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Egypt and The Brotherhood: Time to end the illusions Open in fullscreen

Mohammad Abul-Gheit

Egypt and The Brotherhood: Time to end the illusions

Where to now for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood? [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 May, 2014

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The most important question is this: Why do the brothers always follow their leadership?

“Islamic! Islamic! Our Egyptian army is for legitimacy!”


Thus rang out the chants of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters at the Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo in July last year in scenes of almost indescribable hysteria complete with tears of joy and thankful prostration.


The cause of this emotion? Less than an hour after the army had announced the ousting of Mohammad Morsi from the presidency, those astride a podium in the square declared that army commanders had defected and sided with “legitimacy” – the elected president. There was no confirmation, and more than one friend present urged

     The illusion that the coup is tottering will remain just that for as long as the chairs of your leaders are also not tottering

restraint. But they were brushed aside. The podium had spoken. It was enough.


The rumour, of course, proved to be false. But the phenomenon – unquestioned belief by the Brothers in the statements of their leaders – did not die with it. They jumped for joy when told the commander of the second army had defected and would march on Cairo; they believed when they were told that US battleships were coming to help restore Morsi to power. Then came the news that Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had died - this remained a front page headline for two months in el-Shaab newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Amal Party, which along with the Muslim Brotherhood is a member of the coalition for the Support of Legitimacy. Of course, the coup was always “tottering” in these reports.


And then there was the case of the International Criminal Court. Last December, senior Muslim Brotherhood official Yahia Hamed, minister of investment in the former government, appeared on Al Jazeera and announced that 23 members of the Egyptian regime had been referred to the ICC:


“Accordingly, we tell you: you are besieged at home by those who stand steadfast in the streets, and you are under siege from abroad. Soon, the foreign minister will not be able to travel.”


For months, Brotherhood leaders told their followers about the strength of the case at the ICC. I searched the ikhwanonline website and found tens of news items on the ICC including: “ICC accepts case against Sisi as war criminal”; “Spokesmen of the coup d’etat in ICC trap”; “ICC: We are considering complaints against the coup d’etat”.


The sources for these stories may seem diverse to the average reader, but look harder and you will find that one source, a law organisation, was set up by the Brotherhood in London; another, an obscure revolutionary movement, was founded by a Brotherhood youth; this judge is a Brother; that European Islamic centre was established by the movement and former Brotherhood leader Mehdi Akef was a former director; and so on.


Together, these stories spun a tight web, but only to the rank-and-file: you had to follow the Brotherhood media closely to be ensnared. Understandably, members were shocked to discover that the ICC was not pursuing the case at all.


What is the reaction of a normal person in a normal political organisation when he discovers he has been lied to by his leaders? Surely, he will demand accountability.

Curse the conspiracy

What is the reaction of a Brother? To curse the conspiracy.


Open any page on social media affiliated to the Brotherhood and you will find reams of conspiratorial commentary on the ICC - denouncing the West’s crusade against Islam and declaring that US and European support for the coup stems from fear of the Brothers – these Brothers who, given the opportunity, would restore the glory of Islam, the Caliphate and ensure world domination!


Getty pictures

Dear Brother: Do you want to know why the ICC did not pursue the case?


I did some exhaustive research and can now reveal the horrible secret. I invite you to labour as I did for the truth. Type in “International Criminal Court” in Google. Click on the first result.  The Wikipedia entry on the ICC tells you that the court exercises its jurisdiction under the following circumstances:


If the defendant accused of a crime is a citizen of a member state; if the alleged crime took place on the territory of a member state; or if the state on whose territory the crime allegedly occurred allows the court’s jurisdiction if the case is referred by the United Nations Security Council.


None of these circumstances applies to Egypt. That is why the ICC did not pursue the case. How come the Muslim Brotherhood leadership – which runs a grandiose global conglomerate that includes law firms and lawyers and commands a multi-million dollar budget – did not know this? Or did they, and did not say?


Whether through ignorance or deceit, the normal reaction would be to hold the leadership accountable. Not the Brotherhood. That question was never raised.


Another question arises here. Why, when in power, did the Brotherhood not ratify Egypt’s membership of the ICC?  


Go back to ikhwanonline. On February 23, 2013, the site carried the following explanation, this by Izzedin al-Komi of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Brotherhood, who also sat on the human rights commission of the now disbanded Shura Council.


The ICC is highly politicised, Komi said, citing the case of Sudanese president Omar Bashir. Ratification “would drag us through trials outside Egypt that would constitute an insult to our own judiciary,” according to Komi. He added that the Shura Council was wary of opening a path that could see Egyptians in court outside the country and said all these issues had to be taken into account before considering ratification.  


There are many questions about the failure and blunders of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, the opportunities they let slip, their arrogance and foolishness before and after the rallies on June 30, 2013.

The important question

But the most important question is this: Why does the rank-and-file always follow its leadership?


Why did the Brothers support the decision not to run for the presidency in the 2012 elections, then supported the reversal of that decision at the last moment? Why did they support an alliance with secular parties in parliamentary elections against the Nour Party, then an alliance with Nour against secular parties in the constitutional committee? Why did they believe every bit of false information and justify every poor decision, repeatedly, despite all the political and psychological setbacks?


Muslim Brotherhood leaders did not only commit grievous political mistakes; they must also bear some of the responsibility for the blood that has been spilt.


     You can reappraise the path of your political party. It is nearly impossible to do so with your family or your religion.

And yet there is no discernible dissension within Brotherhood ranks seeking accountability, saying: “You, Mahmoud Hussein, and you, Ibrahim Munir, enough!” This is an aged institution that never knew the culture of plurality or revision. The confrontation with Gamal Abdel Nasser, for instance, did not lead to a thorough examination of its political causes. Instead Brotherhood literature is filled with references to a conspiracy by the West and secularism, and an ordeal for believers.


Ordeal is a trial of faith, ordained by and delivering divine wisdom. Accordingly, it has nothing to do with the earthly political decisions of the movement.


Hassan Bana, the Brotherhood’s founder and original ideologue, is still the movement’s political and religious inspiration. Oppression, killings and arrests still furnish the movement its emotional momentum. Above all, the elevation by its members of the movement to the status of a sect or tribe with religious dogma is an unmovable barrier against which any critical attempts at re-examination will founder. You can reappraise the path of your political party. It is nearly impossible to do so with your family or your religion.


I am afraid that years down the line all that will remain is talk of a “second ordeal” and the Brotherhood will remain stuck on the same track, for which it is paying the price along with the homeland.


And the illusion that the coup is tottering will remain just that for as long as the chairs of your leaders are also not tottering by the force of your own hands.



This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition

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