Thursday,15 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1346, (25 - 31 May 2017)
Thursday,15 November, 2018
Issue 1346, (25 - 31 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Brotherhood mischief abroad

Despite its rejection by the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people, the Muslim Brotherhood is still intent on mischief-making abroad, writes Yassin El-Ayouty

Here is a great Arab saying (in my translation): “Like a ram attacking a mountain, but breaking its horns and not the mountain.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, mixing faith with politics, has signed its death warrant for gradual extinction, not only in the New Egypt, but also anywhere else it claims to be representative of part of the population. Born 88 years ago near where I myself grew up in Egypt, it started by advocating Islamic reform under the guidance of its founder Hassan Al-Banna. Then it degenerated into calls for Islamic rule.

The murder in 1947 of Egypt’s then prime minister, Al-Nokrashi Pasha, by the Brotherhood signalled its descent on a slippery slope to an accelerated end. Under Ibrahim Abdel-Hadi, Al-Noqrashi’s successor, secular Egypt liquidated Al-Banna in 1948. This act of revenge took place only hours before Al-Banna was due to flee to Syria.

The Brotherhood’s later guide Maamoun Al-Hodeibi, a successor of Al-Banna, was less militant. But the reasons for suspecting every move by the Brotherhood were already there. The fact that the Brotherhood tried to win over Egypt’s impoverished masses through bread, sugar, basic housing and aspirins was of no use in ensuring its longevity.

Its penetration of the Armed Forces led to a short period of acceptance of the movement. But the shots fired in Alexandria in 1954 against former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who had dislodged Mohamed Naguib from the leadership of the 1952 coup against the monarchy, was heard around the Muslim world. Whether this was a real or a fake attempt on the life of the rising dictator cannot be proven by the evidence.

What is ascertainable is the placing of the Brotherhood under a ban until the 25 January Revolution in 2011. Yet, in spite of Nasser’s liquidation of the great judge Abdel-Qader Auda in the 1950s and Sayed Qotb in the 1960s, the Brotherhood continued to cater to the masses.

The assassination of Nasser’s successor, former president Anwar Al-Sadat, in October 1981 at the hands of Khaled Al-Islambuli, an Islamist, forced the Brotherhood deeper underground. That historic crime signalled two convictions on its part: first that the sword was the Brotherhood’s weapon of last resort; and second that the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau was divided in itself like a mafia family.

From 1981 to 2011, a period of 30 years, the Brotherhood, now informally called “the disbanded group” (al-gamaa al-munhallah), under guide Mahdi Akef kept its head down, unable to match the power, resources, or discipline of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Then it took two roads, both of which led to dead ends.

The first was the Brotherhood’s reliance on internal as well as external funding. But funding does not create lasting loyalty: it only provides temporary energy for mercenaries, something like the way in which the Mamlukes ruled much of the Middle East for several hundred years. The second was reliance on propaganda, especially in Asia, Europe and North America. Brotherhood megaphones inflated its numbers in Egypt to 30 per cent of the population.

That percentage is a big fat lie. There are not 30 million loyal Brotherhood adherents in Egypt. How do I know? When a lawyer does not have a census to provide evidence, he or she relies on circumstances. There has never been any social scientific research carried out in Egypt to prove by figures who is who politically or socially.

Thus, the smokescreen of the Brotherhood was the public rally, rather like the rallies of disaffected Americans seen in last year’s US presidential elections. But rallies do not legislate; they can only indicate popular depth of feeling. This was seen in the case of the 35 million Egyptians who rose up on 30 June 2013 against Brotherhood rule in a corrective revolution that constituted the lawful popular recall of Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi as president in the absence of relevant constitutional provisions.

On the so-called “Friday of Anger” on 28 January 2011, one of the events of the revolution, the Brotherhood, which had earlier described the uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak as “unIslamic”, joined the revolution. It was now on the winning side, and the Brotherhood, imbued by opportunism and having the recognition and protection of the Armed Forces, sought to take over the post-Mubarak regime.

Egypt obliged. Presidential elections pitting Morsi of the Brotherhood against former minister Ahmed Shafik were held in June 2012 before a new constitution was drafted or legislated in a typical case of putting the cart before the horse. I voted for Morsi on this occasion, which turned out to be a big mistake. Within five months of his becoming president, Morsi had pre-empted the constitution by declaring himself to be exempt from the application of the law. A new combination of sultan and caliph was now in power.

Egypt’s Islamist 2012 constitution was not “made in Egypt”. It was “made by the Brotherhood”, and it ran counter to Egypt’s DNA as a 7,000-year-old secular state.

Islam did not create a state; it created a community. Egyptian sovereignty does not permit the ceding of Sinai to Hamas, as the Brotherhood wanted, and the Egyptian Armed Forces are the guarantors of the country’s sovereignty as the only permanent institution in terms of cohesion and loyalty to the motherland. Above all, diversity of faith has always been an Egyptian hallmark.

