Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1322, (1 - 7 December 2016)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1322, (1 - 7 December 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial: Muslim Brotherhood splintering

Al-Ahram Weekly

A quick assessment of the current state of the Muslim Brotherhood shows that this organisation is split into three distinct groups with very different characteristics. The first consists of the historic leadership, or the old guard. Mostly in the over-60 age bracket, some of them are currently in prison and facing an array of criminal and terrorist charges while others reside abroad, some having recently fled the country while others had settled abroad in various countries some time ago.

The second segment consists of the Muslim Brotherhood youth groups which, within the organisation, are referred to as the middle and lower level leadership ranks. Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Kamal was able to rally these behind him following the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood rule and the fragmentation of the Guidance Bureau as its members variously fled or faced prosecution.

In the third category we find the organisation’s membership base: The “families” and ordinary members. The bulk of these have virtually vanished from the Muslim Brotherhood political scene since the breakup of the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in, opting to stay at home and remain silent while harbouring doubts and questions.

That one of the most important figures of the first group, Ibrahim Munir, ventured to raise “talk of reconciliation” in the course of an interview published on a Muslim Brotherhood-run news platform based in London cannot be viewed independently from the above divisions. His remarks were effectively a cry for a lifeline to be thrown to his organisation by virtually anybody. This can readily be seen from Munir’s appeal to international or Arab parties or wise men in Egypt to develop a formula for bringing the principle of reconciliation with the state to the dialogue table in a manner to which the Muslim Brotherhood organisation could respond.

However, as can be seen in the assessment above, the Muslim Brotherhood is gripped by a total organisational schism. The upper echelon of its leadership, which today claims to speak on behalf of the organisation, is at its weakest point ever and its internal control is extremely fragile. In addition, it is staring at a very murky future that, at the moment, appears to be heading slowly and steadily towards clinical death. Members of the senior hierarchy are acutely aware of this, especially those residing abroad. Ibrahim Munir in London is the best known Muslim Brotherhood figure to have alluded to the gloomy future that awaits his organisation in view of political developments in the US and Western Europe.

However, any search for a formula for a deal is certain to encounter anger and rejection among the second of the abovementioned segments of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, Munir came under vehement attack from that camp, forcing him to back down, in the media at least. His retractions were framed in a way to achieve a degree of internal mollification while keeping alive the old guard’s drive to advance a deal, the purpose of which is to salvage “the organisation” that the Muslim Brotherhood has worshipped since the days it was headed by its founder, Hassan Al-Banna.

The most serious threat facing senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders today is their loss of control over the second category of Muslim Brotherhood members who, today, proclaim their rejection of reconciliation. This is the group that has created a near total schism for the first time in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood by openly supporting the option of violence and appointing Mohamed Kamal as their de facto supreme guide.

This is not just an ideological or doctrinal schism. This group has aggressively moved to fill the void created by the absence of the members of the Guidance Bureau. Under Kamal’s leadership they have also created the so-called “qualitative committees” that supervised the activities of terrorist groups that carried out violent armed attacks and that concealed their real identities behind other names.

These constitute the most dangerous facets of the rift that Munir, today, is urgently trying to repair through his search for a new way out. However, his reconciliation gesture is not so much motivated by a renunciation or condemnation of violence as it is by a desperate determination to control and channel its mechanisms and use. The higher Muslim Brotherhood echelons have come to fear that the violent wing within the “organisation” is working towards its own separate ends and they are determined to harvest any gains from activities that took place beyond their control since the rift.

Perhaps the seeds of “jihadist Salafism”, “Daeshism” and “lone wolf” ideas and behaviours that have begun to take a powerful hold among the mid to lower level leadership are among the factors that are heavily straining the nerves of the upper level echelons of the Muslim Brotherhood hierarchy, who fear that these trends will permanently destroy their idol: The organisation. At that point, they will no longer have any proselytising, humanitarian or political facades they can hide behind while the second category of Muslim Brotherhood members will be speaking exclusively in the language of bullets and IEDs and will have no time for a “guidance bureau” or other authority that might rein in the darkness.

Any deal requires two parties. The other party here consists of the current political regime and public opinion. The Muslim Brotherhood organisation, through Munir’s gesture and its attempt to market the notion that it has the power to come through on its side of the bargain, hopes to divide the other side. The Muslim Brotherhood is banking that voices on the other side will welcome or, at the very least, respond positively, to what might be regarded as conciliatory. They might even go further and begin to contemplate some conditions that the organisation will need to fulfil. The Muslim Brotherhood will take this as a first step in a process that it merely wants to set in motion. The important point is that it will have succeeded in imposing a false equation, in substance and scale, merely by being able to point to two sides.

It does not necessarily matter whether the two sides of this equation are equal. One (the Muslim Brotherhood) can accept being inferior to some degree. It will be sufficient that it had attained its purpose, which is to reassert itself as an entity by means of the very existence of an equation.

The foregoing sums up the prevalent thinking within the Guidance Bureau, which will persist in its attempts to promote a deal scenario in diverse variations and at varied intervals. The Egyptian government should develop what we might call a complete plan for dealing with this situation, with an eye to totally eradicating the Muslim Brotherhood cancer.

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