With its leaders imprisoned, isolated, or exiled, hundreds of its members killed, most of its buildings destroyed, and its media shut down the Muslim Brotherhood is appearing to relive the occurrences of 1954.
Established in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, the Islamic mass movement is built on the belief that Islam is the answer to all society’s problems and aims at establishing a Califate in the long run following the Shariah law and built on the ruins of Western liberalism. Being 92-years-old, the Muslim Brotherhood is the oldest and biggest social and religious group in the entire Egypt. Coupling religious teaching together with an extensive infrastructure supporting the most vulnerable parts of Egypt’s population to affirm its power and influence. Throughout its relatively long life, it showed proof of extreme capacities to adapt and survive. Supporting the regime, challenging it, and going into hiding following changing circumstances.
The Fall Of Morsi
Following the fall of President Mohammed Morsi, violent conflict and clashes erupted between the Muslim Brotherhood and the state institutions. The crackdown on the movement since then has led to the death of hundreds of its supporters during protests, the arrest of thousands and even, the elimination of its economic and social infrastructure heart of the movement, with the nationalization of its charity organizations and even the mosques and schools it built from the ground up. Reversing the whole process that Morsi tried to implement by Islamising the previously Laic state. Indeed, such an attempt at Islamization has badly backfired and if state control over the religious sphere in Egypt is hardly new, the scope of its current policies and focus toward the elimination of the brotherhood altogether cannot be seen as anything else as highly serious for the future of the organization. As such, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt continuously copes to find a strategy to survive. After the military coup in early July 2013, most observers of the after-coup situation on the ground rightly assume that it will stay underground for a while. But for how long? Indeed, while the Muslim Brotherhood is being clutched in between a huge crackdown because of the security state and the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is constantly being pushed down by the young generation who are demanding them to take aggressive action, one can ask how long they will wait before heeding the call of the youth and try their hand at political leadership once again.
But what brought the fall of the regime so quickly after its access to power?
Some say that it is due to the way Morsi tried to bring the country to a fast Islamization of the socio-political set up of the Egyptian society. Wrongly believing that he had gain sufficient legitimacy by his electoral victory over the well established authoritarian regime.
Therefore trying to rush the Islamization process during the course of a single year. Which with the addition of being accused of rapidly sliding toward an authoritarian political system even worst than the previous one, inherent arrogance of the leadership and worst of all, deep incompetence led to its overthrow from power on July 3, 2013, by a military coup led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
It could be argued that had he taken his time like Erdogan’s led Turkey in the changes he was making, it wouldn’t have had the same effect and he might have succeeded to keep power and smoothly implement his agenda over the course of the years.
What Is The Likelihood For The Muslim Brotherhood To Regain Political Leadership In Egypt In The Foreseeable Future?
The chances of success for the Brotherhood heavily rely on several socio-political conditions. Its ideology has been perceived by the general Egyptian population as an authentic response to the alleged Western occupation of the Arab world. And this is where here the brotherhood found a perfect source of income for its cause and therefore focused its attention to gain support.
But most importantly, the brotherhood focused itself on developing a large socio-economic system which they will be using to win over the people from the poorest sections of Egypt. The most forsaken part of society by the government. Addressing the basic problems of the ordinary citizenry. With an extensive set of social support systems, education, and health infrastructure that were deeply missing following the exponential growth of the Egyptian population. As much as building a network of mosques and preaching to draw and cement the population to the cause.
From there three main scenarios can be presented for the future of the organization as a whole in Egypt.
The Total Eradication Scenario
This could be seen as the least probable of the scenarios.
And because of the great economic network of the Muslim brotherhood that they have built secretly over the last few decades, the Egyptian government’s economic power has been greatly reduced.
Even more importantly, the organization made itself a key factor of the well being of the Egyptian society and especially its more deprived parts. Being most active where the state is missing. In other words, the state don’t have enough resources to make it up for the Muslim Brotherhood’s charitable operations and support. And this make it somewhat irreplacable
Furthermore, by taking a quick look back into history and the failure of the all-powerful Nasser failed efforts to root out the organization, it is very unlikely to see the state this time over. While its resources are considerably reduced, its legitimacy fluctuating, and the organization basis into society way deeper than back in the time.
