During a previous visit to Cairo, I sought to visit one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s business corporations. It was an old five-storey building with no apparent luxuries, where the aim was to sell commodities to the poor for a reasonable price, with the owners making a modest profit. I also visited charitable Brotherhood organizations which would go round local restaurants and collect any remaining food, repackage it and distribute it to the hungry. I will never forget the day when a huge building in a poor district collapsed, and the Brotherhood arrived on the scene before the government. They took care of the injured and by the time the state officials arrived there was nothing left for them to do except draft the official newspaper headlines.
The Muslim Brotherhood were successful in portraying themselves as do-gooders rather than power seekers. They were interested in the people, not the government. As a result, many people thought that it would not be long before the Brotherhood actually came to power with their organizational ability and charitable links, as well as their disinterest in social status, luxury and affluence.
Then they came to power. The first scene we saw was President Mursi sitting on a seat akin to a throne. The first thing he did was remove the very people who had secured his election. The Brotherhood said he had the right to do so; for every leader in the West is entitled to bring in his own administration and men. This is true, but not every new president should change the constitution. Any president can change the minister of justice, but not the judges themselves. Any president can protect a constitution that guarantees the continuity of the state, but not lead a coup against it.
People thought that the Brotherhood would overcome their opponents first and foremost by receiving them with open arms, upholding their interests and making Egypt a state for everyone, not just for a particular party or group. Yet all of a sudden we saw President Mursi being steered by the Brotherhood’s General Guide, whilst on the ground Khairat el-Shater was trying to show people that he was the group’s strong man and the real maker of difficult decisions. We saw Egypt being divided twenty times as much as it was under the previous regime. We also saw the Brotherhood’s supporters on red alert, engaging in violence against the people in a manner reminiscent of the practices of the previous state security apparatus. We were expecting to see the future of Egypt in the Brotherhood’s leadership, but in fact we saw it on the streets. We saw a wall of cement being built around the presidential palace, as the Brotherhood acted as brothers only to each other. What an unfortunate surprise.