Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1270, (12 - 18 November 2015)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1270, (12 - 18 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Treason and terror

The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to capitalise on tragedies such as the Russian airliner crash to build momentum ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 2011 Revolution, writes Amany Maged

Al-Ahram Weekly

As the anniversary of the 25 January Revolution nears, the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to foment tensions at home and escalate pressures abroad, say analysts.

The tragic crash of the Russian passenger plane and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to follow Western nations and evacuate Russian tourists from Egypt were greeted with malicious glee by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.

Former MP Mamdouh Ismail, a close Muslim Brotherhood ally, cheered the news in a post on his Facebook page: “Today a Russian plane crashed, burning to death all 220 passengers on board . . . God is great! Praise the Lord!”

Aisha Khairat Al-Shater, daughter of the MB Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat Al-Shater, thirsted for more: “The dead in Duma, Syria . . . are sufficient to give me joy at the scene of the wreckage of the Russian airplane . . . I pray to God to cause their hearts more suffering, just as they had caused suffering in the hearts of believers together with the traitors who conspire with them.”

Ayman Nour, poet Abdel-Rahman Yousef, Muslim Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag and Mohamed Mahsoub issued a joint statement in which they called on “the Russian people to exert immediate and real pressure on their leadership to stop intervening in Arab affairs and withdraw forces and aircraft from Syrian land and airspace.”

Assem Abdel Maged, a former member of the Jamaa Al-Islamiya’s Shura Council, saw a golden opportunity in the decision by foreign governments to evacuate their citizens from Sharm El-Sheikh.

“We need to channel the anger into positive action, regardless of the nature of that action, and to focus our attention on neighbourhoods, towns and villages to make them support us,” he said in a Facebook post shortly after the crash.

“The Revolutionary Council is closely monitoring the rapidly unfolding events since the crash of the Russian airplane in the Sinai and its consequences for the Egyptian state. It has urged supporters to demonstrate and exploit an incident that reflects the regime’s failure to tackle the diplomatic file,” said the Muslim Brotherhood’s Turkish-based revolutionary council.

The Muslim Brotherhood welcomed the decision by some Western states to suspend flights to Sharm El-Sheikh.

Said Abbas, an Muslim Brotherhood official living in the US, told the press that supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi have launched a campaign called “Stay away from Egypt” which aims to convince tourists that it is too dangerous to visit Egypt.

The campaign includes distributing leaflets in city squares and on public transport and warning Western tourist companies of the hazards of travelling to Egypt. The UK, France, Germany and the US are among the countries targeted.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government has organised its first Arabic book fair. Until 15 November, more than 50 publishing houses are being hosted, the majority belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and its agencies.

Works on display include the writings of Hassan Al-Banna, Sayyid Qotb and other Muslim Brotherhood ideologues. The book fair also serves as a platform for Egypt-bashing. A series of lectures and seminars feature Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers such as Ayman Nour and Seif Abdel-Fattah.

As part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign against the Egyptian state, Gamal Hishmat, chair of the Istanbul-based committee formed by former Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary deputies, claimed attempts to evacuate Russian and British tourists from the Sinai were a prelude to military intervention in Egypt.

On his Twitter account, he wrote: “Following the Russian airplane incident and the evacuation of British and Russian tourists and civilians the countdown has begun to international military intervention in the Sinai and Suez Canal zone.”

Ali Bakr, an expert on Islamist movements, says the International Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to exploit the Russian crash to attract supporters.

Ahmed Alaa, another expert, argues that the rumours being spread through the group’s statements are tantamount to treason. Just as it once tried to attack the army in a failed bid to undermine Egypt’s stability, its leaders are now encouraging international military intervention, he said.

Amr Hashem Rabie, the director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, stresses that the rumours being circulated by the Muslim Brotherhood have no basis in fact. The Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership “is insulting the intelligence of even its supporters,” he said.

It is far from being the first time that the Muslim Brotherhood has plotted against Egypt from abroad. In July 2015, at the request of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, International Muslim Brotherhood leaders based in Turkey, including Gamal Hishmat and Amr Darrag, the chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party’s (FJP) foreign relations committee, met with Turkish officials to discuss ways to fund anti-Egyptian incitement.

According to sources, Ankara offered material and political support, including travel expenses incurred in lobbying foreign governments against President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

On 6 July 2015, the International Muslim Brotherhood and its allies held a press conference in London to air its criticisms of Egypt. They called on the international community to intervene and halt Egypt’s “descent into chaos”, referring to terrorist attacks in Sinai, the assassination of the prosecutor general and the killing of several Muslim Brotherhood officials in a flat in Sixth of October City.

Maha Azzam, chairwoman of the Brotherhood’s Revolutionary Council, International Muslim Brotherhood official Mohamed Soweidan, British lawyer Rodney Dickson, journalist Peter Auburn and international human rights lawyer Toby Kidman all attended the event.

Following the death of the Muslim Brotherhood members in Sixth of October — the Interior Ministry claimed they were members of a terrorist cell — the group began to lobby human rights organisations to organise conferences in the US and Europe to denounce conditions in Egypt.

Muslim Brotherhood operatives have also schemed to undermine Al-Sisi’s foreign visits. Ahead of the president’s recent trip to London, Muslim Brotherhood youth leader Mohamed Amran wrote on his Facebook page: “The Muslim Brotherhood has engaged lawyers to file international suits against Al-Sisi in British courts charging him with crimes against humanity committed against Brotherhood supporters in Egypt.”

Amran concluded his post with a call for the staging of demonstrations the moment Al-Sisi landed in London.

Egyptian observers view London as a haven for leaders of the International Muslim Brotherhood. The British capital is the scene of fierce political battles between Egyptian diplomats and the pro-Muslim Brotherhood lobby.

Cairo, with the assistance of some Gulf countries, has sought to alert London to the dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood presence, efforts that resulted in an official investigation into the group’s activities in the UK.

Experts on Islamist movements say the Brotherhood is seeking to portray the Egyptian army as incapable of protecting Egyptian territory in order to spread anxiety among the public and convince them they were better off under Brotherhood rule.

Maher Farghali, a researcher on Islamist groups, says the Muslim Brotherhood’s objective is to market an image abroad of Egypt as an unstable country.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has always placed its own interests and the aims of its international organisation ahead of the welfare of the nation. This is not the first time Muslim Brotherhood officials have displayed glee at misfortunes that befall Egypt,” said Farghali.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters take to social networking sites in the wake of every crisis, from flooding in Alexandria caused by heavy rain and the fall in value of the Egyptian pound, to the piling up of goods at customs because importers are unable to pay in dollars. Regardless of the causes, Brotherhood propagandists will seize upon every disaster in an attempt to show Brotherhood rule was better.

Observers at home and abroad see the Muslim Brotherhood attempting to capitalise on disasters, regardless of their source or nature, to advance their own interests. Many believe the immediate objective is to try and get as many people as possible on the streets on the anniversary of the 25 January 2011 revolution.

If this is the case, we can expect a rise in Muslim Brotherhood activities as the anniversary approaches.

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