A Silent Majority and an Absent Alternative
Is the Egyptian regime trying to do away with the Muslim Brotherhood? The obvious answer is yes, very clearly, and with no doubt.
Successive Egyptian governments, security agencies, the police and the ruling National Party, at all of its levels, and state bodies, at all levels, are trying to lay siege to the Brotherhood, as an illegitimate organization.
However, the more important question is this: Have all of these groups been able to do away with the Brotherhood as a political and religious organization? The answer is certainly no. Despite the “pre-emptive” measures, raids, pursuit and arrests of Brotherhood leaders, cadres and members, and restricting the activities of the Brotherhood in governorates, towns, villages and neighborhoods, the Brotherhood continues to spread and grow, for political and social reasons.
The Brotherhood says that the recent campaigns against their leaders and the arrest of Dr. Issam Arian and his colleagues came as a response to the imminent announcement by the Brotherhood of its political platform, which would be communicated to the public. The authorities deny a connection between the two and affirm that those in detention were at an organizational meeting, in contravention of the law. In fact, the ruling National Party, despite all of the capacities it enjoys, support it receives from state institutions, and its wide range of maneuver, has not presented itself as an alternative to the Brotherhood, which has worked in religion and politics since its foundation in 1928. The National Party remains an elite party, despite some of the media aspects that it might aspire to, through some mass conferences and meetings that group its leaders with members of the public. The prevailing impression is that the party and its leaders are “tied together” by the regime and without this, the National Party would lose its impact on the street and the masses. The other parties, meanwhile, are suffering from incurable diseases, after they became part of the status quo; they have become merely newspapers, or the remnants of parties, which only bear the name, or have a newspaper, if one exists.
The Brotherhood has done well at exploiting this weakness of political parties and the ruling party”s links to the government, which is responsible for the deterioration in services, and the rise in prices, for example. The Brotherhood has also exploited the talk of corruption by the party”s leaders and its insistence that it monopolize all of the “keys” to the political game in Egypt.
The Brotherhood has repeatedly declared that it will not take the step of forming a political party, since it is convinced that the request will be rejected. I don”t believe that this will affect the Brotherhood much, since they have done well at the political game for decades, without having an official license. All the Brotherhood needs is a climate similar to that under the late President Anwar Sadat, regardless of the group”s official designation. The important thing for them is to remain in contact with the people and form relations of interest with them. According to Egyptian law, the Brotherhood is an illegitimate group, and according to the Constitution, it is forbidden to form parties on the basis of religion. However, the Brotherhood has been active in society, regardless of the law or the Constitution, using mechanisms that could see some of their officials put on trial. However, they have also been successful in using their tribulations to gain the sympathy of the public. Some believe in Egypt that true political reform will not hurt the Brotherhood, which gained 88 seats in the last parliamentary elections, in which only one-quarter of eligible voters took part. The Brotherhood”s candidates received the votes of its members, sympathizers, and everyone who hates the ruling party, which means that 75% of the voters stayed at home and rejected voting for the ruling party, the Brotherhood, or other groups.
This silent majority will have an impact in the political future, and will help a political group that for now appears to be absent. As for the cat-and-mouse game between the authorities and the Brotherhood, it will continue, along with raids and arrests of some Brotherhood leaders, from time to time, and remain a mere chapter in this story.