Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Two courses lie before the Brotherhood | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Anti-Mursi demonstrators gather for a mass rally to show support for the army at Tahrir Square in Cairo, July 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.)

As was expected after June 30, the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamist groups reverted to type by creating violence. Their members in Sinai and other places carried out attacks against police, killing a number of their officers.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy is obvious. It mobilizes groups affiliated to it, or jihadist groups allied to it, to spread chaos and destruction. At the same time, they expand their protests in a way which disrupts the country, and they attack its institutions to provoke a forceful response and play the victim as they have done before.

What is good about the current situation is that the mask has fallen off the faces of those hidden groups in the stable Arab states, exposing them to everyone. Followers of the Brotherhood appeared openly on social media websites announcing their support for the Brotherhood in Egypt, not the Egyptian people.

They even announced what seemed like condemnation of their countries’ policies. It is easy for a researcher—or indeed anyone—to identify the members of the group who worked silently for many years and who have now started to expose themselves after the start of what has become known as the Arab Spring, which has proved to be a failure on all levels. They have now become more exposed with the fall of the Brotherhood in Egypt.

There is no argument that it is good for countries to know who their strategic enemies are, and to deal with them accordingly. Without that knowledge, direction will be lost and issues will become confused.

Decades of hostility held by the Muslim Brotherhood for the stable Arab states were not enough. They added one year of rule, where they became the outright enemy. They sided with the Iranian axis, and enticed their followers against their countries and against their popular and ideological discourse.

When the Brotherhood takes the position of a strategic enemy, it should not expect the stable Arab states to welcome it with open arms. States are not moved by sentiments, but by interests.

The awareness of the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers seems to be heading for certainty in the stable states, and is regaining its place in the uprising states. The the elite and of public opinion have, by their nature, rejected the rule of these groups, and the stable states did not hesitate to support the aspirations for stability in those countries, away from those who proclaimed their enmity.

In Egypt, the people gave authority to the armed forces to protect them from the rule of the Brotherhood and its followers and allies. In Tunisia, the street is still boiling with rejection, which has not reached its ultimate form yet.

In Libya, a branch of the Brotherhood and their allied militias have managed to impose the “political isolation law” to isolate and exclude their political enemies, such as Mahmoud Jibril and his movement, as well as others. Libya, however, is beginning to sense the danger again.

In Yemen, despite the terrible situation there, the Gulf-sponsored political process provides a guarantee to save Yemen from being drawn into the hands of any faction that plans to become an enemy of the natural and strategic Yemeni state.

This is in the uprising states which have ambitions for stability. As for stable states, Saudi Arabia is regaining its regional status and receives the international recognition its regional role deserves, and the Syrian issue and the important developments there are the best evidence of that.

In the UAE, we see gains in development, awareness and policies, while Kuwait is achieving success in elections and heading for more stability. Bahrain is gathering itself in the fight against terrorism and violence.

Away from the Gulf, there is Jordan, where “Jordanian newspapers have been busy directing strong criticisms at the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood.” A Jordanian official said: “There is resentment within the Jordanian political arena caused by the behavior of the Brotherhood,” as quoted in Asharq Al-Awsat last Tuesday.

Does this mean the end of Islamist groups and the disappearance of their supporters and their discourse from the political and general arena in the Arab countries? The right and sensible answer is: No. However, the most important question is about how these groups will behave in the current phase and the next one. What course will they take? And what are the possible outcomes?

The answer to those questions needs some detailed explanation. The larger majority of the Brotherhood seems to have a clear choice, which is mentioned at the start of this article. The escalation of violence and the expansion of protests to disrupt people’s lives and threaten public and private institutions in order to draw a reaction from the security forces, which would be inevitable, and then they might just play the role of the victim.

The other course is the one expected to appear in the next few years, and bring about some young leaders representing political Islam to go in a direction which is more civil, not religious, under the banner of modern slogans. This, however, will not happen until after much tension and suffering.

I do not want to fall into the trap of relying on stereotypes, because differences in time and place and the nature of the discourse will bring about factors which cause differences. But we can see that this latter course is something that looks a little similar to what took place in Turkey, an indicator that should be taken into consideration.

This is what can be called “susceptibility to manipulation,” which is what the Muslim Brotherhood has nurtured in its followers for a long time. They do not take information from sources except those acceptable to the Brotherhood which present issues according to its vision. It may be that this is not something new to those who know the Brotherhood and its nature, but what is new is the magnitude of the susceptibility to manipulation which some of the elites and some youth movements may fall for. Many of them will fall for the for the tricks of the Brotherhood and will come out chanting in support of it, but countries should not be ruled by the sentiments of the crowds, but by the interests of their people.

Lastly, some elites will participate in spreading the susceptibility to manipulation, and only later admit this deceit once again.