Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Are there Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers?

There can be no justification for restarting dialogue with the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, writes Mohamed Salmawy

 


اقرأ باللغة العربية


Many media outlets have been making the strange proposal of reconciling and starting dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood. I do not see any reason or occasion to justify cordial relations with a terrorist organisation that has depended on violence and murder since its founding 90 years ago, and I reject any dialogue with the group.

After the Egyptian people’s revolt against the Muslim Brotherhood in the 30 June Revolution, some Western media outlets called for such negotiations, stating that they should be included on Egypt’s political agenda. Such calls are hypocritical, since the same media outlets never encourage such actions when terrorist groups carry out attacks on the soil of Western countries. The issue is being reintroduced through discussions in the press that only raise more doubts rather than resolving problems.  The current political climate does not encourage such a dialogue, and public opinion is not in favour of it. As a result, when writers or commentators write about or discuss such reconciliation they are often accused of promoting it or trying to introduce it for public discussion.  After the 30 June Revolution, most of the Egyptian public subscribed to the view that rejected any talks with the Muslim Brotherhood. This is an organisation that has members with hands drenched in the blood of innocent people including army personnel, policemen, and civilians. It is a group that has relentlessly carried out attacks on public areas with little regard for the people in them. Attacks on crowded places, in fact, are seen as successful operations for the group. I was once interviewed on a talk show hosted by my friend and colleague Emadeddin Adib on this very topic. Adib agreed that we should not negotiate with Muslim Brotherhood members, but he also said that there were young people who, while not being members of the Brotherhood, might sympathise with it. We should do our best to demonstrate to young people the dangers of sympathising with such a group, lest we risk disharmony within society, he said.

I found myself disagreeing with Adib, though not on showing young people the right way of approaching the Muslim Brotherhood and preventing advocacy for the group, as this is an honourable and patriotic stance to take. Instead, I disagreed with him on the idea that there were opposition youth groups in Egypt that sympathise with the Brotherhood and its political beliefs. We are going through a new chapter in our history with this group, and what is happening now is something that has not happened in the last 90 years of its existence. This new era started in 2013, though not when the Muslim Brotherhood was removed from power in Egypt, but instead when many groups of people who had either previously sympathised with the Brotherhood or even voted for it went out into the streets to signal their disagreement with the organisation. It is these people who collectively called for the army to oust the Brotherhood from power. It should not come as a surprise that many previous Brotherhood backers have publically retracted their support for the group, since the Brotherhood then clung onto power despite the public demands for its resignation and even rejected the reasonable and constitutional alternative of holding early elections. As a result of the Brotherhood’s stubbornness and disregard for public demands, many of its former supporters joined the protestors in calling for a revolt against the terrorist group.

It is not certain how many former Muslim Brotherhood supporters joined this movement, though it is estimated at about half a million. However, when it comes to former supporters as a whole, as opposed to former activists, being people who voted for the group in the parliamentary or presidential elections, then we are talking about millions of people protesting against Brotherhood rule. It would be folly to call these millions of ex-supporters former members of the Brotherhood, as that would mean that most Egyptian people were members of the group, which is not true by any stretch of the imagination.

The great and unprecedented revolt against the Muslim Brotherhood that took place in 2013 was significant because for the first time in the organisation’s history it lost the sympathy of the public. It is this public that all political parties and movements around the world depend on. After just one year in office, the true colours of the Muslim Brotherhood were revealed before the eyes of its ex-sympathisers, true colours that had been devilishly concealed for the past 90 years. As a result, on 30 June 2013, Egyptians from all walks of life, whether the richest of the rich or the poorest of the poor, stood up against Brotherhood rule. I distinctly remember one street-vendor shouting out “to hell with them”, meaning Brotherhood members.

The call to challenge the sympathy that some naïve young people may have for the Brotherhood is a noble and legitimate one, but it comes too late. Previous governments should have taken the task of curtailing sympathy for the group in hand, and if they had done so the Muslim Brotherhood would not have come to power in the first place following the 25 January Revolution.

When the security forces arrested and cracked down on members of the group, some uneducated people in society felt sorry for these members. But such sympathy came to an end in the 30 June Revolution, which was a revolution of the mind for the Egyptian public and not just a historical event in which one government was replaced by another.  There are members of the Brotherhood who claim that they are not “members” of the organisation, but rather “sympathisers” with the group. These so-called non-members advocated for the Brotherhood, while this terrorist organisation simultaneously carried out attacks on the public. Thankfully, these Brotherhood supporters faded away on 30 June 2013, and they no longer have a presence in the public sphere. I only wish that our previous governments had done more to counter such real supporters when they had a public presence and were building Brotherhood support in society. 

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