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Muslim Brothers and the Egyptian regime:Equations of struggle and the quest for a path
Perhaps there are two issues that represent the most significant episodes in the recent period of the modern Egyptian history: An unprecedented political swing in which the opposition has touched on the system’s red lights and crystallized a definite position embodying absolute denial of the major issues of the time, namely extending (Mubarak’s) reign and succession, which have long been ou
Thursday, March 23,2006 00:00
by Al-Manar Al-Jadid Magazine

Perhaps there are two issues that represent the most significant episodes in the recent period of the modern Egyptian history: An unprecedented political swing in which the opposition has touched on the system’s red lights and crystallized a definite position embodying absolute denial of the major issues of the time, namely extending (Mubarak’s) reign and succession, which have long been out of the opposition’s public political circle.

 

 

 

Muslim Brothers and the Egyptian regime:Equations of struggle and the quest for a path

By: Amr Abdel Karim Sadawy

A researcher in political sciences

Preface:

 

Perhaps there are two issues that represent the most significant episodes in the recent period of the modern Egyptian history: An unprecedented political swing in which the opposition has touched on the system’s red lights and crystallized a definite position embodying absolute denial of the major issues of the time, namely extending (Mubarak’s) reign and succession, which have long been out of the opposition’s public political circle.

The second issue is the extensive police (arrest) campaign that befell leaders who have been safeguarded against direct arrest for a long time. During the decade 1984-1994, the Muslim Brothers managed to equally penetrate into a lot of the social and governmental institutions, so much so that it alarmed the Egyptian regime and made it unable to stand the heightening growth of the group and its continuous spread in the society due to their adoption of certain policies that aim at swallowing up the societal institution s one after the other (a syndicate after a syndicate – an institution after an institution). Hence, the consecutive series of military trials have initiated since the year 1995 A.C.

In addition, the regime has exceedingly worked over years – through the consecutive arrest campaigns and then the series of military trials that is considered as precautionary blows – on dwarfing the group (its leverage, activity, members and network of relationships). Surely, the Muslim Brothers’ noticeable control over a large part of Egyptian public and their great ability to mobilize and gather (the people), and bring up the issues in a way that transcends the capabilities of almost all the active political partners in the Egyptian state, has put them in focus and has continuously drawn attention towards them. Then came the sweeping escalation by the group against the state which coincided with an organized pressing campaign by the United States against the regime that hinted at initiating dialogue with the Muslim Brothers, making the group a major partner in the developments of the political game in Egypt and broaching the issue of having the Muslim Brothers as a substitute for the current Egyptian regime.

In fact, the political developments in Egypt since the declaration of adapting article 76 of the Constitution have made the Egyptian regime aware of the deepness of the crisis it witnesses and of senescence it has reached (the fact the drove a notable political writer like Hassanin Heikal to speak a long time ago about the "senility of the regime"). Thus, the regime intensified the state of oppression it has adopted for a long time.

In this context, the state of senility/senescence which the regime lives is the basic reason behind the hard-handedness it shows in treating its political opponents and the continuous arrest campaigns against the different opposition groups, not only  the Muslim Brothers. Added to this is the inclusion of president Mubarak as a main partner in the "equations of struggle" after it had seemed for the observers that the "rulership equation" was out of the compass of "struggle equations" and that the president as a person was out of the circle of political controversy taking place among the different political powers, since he – the president – was considered as (a president for all the Egyptians). This comes after the crystallization of the general political opposition to the Egyptian regime and the reduction of it two points: "No to the extension of (Mubarak’s) term of office" and "No to succession".

Therefore, the overlap of the "struggle equations" and the absence of a "standard equation" for the total of the developments that controls the progress of "the quest for a path" to the relationship between two political parties – one of which possesses tremendous ability to oppress and quench while the other possesses comparable ability to organize, mobilize, gather and attract attention – turns theses political equations into profoundly ferocious struggles.

