Saturday,21 April, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1339, (6 - 12 April 2017)
Saturday,21 April, 2018
Issue 1339, (6 - 12 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The unreformable Islamists

Some commentators have been urging reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, but this would be a serious mistake

The Muslim Brotherhood is clinging to its last hopes of restoring the organisation’s efficiency in Egypt after the critical hits it has suffered from the police and armed forces.

Yet, bizarrely every few months this terrorist group propagates the idea that the government is in the midst of indirect negotiations with it. It claims that the government is desperately seeking negotiation towards a peaceful settlement, and it says that it is the one that is refusing any reconciliation. It even adds delusional demands like the release of prisoners and the dropping of the charges of espionage against ousted former president Mohamed Morsi. The government has denied these baseless allegations, signifying the desperate condition of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some politicians or security experts have proposed similar reconciliation initiatives with Muslim Brotherhood leaders and youth members, who they say are willing to reconcile themselves with Egyptian citizens. One of the latest of these has been proposed by former police commander and security expert Fouad Allam. His initiative proposes reconciliation after the repentance of Muslim Brotherhood terrorists and says that this should be supervised by a panel of clerics from Al-Azhar in order to convince the prisoners of their ill deeds from a religious standpoint.

This is extremely disturbing news, and it would be an enormous setback for the nation should this initiative be activated. Not only would it provide convicted terrorists and group members with a free pass out of jail, but it would also represent a clear and present danger to the security forces during the ongoing war on terrorism, especially in North Sinai.

For years, politicians, journalists and others have insisted on bringing up the idea of amnesty for those whom they believe have repented of their membership of the Brotherhood. They should be urged to cease and desist from these demands because history has repeatedly proven them wrong. They cannot continue to be obtuse about the nation’s plight and the apparently endless bloodshed it has suffered as a result of the deaths of thousands of its finest men and women in the line of duty and through acts of terrorism.

These casualties mean that thousands of families are in mourning for their loved ones and that their pain will never be over. Those who are feeling sorry for the Brotherhood youth wing today should at least have the decency to show the same sentiments to the young people of the armed forces and the police who have lost their lives fighting terrorist aggression. The Brotherhood youth members did not show any mercy when they spilled these people’s blood or were willing to do so in the group’s name.

The very act of discussing the subject of repentance by Muslim Brotherhood leaders is a desecration to the fallen heroes and a stab in the back of the nation that has paid a hefty price for its war against these terrorists. The youth members of the Brotherhood along with their leaders have sealed their fate by joining the dark forces of terrorism against their own nation and brethren. They should not be given free passage to repeat their ill deeds.

Time has proven that the Muslim Brotherhood would not have spared the lives of those who opposed it if it had been victorious. The Brotherhood would not have given its opponents the right to a fair trial that group members are enjoying now. The heinous crimes committed in Egypt’s burned police stations, with some policemen skinned alive, in August 2013 still come to people’s minds. The scenes we see in the media in Libya and Syria are also testimony of what would have befallen the Egyptian nation had the Muslim Brotherhood managed to emerge victorious in the war on terrorism.

FAILED RECONCILIATION: In almost every decade since the 1940s the Muslim Brotherhood has approached the government asking for reconciliation.

This started with the famous declaration of the founder of the group, Hassan Al-Banna, who had earlier approved the assassination of judge Ahmed Al-Khazendar in March 1948 and had then attempted to deceive the nation by denouncing the act. He lied by saying that those who had committed the act were “neither Brothers nor Muslims.” Later that same year, the Brotherhood assassinated the then prime minister Mahmoud Al-Noqrashi Pasha who had banned the group earlier in the year.

During the rule of former president Anwar Al-Sadat, a similar initiative was adopted by the president himself. As a result, the Islamists were given ample time and space to practise their propaganda and infiltrate society. A few years later, Al-Sadat was assassinated by the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, an offshoot group of the Muslim Brotherhood, on 6 October 1981.

More recently, in 1997 a wave of repentance and reconciliation declarations among the Islamists took place. These declarations ended terrorist activities temporarily, only for them to begin again a few years later. In 2007, the declaration by Sayed Imam, former mufti of the Al-Jihad terrorist group and one of its most influential figures, resulted in the release of large numbers of terrorists from Egyptian jails. But that reconciliation did not hold long either before terrorist activities were resumed. Imam’s declaration, entitled “Rationalising Jihad Activities in Egypt and the World,” was not treated by the Islamists with the interest that the government had anticipated.

