkish-based leaders, but at their failure to reach any kind of reconciliation with the government in Egypt, a step which would help towards the release activists currently serving jail terms. reported on 16 October that some Brotherhood members in Istanbul had taken to social media, particularly Telegram, to accuse leaders of misusing funds, and that the vitriolic exchanges “show how deep the crisis within the group goes”.

“This conflict,” argues Farouk, “could lead to Mounir’s wing taking control of the Istanbul office, or the Istanbul office declaring its independence from London. The latter case will result in the Brotherhood being divided into two groups, with two heads.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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