Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Commentary: MB in the balance

Consensus is not a word in the Muslim Brotherhood’s vocabulary, writes Azmi Ashour

Al-Ahram Weekly

For more than 80 years the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), faithful to the teachings of its founder Hassan Al-Banna, refrained from turning into a political party. The MB’s distrust of political parties was until recently shared by other Islamic groups. The only exception is the Wasat Party whose founders broke away from the MB well before the 25 January Revolution.

Not that the MB was above engaging in political life. It ran for elections in alliance with the Wafd and Labour parties in the 1980s. But it was only after the downfall of the Mubarak regime that the MB emerged as a major political player. The group founded the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and thrust headlong into the political arena. Other Islamist groups did the same — the Salafis formed the Nour Party and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya the Legacy and Construction Party.

Since then, parties with religious background multiplied steadily, reaching a total of 16 — a phenomenon which calls for further research.

Instead of packing its party with politicians and allowing it to have its own mind, the MB treated the FJP as a subordinate, as one more of its numerous committees. The FJP is kept on a tight leash by the Guidance Bureau. It made a good showing in the elections and its former leader, Mohamed Morsi, is now president. This created the curious situation in which, instead of having a president running the country we have a president run by the Guidance Office.

The MB is trying to control other branches of government in a similar fashion. Its insatiable appetite for power is what has spawned so many protests across the country.

To add insult to the injury the MB is trying to hoodwink us into thinking that this preposterous situation is normal. Imitating the old regime, the MB is trying to offer us not democracy but the empty shell of democracy.

The MB is willing to organise elections. It is willing to have elected bodies. But only in a manner that allows the Guidance Bureau to control all those in elected office, including the president.

This situation is causing resentment across the country. The MB is the actual ruler of this country but keeps pretending that Morsi is in charge. Everything the president has done so far gives the lie to this claim. The public, as a consequence, has lost confidence in the MB and its president. And the opposition — led by the National Salvation Front — is unable to believe anything Morsi says.

In modern societies the state and its institutions are above any group or political power. In Egypt the opposite is true. We have a group that is trying to fashion the state, its laws and institutions, in its own image.

Many fear the MB’s aversion to power sharing is not a sign of incompetence but of innate dictatorship. It has so far proved itself incapable of respecting the country’s legacy and the revolution that brought it to power.

Egypt is not a rich industrial nation. A good many Egyptians are poor and illiterate, vulnerable to religiously-tainted politics. But even the poor and illiterate have access to satellite technology and modern debate. And they know when they are being lied to.

Islamist groups have made a habit of accusing the public of having inadequate faith — a ridiculous accusation. Egyptians do not lack piety. What they need is not more preaching, but food, jobs and housing. 

In power the MB has alienated everyone. Its flagrant nepotism, sheer cynicism, consistent power grabbing and infuriating lies have not won it any friends. They have lost it allies.

This is why a full-scale insurgency is underway in the cities of the Suez Canal and other parts of the country. Such levels of discontent are unprecedented, even by pre-25 January 2011 standards.

According to recent statistics 864 protests were held in November 2013, just under 30 protests per day.

The MB cannot fool all the people all the time. It may still enjoy the obedience of its own members but the country at large is fed up with its ways.

It should not have been so hard. The MB could have opted for democracy and tried to bring the nation together. It didn’t.

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