 

AGAINST THE BROTHERHOOD: The June 2013 Revolution against Islamist rule was thus a revolt against the “Brotherhoodisation” of Egypt.

It said no to the creation of Brotherhood militias, no to the repression of the Copts, women, and Shia, no to any affinity with Islamic State (IS) marauders, and no to Qatar or Turkey or any other outside entity dictating how 100 million Egyptians should govern themselves.

It said no to white robes, long beards, sandals, raisin-like spots on the forehead, and skull caps as the manifestations of authority. Faith and governance cannot mix; religion has been defined as “how others are treated” (al-din al-moaamalah); and Sharia law is to be supplemented by legislation.

The expulsion of Morsi and the end of Islamist rule in July 2013 was a classic process of recall by the popular will. The Islamist 2012 constitution, now replaced by the secular constitution of June 2014, contained no provision allowing for the legislated recall of Morsi.

The then defence minister, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, together with a group of civic, secular and religious leaders, including from the Coptic Church, tried in four days of negotiations with Morsi to start again with a new plebiscite. The Brotherhood refused to participate in these attempts at negotiation as it regarded the presidency of Morsi as the only form of legitimacy (shariya) it would recognise.

To the Brotherhood, the majority of the Egyptian people, including the Armed Forces, were “usurpers”. Even the clearing of the Brotherhood occupations of the Al-Rabaa and Al-Nahda Squares in Cairo in August 2013 it called a brutal attack on human rights.

How could that be? Two public squares in the capital of Egypt being occupied by a Brotherhood rebellion for six weeks and declared to be “Islamic emirates” in an act of internal rebellion presaging civil war? Throughout those six weeks, the government’s appeals to the marauding occupants went unheeded, as did the Brotherhood’s calls for the external invasion of Egypt under the false label of “humanitarian intervention”.

The passage of American naval vessels in the Suez Canal was hailed by the Brotherhood at the time as the start of a forceful abrogation of the new established order. Hundreds of people died during the clearance of the Squares, but not by government design, as the Brotherhood claims. Instead, their deaths can be put down to the criminal actions of Brotherhood gangs, which, like IS and its affiliates, sought martyrdom (shahadah) as a means of legitimation.

Further Brotherhood propaganda spewed out, especially abroad, saying that Al-Sisi lacked legitimacy. There was advocacy by some Egyptians in the US, including by New Jersey broadcaster Ayat Orabi who wrote obscenities on social media. There were more visits to Washington by Brotherhood sympathisers to demonstrate against Al-Sisi.

But all these things were in vain, and secular Egypt marched steadily on. The administration of interim president Adli Mansour handed power to its successor, president Al-Sisi. These steps came about after approval by plebiscite of the 2014 constitution. These were free and fair elections, with Al-Sisi standing against left-wing candidate Hamdeen Sabahi. Al-Sisi, the former defence minister and the mediator with the Brotherhood, was the choice of the majority.

Al-Sisi did not come to the presidency on top of a tank. He was given the post in an orderly democratic process of post-Islamisation in an Egypt that was spared the agony of

civil war.

Yet, recently there has been a series of attempts at mischief-making by the Muslim Brotherhood, which, among other things, has tried to marginalise Al-Azhar, the citadel of an inclusive and universalist Islam. Fortunately, jihadism is now being confronted by the New Islamic Revolution, led by Al-Azhar, on which I am also authoring a book.

The word “idea” comes from the Greek “to see”, being the pattern that enables you to understand the nature of a phenomenon. The phenomenon of the Muslim Brotherhood, now declared in its birthplace, Egypt, to be a terrorist organisation, is not hard to understand. Its idea is that “Islam is a path to a fascist theocracy.” The firewall against the Brotherhood’s attempted conversion of Egypt into an Islamic emirate is the Armed Forces. The Brotherhood’s enablers, such as Orabi in the US and Sheikh Salem Abdel-Gelil in Cairo, are, judging by their false propaganda, haters of interfaith harmony.

With the Egyptian arena now dominated by secularism, the Muslim Brotherhood is in hot pursuit of life-support overseas. But its megaphones, whether in Qatar, Turkey, or the US, simply shout into echo-chambers. Its abuse in America of freedom of speech is an example of overreaching. It has turned into calls for violence against Christians and into jihadi calls for criminalised hatred.

The Brotherhood’s mischievous veil of “political opposition” behind which it hides its calls for sectarian violence can be pierced through legal means. The group can have no idea of the consequences of its apparently unending mischief.

“Virtue” in Latin means “strength”. Is there one single virtue that the Muslim Brotherhood can claim? Even the “Rabaa salute”, allegedly signalling the group’s victimhood at Rabaa Square in 2013, is a crooked finger.


The writer is a professor of law at New York University in the US.

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