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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Clueless in Cairo


By failing to mount a non-violent revolution that could undo the coup, Muslim Brotherhood lost the battle in Egypt, and most probably the war too
SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | Issue Dated: October 6, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Muslim Brotherhood | General Sisi | President Morsi | southern Egyptian |

Samir Farid, the noted Egyptian critic and scholar once narrated an incident, supposed to have taken place in a southern Egyptian village. The village was purely agrarian and hence poor. After the revolution of January 2011, an otherwise banned but now emboldened, Muslim Brotherhood started doing its activities rather freely. Naturally, they started pushing the limits. In one such session of hubris, a group of Brothers gathered in the village mosque to conclude whether or not was tea a “haraam” drink, so to speak. While the debate was still going on, rather passionately, an old man from the audience interjected. “I am a poor old farmer,” he started. “In my entire life, I have abided by the law of god. I have never tasted wine, never taken usury nor fornicated. The only addiction I have is that one cup of tea that I have after I come back from fields. If you say that is haraam, by Allah, I’ll leave the religion.” That day onwards, the only discussion on tea that happened in the village was whether or not one should add sugar. Nothing else. As Muslim Brotherhood looks towards the abyss in Egypt, the story tells us why it has to.

After the counter-revolution by General Sisi that sent President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Freedom and Justice Party packing, Brotherhood is trying hard to mount a challenge to the new army-supported government. Hundreds have died but Brotherhood has failed to dislodge the current regime. And if that is not enough, the number of people turning up for its daily protests is dwindling, and fast. The situation is in complete contrast to what happened a little more than a year ago when President Morsi won the presidential elections fair and square. So what happened? Why this massive erosion. The answers lie within Brotherhood’s own actions.

It is now very evident that Muslim Brotherhood now does not possess the required strength, apparatus or support base to mount a street protest that can again bring down the government. There has been massive erosion in its support base in both urban and rural areas, especially among the urban poor, and it is not being able to pull people in numbers that it used to manage in the past. Most of the participants in these rallies and sit-ins now are cadres and not the common Egyptians who used to sympathise with its cause. General Sisi knew all this and waited for the chance to strike.

Clearly, fatigue has started setting in the common Egyptians and they are now turning their back from Brotherhood. So much so that even in its strongholds of Rabaa al-Adawiya and Wadi mosque areas, there are now almost daily confrontations with the locals who wanted them to vacate the place as soon as possible.  

The reason why Morsi won the elections was not because of only Brotherhood support base. But because of common Egyptians who were fed up of the Mubarak regime and wanted change. However, in the present scenario, several of the social segments and groups that supported Brotherhood an year or so ago, have withdrawn because of some reason or other.

The biggest group that has pulled out are Salafists. It is not a hidden fact that their voters and cadres colluded with those of Brotherhood to make Moris win. This alliance was an alliance of convenience and was targeted against the old order, secularists, Shias and Christians. However, this alliance lost its meaning when Saudi and other Salafist leaning governments started targeting Qatar supported Brotherhood. The Saudi bosses of Salafists asked them categorically to boycott Brotherhood, and not to act as a force multiplier in case armed forces crackdown against Brotherhood.

A section of secularists and Christians had supported it because they also wanted to get rid of the Mubarak order; however they felt cheated by some of the actions of Brotherhood when it came to power. The biggest mistake that Brotherhood did was by announcing its own candidate for president. It was a deal between secularists and them that they will refrain from announcing their own candidate and will agree on a common choice. However, Brotherhood, when saw that victory was at hand, renegade on the promise. Worse, the announcement of the candidate was not done by the Brotherhood supported Freedom and Justice Party but by Brotherhood spokesperson himself. The subsequent attack on minorities, Churches and secular institutions further weakened its support. It also renegade on its promise of not fielding candidates in most of the seats in the Parliamentary Elections. And if that was not enough, it also failed to invite other members to participate in the formation of the new constitution. The secularists panicked and saw the move as an effort by the Brotherhood to control the entire process.

“Sources inside Brotherhood believe that the party was afraid of losing ground to the Islamist Salafist in the rural areas, and hence it tried to project itself as more Islamic than even Salafists. Although it achieved that objective, because of this, Brotherhood lost all the others,” says noted Egyptian commentator Esaam al-Amin. 

The general Egyptian population, which always saw Israel and US as its enemy, were in for the shock when it started emerging that Moris regime was pliant to the interest of the West and Israel. This was a big shocker. The population was waiting for Morsi to end the diplomatic relationship with Israel and open the border to Gaza. However what happened was opposite to it. Morsi regime established tacit understanding with Israel. The border, as it turned out, was closed for more duration than it was under the previous regime. This stunned the voters who had voted for Morsi.  Moris also helped in demolishing tunnels from Gaza that was essential for people to get food and other supplies. Even Mubarak had not dared to do it.

This group is also upset with Morsi because of its snapping of ties with Syria and actively supporting Brotherhood to destabilize Assad regime. For the common Egyptian, Assad regime was a symbol of resistance against Zionist aggression and they interpreted this move by Morsi as friendly to Israel and detrimental to resistance.

It can be said beyond doubt that the image loss of Brotherhood because of this has been massive and unprecedented and it will take Brotherhood years before it can gain the same status in the eyes of common Egyptian voters, especially in cities. For all practical purposes, it is back to square one for the Brothers.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017