Queries and points of departure for the discussion

It is possible to raise the following question: Are the measures taken by the Egyptian regime against the Muslim Brothers stirred by intrinsic local motives that seek to consolidate the hegemony of the regime and enfeeble its opponents or are taken as a step or a link in a chain of the comprehensive regional and international confrontation programs against the Islamist movements, which are viewed in the American and Western vision as the main source of extremism and terrorism and the biggest threat to stability of the Middle East; rather, to the whole world.

There could be two points of departure to approach the topic

The first is viewing the topic as a local issue which does not transcend the circle of the internal affairs of Egypt and which – believe many researchers and analysts – is triggered by the motion of tension and anxiety pervading the political atmosphere in Egypt due to the despotic philosophy upon which the regime is based and to its preparation for extension of (Mumarak’s) term of office or bequeathing of authority (both are equal). It is also triggered by the steady social and political growth of the Muslim Brothers in the Egyptian scene, the point that makes their leaders emphasize in more than one occasion that they are the basic political power in the country. Besides, they frequently speak of participation in the political life and producing comprehensive visions for general reform in the country.

The second point: Linking what is befalling the Muslim Brothers in Egypt to the international stand towards the Islamist movements and the issues of violence and terrorism as a premise for bearing down heavily upon the Muslim Brothers in general after they have competed with great political powers in a number of the Arab and Islamic countries.

Whatever among these points of departure is the source from which these police campaigns against the Muslim brothers have issued out in the recent years, it goes without saying that the internal factors interact with the external factors to produce to us a pattern or a certain political situation where it becomes difficult to separate the - internal from the external – factors themselves. Therefore, the researcher suggests replacing the "internal-external" equation with a quest for the different levels of the issue, where the levels intertwine and merge and yet they remain distinguishable. Hence, the focus is directed towards the "struggle equation" and its paths between the two major partners in the equation, namely the Muslim Brothers – on one hand – and the Egyptian political system on the other. Thus, the points of departure and the paths would multiply according to the multiplicity of possibilities and the pursue of different lines in identifying the "equation", its partners and their dormant potentialities.

The equations of the crisis of Egyptian political system

The "crisis" could be taken up as an analytical premise for discussing the recent development in the type of the relationship between the Egyptian regime and the Muslim Brothers, the former’s undertaking of continuous processes towards dwarfing the group and the whole political movement in Egypt. The Egyptian regime – like other Arab regimes – suffers several societal crises, so much so that the general philosophy of running the state has become the administration by crises or even on many occasions – through (working on engendering) crises. However, the question of the future, whether of extending Mubarak’s presidential term, remains the most vital for the regime at the present time.

The crisis equation which the Egyptian regime experiences could be formulated as follows:

"A governing authority unable to draw up a comprehensive and integrated societal strategy, or at least unable to keep up with the events or put a stop to the encompassing collapse. On the other hand (the other side of the equation), there are social and political powers pressing in order to acquire legitimacy for their existence, political organization and independent movement away from the restrictions of the authority; in addition to their claim for a substantial – not a formal – participation in the decision making process that touches their interests. Some of these powers intensify their demands claiming a comprehensive change of the system; the claim that might have been intended and perfectly expressed by the Kefaya Movement with its symbolic word: "Kefaya, i.e. Enough"

So, would the regime be able to internally produce new mechanisms that could help it predominate and control the political interactions at the moment and in future, without excess in employing traditional coercive mechanisms? In other words, Does the regime have a real answer to the question of the future? Yet, the regime’s resort to "the mechanism" of coercion and the continuous mass arrests, considering it "the major mechanism" in re-entrenching the state’s grip on authority, and the attempt to hold all the strings and control them again, brings about an untypical result; that the "comprehensive" battle, whether of changing the Egyptian regime or "quashing the political existence of the Muslim Brothers" results in a Non Zero Sum Game, in which the defeated loses everything while the victor reaps the whole fruits of victory. Besides, the defeated is obliged to leave the struggle field since there is no room for retrial or return to the field.

Such an equation could be formulated with focusing on its main partners and supposing the neutrality of the society – considering it inactive unless it is shoved into the struggle field by either of the partners. As for the political powers, it would be no helper of the Muslim Brothers in the self-determination battle.

