Egyptian Islamists’ anger, woes

Dina Ezzat , Sunday 7 Jul 2013

Following the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, analysts and political figures say efforts should be exerted to keep Egypt's oldest Islamist group within the political fold

Rabba El-Adwyia
Protesters, who support former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, at the Rabba El-Adwyia mosque square (Photo: Reuters)

While millions of Egyptians were flocking to Tahrir Square and other squares around the nation in a new wave of celebration over the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi last Wednesday, tens of thousands of angry Islamists were maintaining their sit-in at Nasr City's smaller square at Rabba Al-Adawiya Mosque and outside the headquarters of the Republic Guard, where some thought Morsi was being held hostage, in neighbouring Heliopolis.

"This sit-in has one message and one message only: we are not giving up on the legitimacy of President Mohamed Morsi. He was elected in a democratic process and he was removed before finishing his term," said Hassan Moustafa, a member of the Islamist sit-in at Rabba Al-Adawiya.

For Moustafa, as for many other members of that sit-in, there are matters that they firmly hold to: Morsi was never given a chance since his inauguration a year ago because there were so many powers within and without the state that declined to have an Islamist president; the ouster of Morsi is not an act of submission to the power of millions of demonstrators  because, as many of them would say, "there were not millions of demonstrators; there was a conspiracy that brought together the 'secular-leftist-Coptic' opposition with the army to remove the Islamist president; and, above everything else, as many said, "We are willing to die in defence of the Islamist project."

Hamdi Hassan, an Alexandria-based Brotherhood figure, said: "We know that Morsi has been removed, but we are not giving up on our project; we have to defend it even with our lives because we know that the Muslim Brotherhood will be thrown back into the prisons one more time. We might as well die defending what we believe in."

Already, over ten members of the Muslim Brotherhood have died in clashes – mostly before the Republican Guard building and before the TV building, where they went to demonstrate on Friday and Saturday evening to protest the lack of coverage by state media – which was under the thumb of the Muslim Brotherhood until last week – of their demonstrations.

Abdel-Rahman Ezzat is one of the martyrs that fell before the TV building. A young accountant who was brought up in a Muslim Brotherhood family in Giza, Ezzat was working with the Relief Agency at the Doctors Syndicate. He was engaged to be married – next month – and according to his close and grieving friend Mohamed Khayyal, a journalist, "full of love for people and very peaceful."

While friends and family of Ezzat were overseeing his burial, other members of the Muslim Brotherhood were feeling lost. They were losing faith in the chances of reinstating Morsi and they were also losing contact with their immediate leadership, while receiving news of the arrest of the top leadership of the group, Egypt's oldest political Islamic group, founded in 1928 to serve the purpose of religious promotion.

In the reading of Mohamed El-Kassas,  a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood and now leader o the Egyptian Current Party, the Muslim Brotherhood is going through one of the toughest – if not the toughest – challenge it has faced since its inception.

"What we are seeing today is the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood after they have ascended to power," El-Kassas said.

In previous tough moments, the Muslim Brotherhood had fallouts with the regime, with the 1950s as a particular example. This is when the Muslim Brotherhood leadership and the leadership of the 1952 Revolution parted ways after an initial phase of coordination in the wake of the ouster of Egypt's last monarch, King Farouk.

"At the time, it was the regime trying to coerce the Brotherhood but not society," El-Kassas said.

On the eve of and in the wake of the 25 January Revolution two years ago, the Muslim Brotherhood had another tough challenge, which was different from its usual confrontation with the ruling regime, which was punctuated by moments of coordination under the rule of late president Anwar Sadat in the 1970s, when young members of the Brotherhood left the group expressing dismay over its initial hesitation to support the revolution that ended the three-decade rule of Hosni Mubarak.

"That was a considerable challenge for the organisation, but it did not amount to the failure of its rule," Al-Kassas said. He added that this was a challenge not just for the Muslim Brotherhood but for the entire Islamist current.

This said, the leader of the Egyptian Current Party is determined to promote the call for the integration of Muslim Brotherhood youth, along with other Islamist youth, not excluding some of the rank and file of the Salafist parties, including the Nour Party that supported the ouster of Morsi at the hands of the army by the will of the people.

The call to avert the "gross mistake of excluding or deliberately persecuting Islamists who are a key part of Egyptian society" had been stressed by liberal figures, including former presidential runner Amr Moussa and Amr Hamzawy, leader of the Misr Al-Hurriyah Party.

"We need to accommodate, not alienate the Islamist youth," said Moussa.

According to Hamzawy, bringing members of the Muslim Brotherhood involved in violating the law is one thing and taking a negative position towards the entire political Islamic group is another. "The second is an inexcusable moral mistake, not to mention a gross political miscalculation. We need to opt for reconciliation and transitional justice," he said.

Lawyer and human rights activist Ahmed Hishmat expressed concern over what he said was possible evidence of the violation of Islamist rights. "The fact that the army chose to act in line with the will of the people should not open the door to rights violations," he said.

Observing human rights and the political integration of Islamist youth, especially those of the Muslim Brotherhood, El-Kassas argued, requires "sensitivity to their concerns during the transition phase."

He added: "One crucial matter is the choice of the prime minister, which is currently under consideration. It would be a huge mistake to attempt to impose a figure on the political tug-of-war between the Morsi regime and its opposition. This would only aggravate their fury and accentuate their fears."

Beyond the choice of a "neutral" prime minister, El-Kassas said that the path should be paved for the participation of Islamists in the ruling process.

"It is true that the Muslim Brotherhood will not be immediately forthcoming, but if we avoid adding insult to injury we could eventually attract some of them," he said. "But inevitably there would be some who would drift away, either to a more radical path out of a conviction that the democratic path did not pay off, or to actually leave the country and pursue a new life elsewhere."

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