Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Egypt’s Earthquake and the Muslim Brotherhood | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Egypt remains peaceful under God’s protection, but the Islamists seem to be behind every ordeal, creating unrest. It was them who provoked the Egyptian people, until they angrily flocked to the Tahrir square. It was them who conspired with the Iranians, coordinated with the Israelis, and made arrangements with the Americans. It was also the Islamists who brought pocket-knives, blades and Molotov cocktails [into Tahrir square], and they were the ones who used horses, camels and donkeys to ride around and provoke unrest. The list of accusations is endless. Were it not for the trace of shame that still remains in the mentality of Egyptian officials, they could have accused the Islamists of creating a hole in the ozone layer, having a hand in the Greenhouse Effect, or being responsible for avian or swine flu.

Recently, several words have accurately portrayed the position of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s political arena, but they were lost amidst the huge clamorous demonstrations that took place in Tahrir Square. These words were uttered by Egyptian Minister of Defence Hussein Tantawi, when he stepped out of his armoured car to ask whether the protestors could convince the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide to enter into dialogue with the regime. Thus, the Egyptian government’s attitude has changed in the twinkling of an eye, shifting from a refusal to engage with the Muslim Brotherhood for decades, to a position now where it has to beg for dialogue with them.

The Egyptian government deceived itself, rather than its nation or Western governments, when it sought to conceal a force as active in the Egyptian political arena as the Muslim Brotherhood. The government is well aware that this is a peaceful movement, which has shown patience and tolerance towards the government’s provocations, when it was prevented [from legal political activity], when constraints were imposed upon it, and when arbitrary detentions were made against its cadres and headquarters. The movement never resorted to violence, and this is something which the government did not fully appreciate. Had the government at least kept up some form of relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, in the manner in which the Jordanian government has sought to handle the Islamist offshoot in Amman, then it would have not reached the stage of pleading with them for dialogue.

Although it is regionally and internationally recognised that the Muslim Brotherhood movement is a significant figure in the Egyptian political equation, the Islamist movement has not been immune from the same lethargy that infected the Egyptian government, in keeping pace with the new developments. As a result, the Brotherhood acted like all other passive Egyptian political currents, witnessing the political earthquake brought about by Egypt’s youth. The movement was neither a leader nor was it active in the earthquake; rather it was only influenced by its consequences. It is no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood faced similar protests a few years ago internally, albeit on a smaller scale to those in Tahrir Square. They were led by a youth current which formed the core of the Hizb al-Wasat. In the manner in which the Egpytian government is resisting the popular protest movement demanding change these days, the Muslim Brotherhood leadership also resisted youth-led calls for change in the past, and suppressed them, maintaining its traditional outlook.

Had the Brotherhood responded to the calls for internal change, it might have emerged in a new guise and held greater influence. This is what happened in Turkey, with the Turkish National Salvation Party led by Erdogan, against the lacklustre current within the Refah party led by Erbakan, who resisted change but failed eventually. Such a failure marked the launch of real progress not only for the Islamist current there, but rather for the country in general. In short, there is no difference between some Arab governments and opposition currents in terms of their weaknesses; their inabilities to evolve and change.

It is natural that there is regional and international apprehension regarding the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the post-earthquake period in Egypt. It could be to the advantage of the Brotherhood, and Egypt in general, if the movement was to be content with seeking wider recognition for the time being, and distance itself from running to the upcoming presidential elections, in a manner similar to the Ennahda Movement. The Muslim Brotherhood should employ its “technocrats”, who enjoy a great deal of financial and administrative credibility, in order to contribute to the country’s development. In Turkey, the Islamist current appointed Erdogan as the Mayor of Istanbul, and he was indeed a distinguished model of professionalism and financial integrity. This prompted the Turkish nation install him as a trustworthy and honourable President.