Approximate vision of the struggle equation
 Hence, the emphasis would be on the two main partners (numerator) with the exclusion of the (denominator) or analytically neutralizing it through the opposite reading of the two partners and the possibility that every partner might use it dormant, potential and effectual powers, and of the total social and political circumstances.

The central analysis point

The central analysis point refers to the quest for definite answers to the consequences of the recent period in the path of the relationship between the Muslim Brothers and the Egyptian political regime; thus, the problem is summed up in the following question: What is the aim of the regime behind the continuous pressing on the Muslim Brothers? This question may be formulated more precisely through the following two questions:

The first question: Does the regime aim at wiping out the Muslim Brothers Group (the organization, the individuals and the network of relationships), i.e. entering upon a battle for quashing political existence?

The second question: Does the regime aim at repressing the activity of the group and limiting its capabilities in the society, i.e. a repression battle? The total developments of the political life in Egypt, especially in the recent period, makes us entirely exclude the first question for many reasons among which are the following:

1.      Reasons related to the makeup of Egyptian political system.

2.      Reasons related to the Muslim Brothers itself (as a group, an ideology and a movement).

3.      reasons related to the degree of awareness development in the Egyptian society and the buildup of its political movement.

4.      Reasons related to the developments of the international conditions.

1.      The reasons related to the makeup of the of the Egyptian system and its internal interactions are as follows:

* The senescence of the Egyptian political system that almost approaches senility; such senility is a double-edged weapon:

- The first edge springs from the fact that the senility of the system strengthens its lack of confidence and the increase its doubts about its ability to survive in the long-term battle. Thus, it deals blows one after the other, knowing that the blow which does not exhaust the opponent may drive him to ferociously retaliate in a way transcending the regime’s expectations. Consequently it fails to answer the question of the future, whether through extension of (Mubarak’s) term of office or through succession.

- As for the second edge, it implies that the feebleness of the regime would render it unable to commence a new stage of a battle that he might not be able settle it in the long run (bearing in mind the stage of senility and it consequences). This also restricts its ability to hand the authority over to Mubarak, the son, without facing obstacles that might prevent the continuity of the process of succession. I deem the regime – despite all the official statements issued – is now considering following in the steps of the Syrian regime of transferring authority without employing the same mechanisms. Yet, Egypt is no Syria and will never be, even if it desired so.

2.      As for the reasons that are related to the makeup of the group, which prevent the regime from embarking on the battle of "quashing the political existence of the Muslim Brothers", they are many, on top of which are the following:

a.      The organizational capabilities of the Muslim Brothers:

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the Muslim Brothers is their precise organization that is hard to infiltrate by the different governing systems in Egypt, even during the periods of utmost enmity between them and the group. Hence, making the Muslim Brothers organization compact is considered among the factors of the group in managing the battle with the regime (whatever the type of the battle may be). For when the regime deals with a "historical" opponent like the Muslim Brothers, they know they don’t have the ability to infiltrate or penetrate into its innermost, or know its ongoing internal secrets and arrangements (that is to say they deal with a not to be sneezed at opponent who enjoys considerable organizational capabilities). However, it should be admitted that the information available for the regime about the Muslim Brothers (ideology, organization and individuals) is not insignificant, yet this large quantity of information requires that has been accumulated over a long period of time requires the real keys to understand and analyze it and sift the useful from the useless. This is perhaps what makes the regime consider this huge quantity of information – which was collected by several administrations, squandering the country’s resources – wistfully, not knowing what to do with it or how to use it.

b.       A wide-ranging network of social relationships:

Over long years, the Muslim Brothers have managed to build a wide-ranging network of social relationships that turned to be an invincible buffer between the group and the regime. The network played the role of a curtain wall between the regime and his target of rooting the Muslim Brothers out of their historical depth, that is to say the social dimension in their movement (This comes in answering the main question that the battle was one of quashing the political existence); or it may be that the network prevented the regime from achieving its goal of dwarfing the activity of the Muslim Brothers in the society (in case the answer is to the question that the battle was one of dwarfing and termination). Therefore, the momentum of the Muslim Brothers – believes the researcher – is not in the members themselves or in the group itself; rather, their momentum lies in the framework and the fence with has encircled - and is encircling – the Muslim Brothers of individuals and authorities that have no organizational connections with the Muslim Brothers. However, the direct contact with the Muslim Brothers has produced in those parties a kind of sympathy and support towards the Muslim Brothers, "This network of extensive social relationships verily stands between the regime and what it craves for."

