Egypt at a crossroads; where does the Muslim Brotherhood stand?

Emad Gad , Tuesday 12 Apr 2011

Given everything Egypt has been through, can the Muslim Brotherhood continue to imagine that it can direct the Egyptian Revolution to its benefit?

Although the Muslim Brotherhood were not one of the groups who called for protests on 25 January, it soon entered into the fray and participated with nationalist forces in demonstrations which morphed into a popular revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood youth played an effective and vital role in the revolution with civic forces from across the political spectrum to formulate the “mood of Tahrir Square”. The Muslim Brotherhood did not take part on the first day because of how the group views itself and nationalist forces. The group believes it is the only organised force in the country, and if it does not take part then the most that other forces will manage is a few hundred followers since the Muslim Brotherhood is the only one that can mobilise protests with hundreds of thousands of participants.

Since the call to demonstrate on 25 January was not made by the Muslim Brotherhood, it decided not to take part. The preliminary verdict was that the protests on 25 January would fail and that they would be like previous ones, which were not attended by more than a few hundred demonstrators. As soon as 25 January was a success and gained strength, the Muslim Brotherhood decided to participate so that they were not left behind at this critical political moment.

During the first few days of the revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood was unable to impose their presence or control or slogans in the square. It was a truly Egyptian scene and only the flag of Egypt was raised high. The youth of the groups and movements that called for the 25 January demonstrations testified that Muslim Brotherhood youth were critical in igniting the fire of revolution, and actively participated in defending the youth of the revolution. But problems began when victory seemed within reach and the fruit of their labour became apparent.

When Omar Suleiman called for a dialogue with political parties and forces, the Muslim Brotherhood was quick to leap out of the square and into dialogue to be the first to reap the rewards. This was followed by frequent media engagements and attempting to control events in Tahrir Square, especially on the Friday after Mubarak stepped down. Although nationalist forces tried to caution the Muslim Brotherhood to hold back until the fruits of their labour ripen and are ready to be shared, the group continued to work unilaterally under the impression that they were the only organised force. Power seemed close at hand for the group, which was an opportunity they could not pass up, causing many fractures among their ranks.

The Muslim Brotherhood youth conference was an important indicator of the gaping differences among Muslim Brotherhood ranks. The youth took decisions on issues that the older generations had long stalled, such as the role of Copts and women in national work. The Muslim Brotherhood’s unilateral tendency was most evident during the referendum on constitutional amendments, whereby they sided with fragments of the National Democratic Party (NDP) or its fleeing remnants, the Salafis, Gamaa Islamiya, Jihad and the preference by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to approve the amendments.

This is all within their right, but the problem is that they defined the issue of the referendum in religious terms. They crowned this by complete agreement with the Salafis in describing a vote against amendments a sin, casting doubt on the intentions of those who disapproved of the changes and making the referendum a purely religious issue.

Amid these developments, and as the Muslim Brotherhood is embattled over its revolutionary youth, an invitation was sent out to Coptic youth for dialogue. The aim was to reassure Coptic youth about their future as if the Muslim Brotherhood were in control of the country and its people, which will never happen for one simple reason: “He who does not possess something cannot deliver it.” A group that does not have a vision to incorporate a young generation that is interested in national issues will never have anything to offer the same generation of Copts.

Meanwhile, young Copts differ in their views with older generations within the Egyptian Church. They are fed up of the relationship between the state and the Church, and hate the game of the Church of asking for what they see as their rights from the state. They want to break away from this formula and demand for themselves what they believe are their rights.

While it is acceptable to deal with naturally occurring developments and interactions, it is absolutely unacceptable to continue this policy after the scene has become so much more complicated and began negatively affecting the impression of Egypt and the Egyptians after the splendid images of the 25 January Revolution. What the Salafi groups did in Qena, Menoufiya and later Qalubiya have gravely tarnished the revolution of the Egyptian people, causing increasing sectors in Egyptian society to “denounce” the revolution and the day it started.

Many Egyptians are terrified that Egypt will become another Afghanistan or worse if things get out of hand and weapons are used to impose political views. In such a scenario, anything would be possible, which we do not want for our country. And here lies the question that is the theme of this article, which is: at this critical point for Egypt, and with the dangers besieging the country, can there still be those who want to pluck the fruits of the revolution and monopolise them without the involvement of other revolution forces?

I fear that the same policies will continue and they will prematurely pluck the fruits of revolution and in that way neither benefit from them nor wait until they are ready to serve all society. The Muslim Brotherhood must decide where they stand regarding what is taking place in Egypt and attempts to cooperate with forces that want to transform Egypt into another Afghanistan. They must declare their positions and relationships and how they are connected to forces that want to enforce a Taliban plan in Egypt, or Talibanise Egypt.


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