Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1350, (22 June - 5 July 2017)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1350, (22 June - 5 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The post-30 June Muslim Brotherhood

Amany Maged charts the collapse of a group that was once the dominant force in Egyptian politics

Leaders of the now outlawed MB behind bars
Leaders of the now outlawed MB behind bars

On 30 June 2013 millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand an end to Muslim Brotherhood rule. They succeeded. But have we really freed ourselves from the Brotherhood’s reactionary beliefs and terrorism? And what of the group four years after the revolution?

The Brotherhood’s leadership is now scattered between prison and exile, its ranks divided into antagonistic camps fighting over power they imagine can be revived. A significant portion of the group’s younger members have enlisted with the Islamic State (IS). Others have created small breakaway groups that undertake terrorist acts.

Since 2013, divisions between younger members of the Brotherhood and its staunchly Qotbist leadership have opened. Resentment has mounted against leaders who proved flagrantly incompetent in their management of the conflict and many of whom fled Egypt leaving younger cadres to bear the brunt of their failure. It has provoked what can only be termed a coup against the old guard.  

The rebellion manifested itself in a number of ways. Increasing numbers of young Brothers responded to IS appeals to disassociate themselves from their leaders in prison or abroad and form a new Guidance Bureau which would declare allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The internal conflict has continued to fester. It has focussed on two primary issues. The first involves attitudes to violence in the group’s conflict with the state. The old guard insists the Brotherhood, in order to safeguard the future of the organisation and protect it from possible extinction, should not depart from a policy of “peaceful action”. The “new guard” argues violence had been forced on the organisation and was now unavoidable. They believe violence strengthens the hand of the Brotherhood and will make it more powerful in any eventual negotiations with the state.

  The second problem involves the organisation’s ideological and hierarchical rigidity. Experts on the Brotherhood say it is floundering in the absence of any authoritative frames-of-reference that could allow it to come to terms with current realities. Its organisational structures are moribund, having remained unaltered for 80 years. It lacks mechanisms for internal promotion and rejuvenation which is why its leadership consists of old men who have aged in their positions and who now have no intention of stepping aside to make room for new blood.

One consequence of the long festering power struggle between the old and new guards, compounded by organisational decay, has been the emergence of radical splinter groups. The danger of these resides in the fact that they are difficult to second guess, ideologically and operationally. Another is the proliferation of lone wolf acts of violence. Most Brotherhood youth are convinced not only that they are in a state of conflict with the government but that they are on the right side of this conflict. Any action against the government, then, becomes an act of “jihad for the sake of God”. This belief has led to individual acts of violence against members of security agencies, government buildings and public utilities, as well as defections to IS.

Tensions between Brotherhood leaders outside prison and younger members of the group could not be ignored indefinitely. Brotherhood ideologue Youssef Al-Qaradawi, resident in Qatar for decades, was forced to acknowledge the rift and in order to remedy it advised members to stop airing their grievances through mudslinging and proclamations in the media which only inflamed passions and fuelled anger. He announced that a committee of international Brotherhood leaders would be formed to resolve the crisis.

  At the same time it became clear the divisions in Egypt were impacting the Brotherhood abroad. The Shura Council of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood announced it was severing its affiliation with the mother organisation in Cairo, fearing it would meet the same fate and be branded a terrorist organisation by the government in Amman. In the US the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee approved a bill asking the State Department to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.

Reeling under these developments a declaration was issued criticising the performance of Mahmoud Ezzat, the Brotherhood’s acting supreme guide. It encouraged younger members to begin a petition drive to establish what they called a “Third Muslim Brotherhood Entity”. The move, vehemently opposed by the Mahmoud Ezzat front on the grounds it would fragment the organisation, was welcomed by Mohamed Kamal, a member of the Brotherhood’s Shura Council who encouraged a revolt against the group’s “geriatrics”.

A second, similar petition was initiated in 2015 by Brotherhood members based in Turkey in an attempt to force the Guidance Bureau to listen to younger members.

Meanwhile, members continued to leave the group for splinter organisations such as the Revolution Brigade which, via its Twitter account, claimed responsibility for the death of Brigadier General Adel Rigai, gunned down while leaving his home in the Obour satellite city in Greater Cairo.

The Revolution Brigade is a subsidiary of the Hasm movement which claimed responsibility for the attack against a security checkpoint in Sadat City in Menoufeya, killing two policemen and wounding three as well as injuring two civilians.

Other groups proliferated in the aftermath of the 25 January and 30 June revolutions. They include Hazemoon, Revolutionary Retribution, the Popular Resistance, the Helwan Brigades, the Molotov organisation, Execution, Thugs against the Coup and Anonymous.

The names may vary but their aims are the same — to disrupt security, destabilise the state and spread chaos. They rely on individuals — lone wolves — or tiny cells with no more than five members who instigate attacks without prior contact with the mother organisation. These individuals often have no previous record, enabling them to evade security surveillance.

These movements embraced violence following the breakup of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins and the flight of Brotherhood leaders abroad.

Although the Brotherhood denies any connection with the Revolution Brigade video-clips released by the latter have featured known members of the Brotherhood. The Revolution Brigade also uses terms and concepts common in Brotherhood rhetoric. It has quoted Mohamed Ahmed Rashed’s maxim “People have a predilection for the easy and delightful and an aversion for the difficult and unpleasant. Elevate yourself, as much as possible, to what is difficult but beneficent so that you grow familiar with noble matters, aspire to their lofty heights and spurn all that is base” and Sayed Qutb’s “it is difficult to imagine how we can attain a noble end by using vile means. The noble end can only thrive in a noble heart. So how can that heart bear to use a vile means?”

As random acts of violence grew Mahmoud Ezzat announced a reconciliation initiative with the regime. This, like other initiatives that preceded it, was rejected by many Brothers on the grounds it compromised the blood already shed by the group’s members. Under the initiative the Muslim Brotherhood would recognise the 30 June Revolution and offer an official apology for the acts undertaken by some of its members against the Egyptian people and limit prisoner release demands to exclude members in jail pending trials on charges involving violence.

Amid all the internal wrangling a new round of conflict erupted between the Brotherhood and the Salafis when Salafi Sheikh Mohamed Hassan announced he had evidence the regime had been prepared to negotiate with the Brotherhood after the dismissal of former president Mohamed Morsi and that the group’s leaders were prepared to relinquish their demand for Morsi’s reinstatement and to agree to the transfer of his authorities to the prime minister. Enraged Brotherhood leaders denied this was true.

Donald Trump’s election in the US delivered another major blow to the Brotherhood.

The group is still active, though its presence is limited to scattered acts of terrorism which are abating. The chief danger now is posed not by the group itself but the radical Islamist ideology it espouses, making it essential we accelerate judicial processes against imprisoned Brotherhood leaders and step up the drive to renovate religious discourse.

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