c.       The great ability to mobilize and gather:

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the Muslim Brothers as an Islamist group working in the Egyptian society is their great ability to mobilize and gather in a way that transcends the capability of any other group or political party in the society and sometimes transcends the capability of the regime itself. Such an ability to mobilize and gather makes the group appear in a size bigger that it really is. This point highly complicates the calculations of the regime in its attempts to follow certain steps that would press on the group; the regime stresses on the group with a certain limit that it can not go beyond, since it can not precisely weigh the consequences of an uncalculated pressure. Perhaps what augments the perplexity of the regime is it does not exactly know the point where its pressure on the group should not be intensified, for fear the intense pressure could bring about adverse consequences.

d.       The regime’s ignorance of the real depth of the Muslim Brothers within the society (their number, sway and sphere of influence):

Surely, unawareness of the real depth of the Muslim Brothers (the individuals, the leverage, and the sphere of influence) within the society is considered the main problem for the regime. For how would it be possible for that regime to open new horizons for a "comprehensive" battle when it is unaware of the real leverage of its opponent. The first premise of "struggle management" is to precisely identify the elements of the battle (the field, the parties – the effectual and potential strength of every party – the position of the neutral parties, in case certain changes that could affect the course of the battle might occur – the network of alliances – the network of rivalries – the network of struggle – the possibility of forming blocs or fronts suddenly (due to the unity of positions or of interests) – possible enemies – possible friends. This ignorance of the real size of the Muslim Brothers is the major problem the regime faces in its management of the struggle with them, since making the decision of opening new fronts for its battle with its Islamist opponents is mainly based on the calculations of the gains and losses, the cost, and the potential earnings. And due to these blind or grey zones in the opponent’s map or to the reliance on unverified estimations, the battle becomes uncertain and its result unforeseeable.

3.      Reasons related to the degree of awareness in the Egyptian society and the buildup of its political movement:

These reasons are summed up in the fact that the Egyptian society has made good progress in the development of public awareness – even if it appears that the people do not react to the events in the required manner – in a way that prevents the return to the dark ages in the history of the Egyptian society, during which the mouths were muzzled and no one dared to even speak. Thus, the regime would not venture to let huge numbers of the public – other than the followers of the Islamist trends – turn into possible enemies. Hence, it is possible that the degree of awareness among the different classes of the Egyptian society would prevent the regime from planning to embark on the battle of quashing the political existence of the Muslim Brothers. Besides, this factor gives greater weight to the point that the reason behind all these measures is restricting the different activities of the Muslim Brothers in the society.

In addition, the Egyptian society has witnessed several political movements; along with the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kefaya), there are the Movement of the Judges, Engineers Against Custody, the March 8th Group for the Independence of the University. In all these movements, the organizational current blends with the spontaneous and clarity blends with confusion. Yet, their most distinguishing feature is the courage of raising the level of opposition, that has long been respected by the Muslim Brothers, the intelligibility of their discourse, and the power of expression, and the full swing that would work on bridling the regime in its battle with the Muslim Brothers.

4.      The reasons related to the international conditions:

These reasons are summed up in the point that if the international conditions does not allow the Islamists to assume authority – especially in the "principal" countries that influence the Middle East region – it would not also allow the return of those totalitarian regimes that throw thousands of citizens into prison, especially that those citizens do not propagate their view by violent means or practice armed actions. Moreover, the international growth of the Human Rights Movement all over the world and the great international sympathy with thought prisoners and political prisoners would stand between the regime and the state and their desire to suppress peaceful ideas that do not propagate violence or the use of arms in order to effect a change by force. Perhaps the statements of the Secretary of States, Condoleezza Rice on the dialogue with the Muslim Brothers, and that the latter are not the scarecrow that frightens the people display the high degree of pragmatism that characterizes the American regime and show that it can deal with whomsoever guarantees its interests.

