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The Brotherhood Enters its Empowerment Phase | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Mohammed Badie, the head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, speaks during a press conference in Cairo in this March 16, 2011 file photo. (AFP Photo)

It is no secret that there has recently been extensive coordination between the various movements that originated from the womb of the Muslim Brotherhood, and adopted the thought and ideology of the group’s founder Hassan Al-Banna. For a long time, the international Muslim Brotherhood organization was ambiguous and shrouded in total secrecy, with the aim of avoiding the eyes of the security apparatus. Perhaps, this sense of mystery was also due to the conspiratorial nature of some of the Brotherhood’s plans against the political regimes in power at the time, prompting leaders at certain points to even deny the existence of their organization. However, relations between various Brotherhood branches always remained strong despite the fact that they took on different forms and adopted different slogans, in order to acclimatize to the organizational and intellectual transformations they were experiencing.

Following the Arab Spring, which was hijacked by Brotherhood movements as a means to seize power, the scope of coordination between these movements has begun to increase. The Brotherhood and its affiliates believe that the Arab Spring has offered them an opportunity that may not come again to seize power and fulfill their overt, as well as covert, agendas. To this end, numerous meetings and conferences have been held with the aim of ensuring greater coordination and exchanging opinions between various Brotherhood leaderships, some of which have been openly declared, whereas others have remained secret.

In Egypt, for example, the Brotherhood’s leadership seems to have merged entirely with its political façade, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), as well as with the presidency of the country. It is striking that official political delegations from outside Egypt have met with the Brotherhood’s General Guide Mohammed Badie, as well as with other Brotherhood leaders. Furthermore, Egyptian Brotherhood representatives have traveled abroad on diplomatic missions in order to make contacts, coordinate policies, obtain aid, or reassure foreign powers, such as the US, about their intentions. As a result of such entwinement between the Brotherhood and the Egyptian state, it sometimes appears as though the country is being run from Mokattam, the headquarters of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau. Hence, critical voices have emerged in the opposition ranks objecting to what they believe to be “the rule of the General Guide”. There have also been criticisms of Qatari and Turkish support to empower the Brotherhood’s rule. Furthermore, others have accused Hamas elements of participating in efforts to quell anti-Mursi protests, as well as participating in the attack on Egyptian troops in Rafah that resulted in the deaths of 19 troops. Mursi later exploited this incident to oust senior leaders of the Egyptian army and carry out significant amendments to the military establishment.

Sudan has also been a major arena for Brotherhood activity following the Arab Spring, especially as it was the first Arab state to fall into the clutches of a political Islam movement, which in turn had branched out from the Brotherhood’s ideology. This occurred when the National Islamic Front (NIF) staged a military coup in 1989, whereby it imposed an autocratic system of governance that continues to exist today by virtue of oppression and maneuvering, and in spite of consecutive internal crises. The NIF’s control over the reins of power in Sudan over the years has made the country a place of refuge for fugitive Islamist leaders. The NIF has also hosted several conferences and meetings for political Islam movements, coming from a range of Arab and Muslim states, such as the ‘Popular Arab and Islamic Congress’, which was established after the first Gulf war under the chairmanship of Hassan Al-Turabi.

Although this conference in particular concluded without an official declaration, the Sudanese regime continued to uphold its country’s role as an Islamist refuge and meeting place. In view of such support and coordination, it was not odd to see Muslim Brotherhood leaders, or those affiliated with the group’s ideology, flowing into Khartoum in November 2012 to attend the eighth Islamic Movement General Conference in Sudan. However, what was strange was the official statement issued at the end of the conference, circulated by official Sudanese news agencies and other websites. The statement referred to Mohammed Badie, not in his capacity as General Guide of the Brotherhood in Egypt, but rather as the General Guide of the Brotherhood across the world. It is still unclear as to whether this was just a mistake, or an allusion to something else. During his speech to the conference, Badie gave a pep talk to the Islamists in attendance, calling on them to pool their resources and create a torrential force. Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan considered this rhetoric to be an act of provocation against all states, including those in the Gulf.

Whatever the intentions of Badie’s speech, one cannot deny that there is now active coordination between variant Brotherhood movements, whether overtly or covertly. For further evidence, consider the protocol agreement signed last week in Khartoum between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Sudan and the Egyptian FJP. The agreement was not simply a means to ensure the mutual exchange of expertise, rather it went further and touched upon regional and international cooperation, as well as external economic and political ties between the two countries. According to Saad El-Katatni, chairman of the FJP, this cooperation is based on the fact that both parties share the same visions, ideas, trends, and objectives.

The protocol agreement also addressed the security situation between Egypt and Sudan. Nafei Ali Nafei, vice president of the NCP, has previously alluded to the existence of Sudanese political opposition groups in Egypt, claiming that the Egyptian opposition is exploiting them in order to damage relationships between the two countries.

The maneuvers, contacts, and meetings taking place these days give clear signals that the Brotherhood is now plotting a stage of empowerment, having come to power on the back of the Arab Spring revolutions.