Between Regime’s Machiavellianism, MB’s Hesitation

Between Regime’s Machiavellianism, MB’s Hesitation… Anatomy of Al-Azhar Students Crisis

The ruling regime exploited the crisis that emerged from the trainings of the black hooded Muslim Brotherhood students in Al-Azhar University with a smart Machiavellianism, which is surely legitimate in the political action as it is mainly one of the ways of steering a conflict over rule among conflicting powers.

In spite of the fierce blow that the security dealt to the group through arresting a number of its first line leaders topped by the MB second deputy chairman, Mohamed Khayrat Al Shater, but the most prominent success for the regime is a public redebate over the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the Egyptian political life; this leads to returning to square number one: the issue of violence and to what extent the group is committed to the peaceful action.

Al-Azhar incidents presented a golden opportunity for the government and the NDP parliamentary majority and their vetted media to remind of very passive stereotypes about the group although these stereotypes nearly perished along years in which the Muslim Brotherhood has declared and been committed to renouncing violence, and its political participation in the legislative elections and their respect to rules of the game of the ruling regime- the banned opposition movement based on an authoritative way decreased MB activities and exposed it to successive repressions.

The government campaign focused on three claims that raised, although they are groundless, several suspicions over the Muslim Brotherhood commitment’s actual commitment to the peaceful method as a basis for generally approving its current political role; first; the government vetted voices reminded the public opinion of the group’s violent past and its forming a paramilitary organization before 1952, extracting this form its historical context, to bypass what the Muslim Brotherhood faced during the later decades including the desired changes and those imposed from outside, to claim that the pictures of the black hooded persons in the campus of Al-Azhar University proves that the group still has underground cells- the so called nowadays militias- and proves also they may exercise violence in a way that may threaten the stability of society and requires consequently a decisive intervention from the government.

Second, stressing that this false claim is true: that MB nowadays violence has origins through referring back to another selected moment in the past related to the emergence of Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya (the Islamic group) and Jihad group from the Muslim Brotherhood’s student formations in the universities during the 1970s. this led to an initial deduction that the Muslim Brotherhood’s grass roots were are still, at best, a public supplier for spawning ’terrorist’ organizations and at least a crucial source for recruiting young men who may carry out acts of violence; this justified later using the security machine instead of the political merging in dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood’s students under the pretext that they are dangerous and that they defy public order.

As for the third claim, prosecution, it is based on putting the Muslim Brotherhood in the same pot of the current conflict and even infighting over the political role of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas movement in Palestine to give a wrong image for all the Islamic movements in the Arab world as being inclined to monopolize power, and that they relentlessly exercise violence to exclude political opponents; thus, they interpret Al-Azhar incidents as a prelude for a similar movement from the Muslim Brotherhood, and that only a decisive government intervention will prevent the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent Islamic movement, from doing so before it is too late.

Thus, the government campaign drew the outline of the public opinion’s awareness of the MB students’ act; what aggravated it were many independent writers and intellectuals with a high patriotic feeling, raising the same questions and reloading the same suspicions, giving a blind eye to scrutinizing over the real motives behind Al-Azhar incidents which are mostly revolving around the authoritarian management of the political activity inside universities, and the violations of the ruling regime in the political scene in Egypt.

However, from and objective point of view, the group did not manage– over multiple levels- to handle the crisis of Al-Azhar students; the reactions of the group’s leaders and parliamentarians were so limited; they aimed at just justifying the trainings of the black hooded students as only sportive performances that were misunderstood, and condemning the detentions in the lines of the group being a premeditated episode from the ruling regime to continue the policy of security blows and repressive exercises against the most important opposition movement.

The problem here is that the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy was restricted to handling the core of the crisis, and it was silent towards all ensuing impressions and questions that turned, in spite of being mostly groundless, into a currently debated fact. The Muslim Brotherhood offended its role in the Egyptian political life by not focusing its reactions on fighting the government’s distrust in the truth of its denunciation of violence and its commitment to the peaceful political action, through using the same weapon used in the government campaign, namely the history of the group.

Since the regime allowed the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s, though through varying systems that the authorities made them conditioned and restricted participation, to run for the legislative elections and the union and professional elections, to accept through this an official space of presence for the outlawed group, the latter gave- on the intellectual and action levels- a clear strategic commitment to the dictates of the peaceful action and the method of gradual political reform, from which it did not deviate in spite of the continuous repressive practices against it. Then, the Muslim Brotherhood violated again its role and the public awareness of its overall strategy when it stopped short of talking frankly about the kind of relation between the group and the students affiliated to it in universities, in a way that allows showing to what extent the MB leaders are responsible for Al-Azhar incidents, and to show to what extent the student formations are personally independent in their political activities and even the spaces of spontaneity in the students’ exceptional actions.

Taking into consideration the dominant stereotyped image about the internal organization of the Muslim Brotherhood group: that it adopts from the very beginning the two utmost rules of hierarchy in taking decisions and the full obedience which is similar to the military in the leader/ member relationship, it becomes clear that the group should have given a paramount importance to dealing with a public opinion that was quickly deceived by the government claim that the Muslim Brotherhood students are just puppets and toys which are manipulated by the higher cadre of the organization leaders.

I am fully convinced that the ambiguity and confusion that shrouded the Muslim Brotherhood’s handling of the crisis of Al-Azhar students through giving this handling a negative nature that lacked reactions of three methods of public action in the thought and movement of the group and which seemed- in the last analysis- to be conflicting and contradictory in their main concepts:

First: The group’s religious Da’wa (preaching) method that aims at reforming deviations in the society and that seeks Allah’s support over the mistrust and suspicions over its intentions and considering them an affliction that requires patience and more Da’wa action.

Second: The method of a decades-long outlawed social-political movement which is continuously facing repressions and security manhunt from the ruling regime, in a way that made it form, on the one hand, a tentative preference to work in secret channels, in addition to public ones, and a strict concern, on the other hand, over the internal cohesion of the movement and not to disclose its organization secrets in public discussions that may harm it.

Third: The method of the group that participates in the official opposition’s political life within the context of a restricted pluralism and that exercises its activity within framework that requires making actions public and dealing with the directions of the public opinion as material facts that shouldn’t be neglected; the Muslim Brotherhood should join these contexts due to their seriousness over the group’s role in the Egyptian society.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s clarity of reaction towards the crisis of Al-Azhar students wouldn’t have prevented the regime’s crackdown against it, but the absence of this clear reaction affected negatively in its ability to dispute the government vetted voices that dominated the arena of the public debating, and prevented it from disputing high-caliber inquiries and suspicions that greatly affect the group’s political action, although these suspicions are actually false and contradictory.

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