The opposite reading of the two partners in the struggle equation:

Undoubtedly, any "political analysis" of the current conditions as a whole – in any society – begins from the possibility of precise reading of these conditions. And the more the reading is precise, the more its clarifies the vision and helps getting into the bottom of this certain reality. The following lines, however, represents an attempt towards a reading of the Egyptian reality, focusing on the parties of the struggle (the regime – the Muslim Brothers) in the Egyptian society. This reading would condense the denotations of the struggle and its effects on both (struggling) parties, and the reflection of these effects on the Egyptian reality.

The Egyptian political system:

- At first, the regime recognizes that it moves within an internal (a local) environment that is advantageous for it in its battle with the Muslim Brothers. This propitious environment allows the regime great freedom in pressing on the Muslim Brothers (on their organization, activity and individuals), reassured that it would not induce any protest movement of a wide-ranging effect, either internal or external. There are no (direct) restrictions that could prevent the regime from winning the battle of dwarfing the Muslim Brothers at the moment; thus, the Muslim Brothers should deal with this partner in a realistic manner.

- One of the opportunities available for the Egyptian regime in its struggle with the Muslim Brothers is that it works under international circumstances convenient for this movement and pressure. For "Islam" has become, in its eyes, the "alternative" or new enemy whom the West fears its power and is cautious of its expanding or turning from a political power into a "state" that could turn out the "equations" of stable balance in the region; though this balance has been originally based on disequilibrium. All these conditions intensified after September 11, as Islam has turned from an alternative enemy into a synonym for terrorism. The Muslim Brothers should acknowledge this premise so as not to understand that they are the moderate (Islamists) intended in the European and American calls for dialogue; in this case, the message would be sent to the wrong address, as is expressed by Mr. Fahmy Huweidy (Al-Ahram, May 3rd, 2005).

- The regime also realizes that it is greatly supported on the international level. For, preserving the "Mubarak Regime" is one of the pillars of stability and of the equations in the region; though if it is blackmailed by the (American’s) dialogue with the Muslim Brothers or by searching for an alternative to it. The regime’s extension (of presidential) term battle is perhaps well calculated to a great extent; yet, the succession battle remains the most important battle. As regards the internal (local) reality and its role in the regime’s battle with the Muslim brothers, there are some facts or, to put it precisely, some proofs:

·         The regime is secure against and has nothing to fear from the public, since the deadly economic crisis made the majority of them think only of earning their living despite the fact that the Egyptian people are like the sand hill; their movement or reaction is always unpredictable, and one knows not when he would slip.

·         There is no substantial party opposition; for the political parties never refrain from walking out on the Muslim Brothers the very moment the regime waves some gains. Surely, the Muslim Brothers’ recent experience with the parties is the best evidence to that point. In addition, the general political opposition has its own precise calculations and fears in the first place that they might be considered as followers of the Muslim Brothers (the best evidence to this point is the withdrawal of many leading figures of the opposition from – rather their renunciation of – the National Alliance for Reform and Change called for by the Muslim Brothers). However, the equation that governs the Muslim Brothers’ relationship with the political parties is still: existence in the street in return for legitimacy; the parties should acknowledge the existence of the Muslim Brothers "legitimacy" so that the latter would grant them real existence in the street, which they dominate as the most organized Islamist trend.

·         There are no cultured persons who have a prominent role and who could confront the regime in defense of freedom of opinion and human rights, or even have the ability to lead and direct the masses.

·         The regime has a deadly suppressive tool (ferociously pernicious) represented in the security bodies on its different levels.

·         The regime has a mass media tool (also suppressive) that works on perverting the consciousness of the people and diverting their attention from their real problems by all possible means and, rather, occupying them with fabricated and consuming problems in which they waste their lives.

·         The regime recognizes the depth of the "public crisis" it witnesses by the augmentation of the public wrath due to the aggravation of the economic and social conditions, and the increase in the rate of political despotism in the different fields.

·         However, the regime knows that its political opponents (especially that Islamists) cannot move the street beyond certain limits; since the army’s going to the street settles all the disputes whatever they are). And if the kefaya Movement has encouraged the people to make procreations, and raised the roof of opposition, on one hand, and of the roof of expectations, on the other.

·         Therefore, the regime now and then presses on the group through mass arrests as a "precautionary blow", through which it aims at aborting any acts that might disturb the stability of the regime or unsettle its authority.

There are several considerations that constitute the basic structure of the mentality though which the Egyptian regime thinks and governs:

- The regime refuses to view any group, especially the Muslim Brothers, as an alternative to it.

- The state believes that its gravity lies only in the making of irrevocable decisions, since revoking a decision is considered a concession that is unacceptable to the current regime.

- Negotiation in the eyes of the regime implies defeat or, in lighter words, concession. Therefore, less grave expressions could be employed when discussing any crisis with the regime.

The Muslim Brothers

- The group enjoy a great public depth which is not yet well utilized by them in the major reformation movement due to the lack of vision in several matters and the vagueness of the group in other matters. Perhaps the problem of establishing a vision and the group’s uncertainty are the most serious blemishes of the Muslim Brothers at present.

- The society’s crisis is stifling on all levels and it drives the different political powers to search for solutions or a comprehensive solution that could put an end to the society deterioration, even if it was through an American intervention.

- The Muslim Brothers still preserve relative existence in a number of the most important and influential civil society institutions, the faculties and potentials of which could be employed as a tool in the struggle.

- There are two definitive elements that have determined the choices of the Muslim Brothers in the reform process, namely

- Making a bet on the internal equation and rejecting foreign interventions or even dialogue with the international powers such as the United States.

- Making a bet on the peaceful solution and denouncing violence and overhead change.

The Muslim Brothers work within these two restrictions or conditions, and of course any view of managing the struggle with the regime that overlooks these two conditions would result in unsafe consequences. Yet, the following points limit the effectiveness of all the preceding elements:

- The Muslim Brothers did not work producing a powerful network of political alliances that could support the wide-ranging network of social relationships. Hence, the two networks (the social and the political)would integrate and harmonize in producing a "political action" with a societal depth and supporters and advocates (outside the Islamist circle), so that the regime’s blows directed to the group would come upon allied "blocs" that share the losses at times of adversity as well as the winnings at times of welfare. What happens, however, is that the blows hit upon the heads of the Muslim Brothers "alone", and even the idea of a national alliance did not achieve safety to the required degree due to the other allies’ fear of the pervading mentality of hegemony and recruitment that surely needs a real revision.

- The Muslim Brothers movement is in need for the activation of the motto of "participation not contest" after based on real conviction among them of its benefit to the movement no matter how it appeared to them.

- Besides, the "political supervision" the Muslim Brothers movement displays in the society regarding the issue of participation (and the attempt to confirm their existence) and throwing the whole cards of the group into every political action comes at the expense of its other activities, especially the activities that require a "calm atmosphere" as they bear fruit after a considerable period of time; I exactly mean the activities that require making a new "Hudybiya treaty" with the regime.

- The frequent failure in fulfilling great achievements on the public level produces within the members of the Muslim Brothers a common feeling of frustration that may lead to the lack of confidence in the validity of the peaceful solution and "the total invalidation of it" after the regime has settled its choice that the Muslim Brothers would not be among the active political powers in the "regime’s equations" so that the group would continue to derive its legitimacy through acknowledgement by fait accompli (which is already taking place). Furthermore, almost all the conceptions ensure that the regime would not allow the Muslim Brothers to obtain an umbrella of "legal legitimacy" that would let them gain control over the society institutions (syndicates – unions –teaching staff clubs). What then remains available for the Muslim Brothers is the street legitimacy that might dwindle under certain circumstances. The main problem is thus on what does the Muslim Brothers then make their bet.

