World View: Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Faces Identity Crisis

World View: Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Faces Identity Crisis

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood faces identity crisis
  • Turkey’s Erdogan blames Israel for the coup, infuriating Egypt
  • Israel fortifies border as jihadism grows in Sinai

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood faces identity crisis

Morsi supporters hold posters with Morsi's face and words in Arabic that read 'No to the coup' on Monday (AP)
Morsi supporters hold posters with Morsi’s face and words in Arabic that read ‘No to the coup’ on Monday (AP)

Since the July 3 Army coup that ousted president Mohamed Morsi and hisMuslim Brotherhood government from power, it increasingly appears thatthe Army’s aggressive attack on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)organization is having some success:

  • After last week’s massive burst of violent massacres that resulted in almost 1,000 deaths, mostly of MB supporters, MB officials have to face the reality that, although most officials in the international community have condemned the army’s violence, most of Egypt’s public is blaming MB, rather than the army. Even the strict Salafist parties, who are even more conservative than MB, are not supporting MB, undoubted hoping to gain from MB’s demise.
  • As a result, MB has called off several marches, rather than risk additional massacres of their own supporters. No one is discounting the possibility of further violence, but at this moment, MB feels pressured to back off.
  • Another burst of violence by activists last weekend resulting in the burning down of hundreds of Coptic Christian churches, monasteries and schools. Several Christians were also killed, but a Burma-type massacre did not occur. This appears, in retrospect, to be a somewhat desperate attempt to stir up more violence, and if that was the intent, once again it failed.
  • The Army has also been successful in decapitating MB’s organization leadership. On Tuesday, MB’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was arrested and charged with inciting violence and managing a group which incites violent crimes against the state and its citizens. This follows a wave of other arrests in the last month of top MB officials and leaders who face similar charges.
  • Mohamed Morsi is widely recognized as having been a failure as President of Egypt. Even many of those who oppose the Army’s coup agree that Morsi’s use of dictatorial powers to force the country to accept an MB constitution, an MB parliament and MB version of the strictest Sharia law was a disaster. Morsi is still being detained by the Army in an undisclosed location, and while the international community has called for his release, there is little outrage among the Egyptian public.

The MB’s fall from grace from the highest of heights when Morsi was inpower to the current lowest of lows has been spectacular, and itleaves the MB with few choices, none of them pleasant.

The most obvious choice is increased violence, which would inevitablysee the MB team up with al-Qaeda linked jihadists. Jihadistorganizations are calling for this, of course, but the Egyptian publicis already wary of MB violence, and would take any link with jihadiststo be a sign that the Army should have leave to crush the MB evenfurther.

The other major possibility was called by one analyst a “return to theGolden Era.” The MB has been an illegal organization since 1952, andquite used to being in that position, playing the victim, and usingits membership to serve as a humanitarian organization within Egypt.The MB has been a disastrous failure at governing, but they’ve alwaysbeen extremely successful in the victim role, non-violent, andactually a positive force in Egyptian society.

Right now, MB is reconstituting its leadership, and deciding a newdirection. It’s worth repeating what I’ve said several times in thelast couple of weeks: It is my expectation that there will be NO civilwar between those who support and those who oppose the MuslimBrotherhood. Today, it looks like the MB is suffering an identitycrisis, and will have to decide what kind of organization it wants tobe, and what kind of direction it wants to go in: violence andjihadism versus humanitarianism and victimhood. I’d bet on thelatter. Al-Ahram (Cairo) and Reuters and VOA

Turkey’s Erdogan blames Israel for the coup, infuriating Egypt

The political chaos in Egypt has also caused political chaosin Turkey. Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hadseen the “Arab Awakening” that began in 2011 as an opportunityto advance conservative Islam throughout the Mideast, andthe victory of Mohamed Morsi as president was viewed asa major opportunity. The ousting of Morsi has personallyinfuriated Erdogan, and he expressed his fury on Tuesday:

“What is said about Egypt? That democracy is not theballot box. Who is behind this? Israel is. We have the evidence inour hands. That’s exactly what happened. …

If we stay silent in the face of the coup in Egypt, we will nothave the right to say something if they [the Israelis] set thesame trap for us in the future.”

The evidence Erdogan was referring to was a 2011 video of a pressconference by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Frenchphilosopher and author Bernard-Henri Levy, in which Levy says:

“If the Muslim Brotherhood arrives in Egypt, I willnot say democracy wants it, so let democracy progress. Democracyis not only elections, it is also values. [With regard toIsrael’s use of military power,] I will urge the prevention ofthem [the MB] coming to power, but by all sorts ofmeans.”

Erdogan also stepped up his criticisms of other Muslim countries thathave not adopted strict Muslim teachings, and especially the Gulfcountries (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait) that gave$16 billion to post-coup Egypt:

“The Islamic world is like the brothers of the ProphetYusuf, who threw him down the well. As in the case of the brothersof the Prophet Yusuf, Allah will shame those in the Islamic worldbetraying their brothers and sisters in Egypt.”

Erdogan’s statements infuriated Egyptian officials, who accusedErdogan of making false statements to harm Egypt’s nationalunity. According to an official statement by Egypt’scabinet:

“Egypt is running out of patience. … Egypt does notshare anyone’s hostility [and its] Arab and Islamic identity areclear.”

Erdogan’s statements also received sharp rebukes from officials inWashington and the European Union. Zaman (Istanbul) and Al Ahram (Cairo) and Debka

Israel fortifies border as jihadism grows in Sinai

The chaos resulting from the July 3 ouster of Egypt’s presidentMohamed Morsi has caused convulsions in Cairo and opportunities forjihadists on the border with Israel in Egypt’s Sinai region. Theborder between Israel and Egypt has been relatively quiet for decades,but now Israel’s army is beefing up its patrols along the border.According to one Israeli analyst:

“The militants in Sinai will try to drag Israel intothe conflict, so we need to contain their activities. If a rocketfalls on a hillside in Israel, and no-one is hurt, then we canbear that. But if a rocket falls on a hotel in Eilat, then Israelwill have to retaliate. That is a situation we need toavoid.”

NBC News

Permanent web link to this article
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail