Split in Muslim Brotherhood deepens with creation of new advisory council

Mahmoud Aziz, Thursday 22 Dec 2016

The Islamist group now has two advisory councils for the first time since its founding in 1928, a move opposed by leaders based in London

MB supporters
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood protesting against the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in Rabaa El-Adaweya square in Cairo, August 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

The Muslim Brotherhood group has been hit by another internal dispute between two key factions, with rival members of the region's oldest political-Islam movement engaging in a war of statements via the media.

The latest crisis erupted on Tuesday, after the Cairo-based Administrative Committee announced on one of the group's Facebook pages that it had created a new "Shoura Advisory Council", deciding by a majority vote on a separation of powers between the organization's legislative and executive branches. The move leaves the organization with two advisory councils for the first time since its foundation in 1928.

"This is a first step on the right track to reforming the organization, resulting in the separation of powers between advisory and executive roles inside the organization," according to the committee's statement.

The committee also said that Mohamed Badei, the organization's supreme guide, who has been in prison since the ouster of the Islamist government in July 2013, retains his position, with full powers. He will retain his position, along with other jailed members of the guidance bureau, until they are released from prison, said the committee.

However, the Brotherhood's London office, lead by the acting Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat, rejected the election of a new advisory council, defying the administrative committee's decisions.

The Muslim Brotherhood Administrative Committee was formed in February 2014 and consists of second-tier leaders responsible for runing the organizations' affairs. Most of the Brotherhood's prominent leaders and guidance-office members were jailed in the wake of the July 2013 uprising, which toppled former president Mohamed Morsi.

The committee's leader, Mohamed Kamal, was killed by Egyptian security forces in Cairo in October, leaving the committee without a declared leader.

Since its establishment, the committee has been perceived as having control over the organization's supporter base in Egypt.

The second group led by Mahmoud Ezzat and mainly residing abroad, especially in the Uk, Turkey and Qatar, is responsible for issues of financing and regional international affairs.

This second group, commonly known as the "old guard", includes other leaders from the Brotherhood's international organizations - or what is described as "historical leaders" of the organization. These include London-based leaders Ibrahim Mounir, Mahmoud Hussein and Mahmoud Ezzat, who is currently acting as Supreme Guide.

'Historical' dispute

Ahmed Ban, a former Brotherhood member and researcher on Islamic movements, describes the latest dispute as "historical".

In Ban's opinion, the divisions run far deeper than the latest crisis over the advisory council. Rather, he says, there is complete disagreement between the two groups on ways to resolve the organization's current state of deterioration.

"Since its establishment in 1928, the MB never witnessed such a threat to its existence. We now officialy have two Muslim Brotherhood organizations with two different advisory councils who exchange claims and feud through the media. This is something decisive in the history of the organization," said Ban.

"The current crisis between the two groups is nothing more than a struggle over power, reflecting the failure of the two groups to take any serious action or mobilize the masses to act against the current regime."

Another important factor, in ban's opinion, is the desire of the old guard to engage in political dialogue and reconciliation with the current regime, while the Cairo-based group is against the idea of reconciliation.

Ban says that prominent members within both groups have been engaged in efforts at reconcilliation for years, seeking to resolve tensions within the organizations. However, the situation has reached the stage where reconcilliation seems unlikely, with tensions likely only to increase in future, according to Ban.

Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's former president and prominent member of the Brotherhood's guidance office, was ousted by a popular uprising in July 2013. The organization was designated as a terrorist group in December of the same year. Most of its prominent leaders, including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei, former president Morsi, and almost all members of its guidance office and other top-tier members, were put on trial and jailed.

Since then, the two groups have engaged in several disputes by way of media statements, with each claiming to be the legitimate representative of the organization. 

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