- Yet, one of the consequences of the Muslim brothers’ insistence on densely making political participation (trying to ensure their existence) is that they rush into the regime’s vantage points, which are regions of political friction and are considered highly sensitive by the regime; it would not accept defeat at these regions, and thus it works on excluding the Muslim Brothers through the use of its huge faculties of deterrence and suppression.

- If the Muslim Brothers try to reshuffle their papers under current circumstances, this reshuffling is supposed to be governed by the rule (avoiding clash with the regime in the regions of political friction in an attempt to establish a vision that answers the reality questions: extension of presidential term and succession or reform and change), and powerfully rushing into the regime’s weak spots, especially the huge gaps which the regime has failed to fill, such as social services and aid to the groups bereaved of the means of honorable living. Therefore, the reshuffling process supposes softening the attention paid to some fields and intensifying that paid to others. Among the fields that should enjoy more attention are "(charitable deeds – social service – women issues – human rights – scientific and intellectual fields – actions tinged with a humanitarian strain in general). There should also be focus on long-run fields, the point that the Egyptian regime fails to perform well.

Surely, a quick reading of the two struggle parties could contribute to the clarification of every party’s image (its conditions and potentials) and help the decision makers during making a choice among different alternatives; this guides the process of choice itself when searching for a path to the relationship between the two struggling parties. For what the Muslim Brothers need is a comprehensive view that transcends the present and the local.

The quest for a path

Under the present conditions and these continuous campaigns against the group of the Muslim Brothers, which are accompanied by internal (local) and external (international) facts that contradict their interests (rather the interests of Islam in general), is there a path that the Muslim Brothers could seek in order to preserve the gains achieved during the last years and reduce the expected losses to the least degree during the following period?

Undoubtedly such successive campaigns would play the main definitive element in the Muslim Brothers’ choices according to reality or to the "ideological approach". Besides, in light of the preceding definitive elements, what are the choices and the proposed alternatives the Muslim Brothers have in face of that campaign?

The proposed alternatives could take the form of groups of paths, each of which has its own available potentials and conditions for its achievement. Yet, the issue of ideological convictions remains as a decisive determinative element in choosing any of these paths.

The first path: Escalation

It could be said that escalation between the Muslim Brothers and the regime alike is mutual, and that every party has its own calculations in the consecutive process of escalation. The pressure applied by the Muslim Brothers has coincided with the pressure applied by America, the point that drove some people suggest a connection between both; and the regime in turn has retaliated in the same manner, intensifying its security campaign in a degree that surpassed expectations and dealing blows to the Muslim Brothers, knowing in advance the peacefulness of the movement. Thus, the regime – within these limits – is safeguarded against reckless reactions, since the movement is determined in choosing the peaceful project of reform and, for them, reactions are totally put aside.

Hence, rises a question: Can the declining regime embark on a self-determination battle, which is basically a long-breath battle and the pass of time is not to its benefit (even its conception is limited to the success extending the presidential term)? And, on the other hand, can the Muslim Brothers embark on a ferocious battle that revokes the peaceful solution and deprives the group of the legitimacy it has won through its insistence on the success of that (peaceful) solution over about a quarter of a century.

Surely, the talk on civil disobedience issued by some leaders of the Muslim Brothers, I deem, is and attempt to inflame emotions rather than a talk based on precise calculations of profit and loss. Thusly, the quest for (open) paths remains feasible within the escalation path in a way that tones down the number and intensity of the blows to the least possible degree and that contributes to the Muslim Brothers’ attempt to forming the future Egypt. In addition, the issue of vision remains the main determinative element in the Muslim Brothers’ choice of any of the escalation paths that is governed and regulated by a vision, jurisprudential, political and realistic at the same time.

The second path: Searching for alternative channels

 Undoubtedly the aggravation of the crisis between the Muslim Brothers and the regime is due to two points

First: The country goes through a period that is crucial in its history, in which the choices should be determined and the compass should be set right for all parties.