The Reconciliation Scenario
If one had to regard the situation objectively and without taking any political side, this could be the same scenario for the well-being of the country as a whole. Since it would work at reconciliation two really important sides of the Egyptian society; the Islamic half and the strong Nationalistic half of society’s set-up. Therefore making this scenario a possible win-win, although objectively unlikely to happen due to the current political and societal situation in the country.
If that happens, then the state would no longer have to constantly oppose the brotherhood with harsh political and economic tactics and things can finally settle down between them. On the other hand, the government can successfully put a stop, or at least, significantly slow the spread of radical Islam all over Egypt. As a result, it can chain down the spread of Islamic radicalism and promote moderate Islamism. And therefore finally work and be able to fully focus on the purpose of improving the lives of everyday citizenry and especially the poorest part of the country.
In return, the Brotherhood could agree to get in line and put an end to the protests it has been running and agree to recognize the legitimacy of Al-Sisi’s current regime. Furthermore, such ‘entente’ between the two main political forces of Egypt would open the gates to an agreed-upon limited Brotherhood political participation. Leading to believe that a potential comeback of the brotherhood is possible, following the right timing and set up of events.
However, the occurrence of anything like that in the near future is really dim.
First, both the government and brotherhood have been trying to dominate each other for a long time so, chances of reconciliation seem quite far-fetched. Especially since the brotherhood leaders have made it clear that they would go to any length to gain retribution for their members who were killed by the Egyptian government. And for the regime, especially following the Middle-Eastern mindset, going for reconciliation could result in an interpretation of weakness on its behalf and end up in its credibility loss in the eyes of extensive parts of the Egyptian society that had been mobilized by unprecedented anti-Islamist propaganda.
Secondly, to secure its members’ future and make the treaty appealing, the Muslim brotherhood might want positions in the parliament and access to other important constitutional institutions of Egypt(currently controlled only by the government) to secure put some weight to their representation. And the government would definitely oppose this as this would mean a further weakening of their already weak political and economic position in the country. Plus, the leaders of both sides are currently very absorbed with their political standings. So, a reconciliation between the brotherhood and government might mean relinquishing many important leaders of both sides from their power including Egyptian president Sisi and other leaders of the Muslim brotherhood.
But, since it’s unlikely to replace the current leaders of both sides in the near future, such reconciliation seems rather impossible. Indeed, the post-coup experience and lessons learned have proven that substitution of Brotherhood leadership is not such an easy feat. Furthermore, there is no sign of a decline in the overwhelming popularity of the current Egyptian President Sisi nor he seems interested in giving up on his presidency.
Final but not least, a reconciliation could bring about the downgrading of Saudi Arabia’s and United Arab Emirates’s economic support to Egypt, due to their anti-Islamic stances, which would be nothing else than a catastrophe for the regime. Already struggling to keep the country’s economy afloat.
The Triumphant Comeback of the Brotherhood Scenario
First of all and before going further into details, it is important to point out that after the disaster of their last tryout to power, it is a very unlikely scenario especially since they were kicked out due to massive popular protests.
Although, as of now, the Muslim Brotherhood’s founded NASL, has taken steps to destabilize the regime, the real effectiveness of these actions has however been regularly undermined by various factors.
It therefore have failed to build bridges to link essential groups of the Egyptian society and therefore protests have become greatly inefficient and failed to reach the population as a whole. This failure can also be seen as a result as a successfully led regime’s media propaganda which always has been one of the strong suit of the Egyptian authoritarian apparatus going back decades.
Furthermore, at the heart of the organization’s failure to enact a realistic come back after being thrown out of power, was its inability to situate and deal with the group’s grievances as part as a broader political agenda. Especially since its efforts to destabilize and shake the actual regime’s foundations has been increasingly focused and associated with violence, terrorism and overall actions deepening the instability of the country. Therefore being seen by the population as at least equally to blame as the regime for the current economic misfortunes of the country.
