Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Out with the old

Amany Maged examines the splits threatening the Muslim Brotherhood

Al-Ahram Weekly

A generation gap between young Muslim Brothers and the group’s entrenched, ageing leaders opened up years ago. The group’s younger cadres had long demanded change. When these demands were refused many younger members left the Brotherhood in order to back Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fottouh in his 2012 presidential bid.

Opposing instructions from the Brotherhood’s supreme guide not to stand in the presidential elections, Abul-Fottouh left the group to form a new party — Strong Egypt — and was joined by hundreds of young Brothers.

The gulf between younger cadres and the leadership has continued to broaden. The leaders’ management of the crisis afflicting the Brotherhood since the removal of Mohamed Morsi as president and the flight of many senior members abroad has generated a profound sense of disappointment among the rank and file. A deepening sense of their leaders’ failings has led many members to reject the hierarchical obedience that for so long characterised the Brotherhood, to the extent that it is now possible to speak of a youth coup against the leadership. This has been manifested in several ways.

The IS summons: IS has called on young Brothers in Egypt to abandon their imprisoned leaders and form a new guidance bureau that would declare allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

In a letter posted on a jihadist webpage IS insisted that members of the Brotherhood recognise that the group’s problems stem from the failings of leaders who deviated from jihad and clung to their leadership positions at the expense of any principle. The letter argued that demonstrations organised by the Egyptian Brotherhood had lost all impact and to continue with this tactic was a waste of time and effort. Instead, members of Islamist trends should join IS, the only group capable of imposing sharia law.

Following the publication of the letter video clips began to circulate on social networking sites showing groups of Brotherhood members declaring allegiance to IS. The Interior Ministry announced that three Brotherhood members had been arrested in Boulaq Al-Dakrour, one of them a driver who had joined IS and posted a video clip of his declaration of allegiance. Another of those arrested had created a website dedicated to inciting violence.

Forty-four Rabaa Al-Adawiya emblems were found in his possession.

“IS presents a grave danger to Islam,” says Al-Wasat Party spokesman Ahmed Maher. “It proclaims the whole of society heretical. No sane Egyptian would support IS.”

In a statement to the press Maher added: “Al-Wasat is against all operations which target state institutions, for these are the property of all Egyptians… All Islamist movements that believe in peaceful methods must make their position clear with respect to these destructive acts and extremist ideas and they must disassociate themselves from violence… Our opposition to the current regime is grounded in love for the nation. Any group that espouses violence is not part of our movement.”

Brotherhood youth attack leaders: The coup has been manifested by an attack against Brotherhood leaders, with Mahmoud Hussein the butt of the most virulent criticisms. Hussein, who is the group’s secretary general, has been acting as chief executive since the arrest of supreme guide Mohamed Badie.

 “First they ruined us and now they are finishing us off,” says Ali Khafagi, secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party’s (FJP) youth group in Giza.

Directly addressing Hussein he added, “may God punish you and all your aides, assistants and the lackeys you employ”.  

 While Hussein concedes that the Brotherhood is undergoing a period of divisions he insists that it is business as usual and the group is operating to the letter of its internal regulations — meaning that its hierarchical structure remains intact. In response to reports of a coup within the group that had seen the ouster of the entire Guidance Bureau, Hussein characterised the stories as unfounded rumours and claimed the Guidance Bureau remains the only agency that directs group activities. He also confirmed that the demand for the reinstatement of Morsi is non-negotiable and will not be relinquished.
Leadership issues: Sources close to the Brotherhood say a central youth committee has been established by group members. The committee’s first official statement called for “escalation” of actions against the state and announced the removal of old Guidance Bureau members.

 “We will not allow the legacy of the group founded by Hassan Al-Banna to be sacrificed to the whims of those thirsting for control or eager to remain silent and compromise,” railed the statement.

It continued: “We stress that we have moved beyond the absolutely submissive peaceful approach that the old Guidance Bureau leaders advocate. The desired peacefulness, as we understand it, is not to engage in conflict with society.”

The statement claimed abandoning the “revolutionary approach” violated the will of the Muslim Brotherhood’s general assembly and that the old leaderships attempts to pit some groups against others had generated a climate of frustration that threatened the unity of the organisation. The statement concluded with an appeal to leaders to adhere to the rules and principles of shura and abide by the results of elections, thus paving the way for a new generation of leaders.

 “People who fabricate crises will only drive away the public and those whom we want to win over to our ideas,” warned Ahmed Rami, official spokesman of the now dissolved FJP, in response to the statement. Addressing dissident young members, he said: “You are not a separate body cut off from the rest of the group. Your ideas may have already been conceived by your elders, men such as Mahdi Akef, Mohamed Al-Beltagui and Helmi Al-Gazzar. It is an incorrect diagnosis to attribute differences in points of view to a generation gap. The crisis will continue and most of us will continue to think impartially.”

Tarek Abul-Saad, a former Brotherhood leader, holds headstrong young Brothers responsible for the crisis that has afflicted the group. Their propensity towards violence, he says, has led them to issue statements proclaiming their refusal to abide by the instructions of the leadership.

“The old leadership, headed by Mahmoud Ezzat, no longer has the power to control the youth of the organisation,” Abul-Saad told the press.

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