Second: The supremacy of mutual predominance mentality for the two parties, in which a party is not contented with mere participation, and also the direct political contact in positions considered by the regime to belong to its representatives alone. Therefore, combating with the regime or rather defeating it in a field it views as its own playground enrages it. Besides, the many statements on the part of the Muslim Brothers that they are the main political power in the country complicates the situation. Rather, their frequent mention of participation in the political life in their speeches and propounding their conceptions for general reform in the country makes things even worse. Added to this is their continuous introduction of themselves as the prospective alternative. Furthermore, the external pressures on the regime adds fuel to the fire of the battle with the Muslim Brothers in a direct manner (though it should be admitted that some statements of the Muslim Brothers extenuated the ferocity of this situation, whether statements in which they declared they would not win more than a third in any free elections (The researcher views that "the third is much for the group") or that any power cannot single-handedly rule because the challenges which Egypt confronts cannot be overcome by any sole power however its size may be.

Moreover, the high politicizing that the Muslim Brothers practice of the regions and spaces under their control and pushing them in the furnace of the battle as a tool employed in managing the struggle – due to the supremacy of the political mentality – turning the battle into "a zero-sum game" where the defeat can never be accepted, even if in "one" round of the battle; the defeated is never allowed to stay in the ring. Hence, I deem that the role of the Muslim Brothers in the present stage is to work within the circle of "middle way solutions" and search for meeting points with other political parties, including the present and future regimes, so that the intensity of the struggle would be mitigated or that the group would contribute to the formation of the country in a way not fully satisfactory; yet it would be a step in the right direction.

In conclusion, in case of the block of political horizon – as is happening at the moment – and the lack of any opportunities for dialogue and direct concurrence, the work is "concentrated" in seeking alternative channels towards which the regime would be less sensitive and the possibility of agreement on which is greater, and the people’s support of which is broader.

The third path: Assuagement or search for a bargain of political reform

The researcher has previously mentioned that the current stage the Egyptian state witness is a crucial moment or – to put it exactly – a turning point since the current Egypt would depart after a while and the future Egypt is now being formed.

Thus, if the Muslim Brothers participate in these formation processes, it would be good both for them and the country. And the long-run reform methods require patience and endurance. A good example for us would be that of (former Prime Minister) Najmuddin Erbekan in Turkey. He – along with his fellows – was about  to approach the positions of influence through the parliament and the ministry when a military coup took place in order to stop the expansion of the Islamist Movement’s influence in the society and the authority institutions. Then, Erbekan  and his fellows were thrown into prison, and the military personnel came with another system under "civil" names so that the rule would not be directly or glaringly military, and to impart a new legitimacy that would substitute the coup rule. Then, Erbekan and his fellows did not show the least opposition so that they would not have been applying their strength to the vantage points of the regime or combating with it in its own ground (a suppressive military authority that fears for its influence should not be fought or confronted through violence or armed actions). A few years later, a political breakthrough occurred when the detained and imprisoned persons were released (Erbekan and his fellows), and they resumed their activity under a new title (The Islamist system Party 1970 A.C., The National Salvation party 1972 A.C., The Welfare Party, then the Virtue Party 1998. Then came the Justice and Development Party, which is considered as the second generation after Erbekan who assumed the position of a Prime Minister in Turkey.

Surely, the study of a "work plan" like that, taking into consideration the differences between societies and political systems and the degree of their development, might fit the situation which the Muslim Brothers experience at present. Besides, the plan should be unraveled and then assembled again and its elements should be integrated through other change and reformation plans that suit the Egyptian society and in a way the contributes to the crystallization of "the reform theory" on theoretical – yet practicable – bases. These plans should bear of the elements of success what reduces the losses to the minimum within the Egyptian status quo with all its facts, the complications of the Islamist Movement / the Muslim Brothers, and the Egyptian political system. This is perhaps what I mean by the movement’s need for a comprehensive view.

Finally, this call for a search for new paths in the relationship between the Muslim Brothers and the Egyptian regime in a way that allows a deeper understanding of the reality and the movement, and that preserves for the Egyptian state all its human and developmental potentials and contribute to the elevation of this country, to which we belong heart and soul.

 Al-Manar Al-Jadid Magazine, issue 31-32, summer-spring 2005.


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