By such giving the perfect opportunity for the regime to advertise the organization as working against the well being of Egypt’s citizenry. By stating that it is essentially trying to reverse its effort to improve the economic situation of the country. In fear of the Brotherhood’s past failures, it is likely that the general public will remain in support of the status quo over a new try out at massive protests. It is fair to say that in light of its actions, and as long as the regime doesn’t fail catastrophically, it will take a rather extensive amount of time to undo the negative perceptions of the general population toward the Brotherhood. And even though total destruction of it by the regime has proven to be almost impossible, due to the fact that they hold a key role in the wellbeing of the lower part of the population, it does not in any way mean that they are anyway near their pre-2013 popularity. Statement being proven by the total failure of the organization to translate the public’s discontent of the regime’s policy into popular support as they once manage to masterly do so.
Muslim Brotherhood: A Dive Into Existential Crisis
The Organization ha been going through an increasing identity crisis during the past decade or so, especially since their failure at political leadership. Indeed, its recruitment are at an whole time low, which can probably be explained by the numerous challenges it has had to face and that emphasize that their goal of reaching political power again might be out of their reach and hopes for a while.
As such, there are increasing questions about their own identity and mission even inside the movement’s activists. Especially the younger generation who are questioning the ulterior motives of the whole movement.
Therefore it brings the question whether the Muslim brotherhood should show itself just as a mere movement or become more transparent and become an opposing party to politically rival the current government. Or decide in favor of preserving both elements.
A second major issue materializes in the light of the increasing difficulties that it is experiencing when it comes to its ideological attraction. Indeed, having failed and been taken down by force, some of its mainstream members have been leaving for the benefit of other competitors. Even for more ‘global jihad’ types of organizations when it comes to the group’s more extreme parts. Not considering the Brotherhood as being doing enough for the advancement of the cause any longer. And would rather take part in a more active organization, making them feel they are actually working toward changes. Instead of waiting for the political set up of the country to come back around again in their favor.
Organizational Changes Inside The Muslim Brotherhood
Since the dusk of Morsi, The brotherhood has been going through a series of organizational and ideological changes, that progressively have forced it to decentralize. Destroying a key feature of the organization holding up from its very beginnings.
This was done in order to protect it from the repressive activities of the regime and distract them from an easy to target ‘head of the snake’ that would have endangered the organization in the short term. Also at the same time trying to boost back up the proselytizing activities and organizational network of the Brotherhood. But such action have proven to say the least to have doubtful results and successes.
Also undermining it in a way, by limiting its nationwide abilities to organize its resources and maintain effective organizational cohesion and fundraising capabilities. Since it can no longer fully coordinate on a country-wise scale.
Therefore, even though the overall chances of the organization’s survival are high, its comeback to power is rather unlikely at the moment. Indeed, even though it would manage to come to terms with the militarized regime. It is very hard to picture that they would be able to retain the loyalty of its younger and more radicalized members. As well as be able to appeal to the wider Islamist public in the country that would likely consider they have gone soft.
Indeed, the base of the Muslim Brotherhood appeal always was in its ideas of austerity and religious piety. Opinions that are always much easier to advertise while being in the opposition. One could even say, that even they proved rather bad at governing Egypt, they are an essential power and a key actor when it comes to running the opposition. Serving as a natural balance to the regime as long as it does not threaten it and serving essential roles that the regime cannot manage by himself due to the fast growing population of the country and its economic downfall.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood retains a very important place in Egypt as a main organizational and political force. It is rather unlikely that it will manage to regain power for the time being. Indeed, the fiasco of its last attempt has all but proven to the society that they are neither ready, nor able to do it.
And although they could have followed the example or the Turkish Erdogan and bring the Islamization of the country over the years. Slowly putting it into laws and actions and progressively forcing it on its population. Their behavior in trying to rush the process might as well have cost them their one and only chance to do it.
Indeed, now, the regime is all the more aware of the political threat presented by the organization and of its own flaws. And is, therefore, all the more ready to deal with it if such a situation would present itself once again.
Even further, while during the last elections the more liberal and educated opposition showed a lack of cohesion and political strength. The next time around they will know to deal with this situation beforehand and agree to present a united political front to be able to effectively fight the army and the political cohesion of the Brotherhood.
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