The military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and subsequent outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood have left the radical Islamist group in shambles, but not entirely defeated, a report from the New York Times reveals today. Egypt is wrought with pockets of resistance, waiting for the opportunity to rebel.
Author Kareem Fahim speaks with many members of the Muslim Brotherhood who find themselves holding secret meetings and remaining underground to survive the military’s new rule, which has branded them terrorists after a string of violent acts–many of them against Christian Egyptians–and culminating in the bombing of a police station. In outlawing the group for violent activity and arresting its (and the nation of Egypt’s) leader, the Egyptian military has tried to do what Greece has done with their Nazi Party, Golden Dawn: put the leaders in jail and establish severe punishments for those who promote the group’s ideology. Greece has many angles playing to its favor that Egypt does not in outlawing a violent extremist party, however. For one, Golden Dawn has never been as popular as the Muslim Brotherhood; the Greek people are far more alarmed and unaccustomed to Golden Dawn’s ideology than Egyptians are with the 80-year-old Muslim Brotherhood. The proof: it is far-fetched–nearly impossible–to imagine a Golden Dawn candidate being elected Greece’s head of state, while the only elected head of state Egypt has ever had was a Muslim Brotherhood candidate.
This backdrop explains many of the images in Fahim’s reporting: the cafes flooded with Muslim Brotherhood members in disguise, the possibility that the group is “becoming more decentralized, but also more cohesive and rigid.” The Muslim Brotherhood is quite far from not being a threat in Egypt, even when at its weakest and most maligned. Just months ago, group eyewitnesses told Breitbart News that the radical party seemed all but finished with Egyptian citizens, but in the past few months, they have regenerated. This, Fahim argues, “all but ensures that Egypt will continue to be troubled by civil conflict.” Without a tempering of Muslim Brotherhood goals or an attempt for both sides of the conflict to compromise, violence will prevail.
Fahim notes that this is due not just to official members of the Brotherhood, but other Egyptians who may have voted for Morsi or otherwise feel an injustice has been done to the group. Some group members report that outsiders have approached them and privately expressed support and a willfulness to commit violent acts of protest to defend the group’s right to exist.
The Times seems to bizarrely give the Muslim Brotherhood a faint benefit of the doubt, accusing military “hard-liners” of being too harsh on the group, “killing hundreds of protesters and imprisoning almost every senior leader.” This, even as Fahim notes that the crackdown resulted from violent activity by the Brotherhood itself that led to Morsi’s ouster, and the group has proven capable of riot-like behavior that has brought thousands of dollars and countless physical and mental damage to the country.
To his credit, however, Fahim notes that one of the Brotherhood’s major problems is that they seem to not be grappling with their major flaws or trying to understand how they managed to turn a nation of millions against them after being able to boast Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected leader. “The Brotherhood members talked about a few ‘errors,'” he notes, “but mostly complained about what they said were conspiracies that doomed their rule.” And in this, perhaps, is the biggest sign that the Egyptian military’s attempt to restabilize the country might be working: the Muslim Brotherhood does not want to change, and its current state is bringing it little success. It seems to aspire only to being a thorn in the government’s side today, when last year the party itself was the government.
Egypt’s future, it appears, will get worse before it gets better. Targeting and dissolving these underground cells of Muslim Brotherhood resistance will take years–if not decades–to successfully achieve. It is such a daunting task that the Brotherhood has avoided its success for 80 years. And now, more than ever, they seem to understand the importance of merely getting by, surviving the storm of anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment until enough of Egypt’s people forget their vicious rule enough to support the idea of the Muslim Brotherhood, if not their existence in practice.