The devil is clever, as the Egyptian saying goes, in a warning against the consequences of “illegitimate” meetings, however it seems that the devil of politics is even cleverer with regards to the manner of the Muslim Brotherhood’s meetings and get-togethers following a long absence from power. Many comments have appeared about the Muslim Brotherhood’s contradictory stances, and perhaps one of the most amusing things was when comedian Mohamed Sobhi likened the Brotherhood to a long distance runner who insists on drinking all the water laid out for the participants itself!
Is the nomination of al-Shatar the mistake in its entirety? Or is the true issue the division over al-Shatar’s nomination, as well as the military’s position on this? There are dozens of questions emanating from the most confusing scene in the Brotherhood’s political drama, which seems to be surprising many of those who do not know the Brotherhood well, or who look upon their policies through rose-tinted glasses.
Certainly what the Brotherhood is doing is part of a political game and the group is more adept at this than its opponents, whilst the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] is trying to match the Brotherhood’s skills, whilst nobody knows who will win this game. As for the other teams, they have turned the political arena into a public one whereby the terraces are filled with screaming, riots and hysteria, but this has only increased the zeal of the competitors and will likely lead to further polarization.
The Brotherhood and the military are portraying the liberals and other political forces as entities that have not mastered anything apart from talking on satellite channels and utilizing obsolete critical tools, whilst they are portraying the revolutionary youth as being powerless and defeated, having paid the price for their political naiveté. Even the Salafist movement demonstrated its political acumen when it pragmatically and intelligently declared its support for the Brotherhood candidate Khairat al-Shatar, instead of getting on its high-horse and announcing – as some liberals did – that the Brotherhood are hypocrites because they have broken all their promises, in the same manner that they betrayed the trust of the Tahrir Square protesters, who could never have envisioned that matters would turn out the way they have.
The interesting thing is that historical figures affiliated to the Brotherhood in Egypt and the Gulf have fallen into a “moral” trap in an attempt not to lose their reputation as they try to justify the Brotherhood’s political behavior, which in itself is also unethical.
On the other hand, intellectuals sympathetic to political Islam such as Fahmy Howeidy and others believe that the Brotherhood has fallen into the trap of the military establishment, which wants them to lay claim to the entire political cake, in order to make it easier for SCAF to overthrow them by inciting the masses and creating new enemies, most notably Egypt’s al-Azhar institute which has grown weary of the issues surrounding the drafting of the new constitution. This is in addition to the Brotherhood’s inability to deal with many Arab states that are wary of them, and in the end such intellectuals have come to the conclusion that the Brotherhood is not ready to assume all the responsibilities it has accrued.
From my point of view there is great confusion in the Brotherhood’s interpretation of events, and this is largely due to the Brotherhood themselves. The once “outlawed” group has begun to practice politics using the remote control of the General Guide, rather than through the “Freedom and Justice” party. Thus it is easy to imagine that the issue of deciding to nominate a presidential candidate was not put forward by the political party, but rather by the Brotherhood’s Shura Council, along the lines of the “Saqifah” [house where Abu Bakr was nominated as the first Muslim Caliph]. In the end, only two votes were important in making this decision. Likewise, the General Guide’ statements after the January Revolution were nothing more than a confirmation of the group’s comprehensive outlook which approaches the borders of patriarchy, whereby the Brotherhood believes it above the logic of the state because of its Islamic reference – from its point of view its governing reference, and the human constraints that limit other political parties do not apply to it. Here lies the mistake and confusion: The group sees itself as an [Islamic] reference, and its politicians govern according to this religious view.
What is really concerning is not the Brotherhood’s stance but rather SCAF’s silence. The Brotherhood’s stance, with all due respect to each of its opponents, is a pragmatic and intelligent political stance because it provokes SCAF’s silence, and sends a message to the Salafists, and likewise to Islamist candidates who have defected from the Brotherhood, that the Brotherhood’s cadres can somewhat turn the street against them by attracting influential groups in the voting process. This stance also sends a message to the international community, namely that those who want to negotiate on Egyptian affairs must not exclude the Brotherhood.
SCAF came closest to negotiating with the Brotherhood early on, and before and after them the Americans, but the dispute in negotiations can be deduced from SCAF’s subsequent statements regarding which part of the ruling authority the Brotherhood could control, without – in particular – hampering the army’s economic institutions. What is happening now is only the postponement of a clash between the two parties, in an intelligent manner…SCAF warns that it might use violence against those who want to tamper with the homeland, even if they are its own citizens, whilst the Brotherhood, in its new discourse, have not exempted any state institution, in reference to the army’s share of the economic pie. Everyone is speaking in sensationalist language; the Brotherhood is thinking of the interests of the nation, the army is speaking in the name of the nation, while the future of this country is very unclear, and there are a huge number of outstanding questions that the two parties continue to remain silent on. For example, what is the future of the post of Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces? How will the economic arm of the military establishment be handled? Does the Brotherhood have a military wing?
The project of “hijacking” the state via political legitimacy is not a new idea or a reaction from the Brotherhood; rather this is a fait accompli, in agreement with SCAF and the United States who have marketed the Brotherhood model as one that can be politically controlled, regardless of its views on the issues of freedom, rights and pluralism. This is as if we are facing a return to dictatorship, but in the style, language and tools of democracy, as well as via guarantees of authority that will ensure a state of stability by the force of “predominance”.
The most important question is: Why not play the game out in the open, instead of using religious slogans? Or as some followers of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are gently admonishing the organization, are asking: why was Aboul Fotouh not supported by the majority of political forces that serve the Islamic trend? What will be the difference if Hazem Abu Ismail wins, particularly as he was once a Brotherhood member?
Certainly, the Muslim Brotherhood is the political entity most adept at reading the signs on the street. They have realized that the stage requires an Islamist president that owes allegiance to the ideology of the Brotherhood, rather than an actual affiliate of the Brotherhood’s party. This is not something that the Brotherhood believes that the liberal Aboul Fotouh can claim, whilst neither can Abu Ismail, particularly with regards to the rumors revolving around him and about his potential ineligibility because of the “nationality of his mother”. Most critically, the Brotherhood has secured political ground that cannot be fought over, namely the parliament and the constitution drafting committee, and now wants nothing less than to play the presidential card along the lines of the former nationalist parties that consumed everything under the pretext of “democracy”.
If we were to contest the Brotherhood’s promotion of its ambiguous slogan “Islam is the solution”, it is certain, despite the fact that the Brotherhood is more than politically entitled to play the game, that they themselves represent the forthcoming crisis in the country. Those who betrayed their own affiliates in the past, leading to their detention, will not hesitate to seize power today at the expense of their bewildered revolutionary comrades.