Most recently, in 2013 during Morsi’s reign of terror some 810 Islamists and terrorists were released from jail by executive order. Of course, these releases took place in spite of the objections of the security forces. Unsurprisingly, many of those released then joined the terrorists operating in North Sinai or their ilk in Syria fighting alongside the likes of the Ahrar Al-Sham or the Islamic State (IS) groups. Some of them, including one of the assassins of prominent Egyptian writer Farag Fouda, have been found dead in Syria after fighting for IS.

From their earliest years, Islamists such as the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and its youth group are trained to adopt a concept called taqiya, which can be translated as “prudence” or “caution”. Through taqiya and according to their doctrines they are permitted to lie to others to save their own skins if they are captured, if they are pressed by others to reveal their real identities, if their lives are endangered, or if the safety of the group is compromised. It is this taqiya that has allowed countless Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadists to sign declarations that they have given up violence while in fact they are still wedded to militant jihadism.

Unfortunately, security experts along with the clerics who supervise the signing of these declarations have been deceived over and over again over recent decades into believing that these terrorists have in fact repented and intend to follow a peaceful path. As a result, as soon as they are released and the police supervision of them is toned down, most of them rejoin their old groups or form new terrorist cells.

The reason for this is simple: All the members of the Brotherhood and other Islamists believe that they are locked in a mortal struggle to attain their final goal of establishing a global caliphate. As a result, the struggle with the Islamists and the jihadists is not a simple ideological or political one. Instead, it is an existential struggle for Egypt itself. Either Egypt maintains its place as one of the world’s cultural, economic, military and political centres, or it will be engulfed in an endless sea of troubles.

Furthermore, there is no religious guidance or counselling that is able to turn bloodthirsty terrorists into decent citizens. For years even the most prestigious Islamic religious institutions have failed to succeed in this task, and they have even been infiltrated by Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi clerics.

Brotherhood members, with very few exceptions, have shown themselves to be unreformable as they have desecrated everything that is holy and patriotic in the lives of their fellow citizens. The few repentant former jihadists who have become law-abiding citizens may be treated as anomalies. It is impossible to release thousands of terrorists back onto the streets when the result will be only a handful of reformed citizens.

FAME-SEEKERS: Egypt has recently been plagued by a deluge of politicians, pundits and pseudo-experts who are addicted to fame and are regular guests on night-time TV talk shows.

These people produce nonsensical initiatives every now and then to stay in the spotlight of events. But the fate of the Egyptian people and the Egyptian state cannot be decided by a group of fame-seekers who may claim that their initiatives are intended to bring peace to society but are in fact mostly in the interest of personal gain. The nation has already tasted the medicine offered by these fame-seekers, who time and time again have played a role in marketing the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate group, especially after the 25 January Revolution.

This bizarre show must now end as the nation has already paid a hefty price for entertaining such drivel. For the first time in many decades, most of the nation has realised who its true enemies are, and these initiatives serve only as a diversion from the goals of the war on terrorism. The president and the government must be urged to declare clearly and unequivocally that no negotiations with the terrorist group the Muslim Brotherhood can take place. Without such a declaration, the present rumours will continue to spread with the aim of breaking the nation’s unified front against terrorism.

Furthermore, opening the door to any political reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood would be a negative signal to the world that the state has lost the war on terrorism and all the efforts by the Egyptian government to convince other nations to list the Brotherhood as a terrorist group will be in tatters.

Peace with terrorists is an illusion that only the delusional could be led to believe. The Egyptian people and consecutive governments have been deceived numerous times over the past eight decades by such attempts at reconciliation. After the sacrifices that have yielded great victories against the Muslim Brotherhood, and with world public opinion now finally starting to realise the danger of the group by connecting the dots that tie it to IS and Al-Qaeda, it is inconceivable that we stop fighting these terrorists now.

On the contrary, the battle against the group should be escalated across the globe, and hostile regimes that are harbouring group leaders such as the Turkish and Qatari regimes must be exposed to the world.

The Egyptian people, some of whom once made the mistake of trusting the Muslim Brotherhood during a period of uncertainty, are adamant that this should not be repeated. Though most Egyptians are peace-loving individuals who abhor wars and conflict, they are resolute about never following the path of forging a deal with the devil again. The nation that refused to surrender to the will of the Muslim Brotherhood at the height of its power and under extreme duress will not accept any form of reconciliation from the remnants of the same shattered group that was then defeated and ran to the hills.

They will not be fooled again by claims of moderation and acts of piety. Most Egyptians now understand the truth of the proverb that says “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and Winding Road for Democracy.

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