Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood battles against its youth

Dina Ezzat, Saturday 28 May 2011

While the main Muslim Brotherhood leadership refused to participate in Friday's Second Day of Rage, a great number of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth disobeyed this directive

Mohammed Badie
The Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mohammed Badie

To the dismay of the Revolution Youth Coalition, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that it is pulling its youth from the coalition.

"There are no representatives currently of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Youth Revolution Coalition," said Muslim Brotherhood Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein. 

The statement was posted on Ikhwan Online.

The decision was announced this evening in an apparent sign of retaliation by the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood against the decision of some of its youth to take part in yesterday's demonstrations, despite the position of the leadership that no participation should be allowed. 

A sense of dismay reigned over the coalition and a reaction is currently being considered.

"I am convinced I did the right thing. I know that the leadership of the (Muslim Brotherhood) Gamaa had been against the participation in yesterday's demonstrations, but still I felt it was my patriotic responsibility to take part, and so I did," said Mohamed El-Kassas, a member of the youth generation of Egypt's most influential political Islam group.

Speaking to Ahram Online by phone Saturday morning, before the decision to suspend the membership of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth in the Revolution Youth Coalition, El-Kassas said he was aware of — and sympathetic to — the sensitivity of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership against participation in a demonstration calling for a new constitution ahead of parliamentary elections, contrary to the constitutional amendments that the Muslim Brotherhood took part in drafting and in lobbying support for in March.

"This was not the main call for the Friday demonstration," said El-Kassas. Nor, according to Al-Kassas, was the call for the establishment of a presidential council in order to delay parliamentary elections, something that the Muslim Brotherhood is vehemently opposed to, a main call in the demonstration.

According to Al-Kassas, the main call in the demonstration — dubbed Egypt's "Second Day of Rage — was "the completion of the objectives of the January 25 Revolution," including the elimination of the regime of toppled president Hosni Mubarak and the prompt trial of all figures of that regime.

According to Al-Kassas, the participation of "some of the youth of the Muslim Brotherhood" impressed the political forces that amassed thousands of demonstrators on Friday in Tahrir Square. "It did not leave the participants in a tough position within the [Muslim Brotherhood] despite the fact that some within the [Brotherhood] think that we violated the organisational orders which we should follow."

It was the commitment to observe these orders that prompted Abdel-Rahman Hossam to refrain from going to Tahrir Square for Egypt's Second Day of Rage, he told Ahram Online before the developments of the evening.

"Ultimately if one is a member of a party or any group then one needs to go by the rules, and the collective majority agreement is a clear rule for all political groupings," Hossam said. He added: "it does not make much sense for someone to be member of a party or a group if one is not willing to go by the majority vote within the group."

It is not clear how decisions are actually made with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to most accounts, they are made through the Supreme Guide in light of consultation with the Guidance Bureau.

Hossam argues that the "confused bag of objectives" behind Friday's demonstration was one reason that the Muslim Brotherhood leadership decided not to participate and issued clear directives in this regard.

"Some of the calls made suggested that the objective was to fulfill the demands of the January 25 Revolution, including the trial of the figures of the former regime, and respect for all civil freedoms; those were objectives we risked our lives for," said Hossam.

However, Hossam added, some other calls were not in line with the wide consensus expressed in the Yes vote that won the referendum on constitutional amendments that specify the sequence of political transition during the interim phase: parliamentary elections, drafting a permanent constitution, and presidential elections.

"There were calls made for drafting the constitution ahead of the parliamentary elections, and this is not what the nation agreed to; and yes, it is not what the Muslim Brotherhood is supporting," Hossam stated.

"Some people might not like the outcome of the referendum of the constitutional amendments, and they might wish to reverse it, but I believe that this is not the way democracy should be, because in a democratic regime the voice of the majority should be heard," Hossam added.

Hossam is aware of the dismay among many political forces over the decision of the Muslim Brotherhood to not participate when there appeared to be wide consensus for a new mass demonstration. He says that this should not be reason for a rift between other political forces and the Muslim Brotherhood.

"We were all partners in the January 25 Revolution, but I think people need to appreciate that the Muslim Brotherhood, with a long history of coercion and state persecution, has its way of operating that is influenced by this history," said Hossam.

Khaled Abdel-Hamid, a member of the Coalition of the Revolution Youth, has little sympathy for why the Muslim Brotherhood refused to participate on Friday. He insists that despite the many demands made during the demonstration, the clear objective was "to keep the public pressure on, to secure the full implementation of the demands of the revolution."

Abdel-Hamid is impressed, he told Ahram Online, with the decision of "a considerable group of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth" to be present in Tahrir Square. "This shows that (within the Muslim Brotherhood) there are some with clear commitment to the revolution and an obvious openness to work inclusively with, and not exclusively from, other political forces," he argued.

Abdel-Hamid acknowledged that the position and pressure of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership reduced the volume of participation on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth. 

In remarks he made later in the evening, Abdel-Hamid underlined the valuable participation of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and their role in making the January 25 Revolution a success. 

For Abdel-Hamid, the message of the considerable presence in Tahrir Square on Friday, despite the opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood, is not just about the obvious fact that the strength of political forces in Egypt goes beyond the Muslim Brotherhood. It is also, he added, about the "much demonstrated ability of Egyptians to make their own political decisions away from the assuming patronage of some political parties or groups. It was a message for all those who want to exercise power over the right of Egyptians to make their own political choices."

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