Brotherhood tread a fine line with public and annual iftars

Brotherhood tread a fine line with public and annual iftars

CAIRO: Ramadan, for many companies and organizations in Egypt, is about networking and socializing through iftar and sohour feasts. It’s no different for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), who organize annual iftars in different governorates, sometimes attracting high profile intellectuals and public figures.


The group’s shaky relations with security forces is evident in such events. Just in the first week of Ramadan, the group has seen one of its iftars canceled by authorities and another executed under tight security.


“Preventing the MB from organizing public iftars is the normal and typical attitude of the government, and the exception is when [the government] allows it,” Mohamed Habib, Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader, told Daily News Egypt.


However, Habib added that the government”s attitude will not stand against the Brotherhood and that the group will keep on organizing public iftars regardless of the consequences.


On Tuesday Sept. 9, state security forces prevented a public iftar organized by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Al-Karasah district in Giza. According to Mahmoud Amer, Muslim Brotherhood MP, the iftar was organized by Abdel Salam Al Bashdawy, who ran unsuccessfully at the last parliamentary elections, for the poor people in the area.


Few days prior to the Giza iftar, the group’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Mahdy Akef hosted the group’s annual iftar in Sharqeya governorate. The event ran smoothly and with minimal problems with security forces.


According to a source at the group’s official website, security prevented Amir Bassam, of the few group members acquitted by military courts, from attending the same event.


The iftar, which has been taking place every Ramadan for 15 years, was attended by Mahmoud Ezzat, the group’s secretary general, Farid Isamil, one of the groups’ leading members in the PA, and some of the group’s prominent members.


The iftar was followed by speeches given by both Akef and Ezzat encouraging the public to continue the path of the group and fight corruption.


The following day, on Saturday, state security in Meit Hamal village in Belbies area in Sharqeya attacked two of the MB group leaders, Kamal Nabil and Mahmoud Bendary, when they were organizing a public iftar for the people in the area.


According to the source at the group’s official website, security forces were present but didn’t prevent the event.


A day later, another Brotherhood iftar in Gharbiya ran smoothly without any problems with security.


Habib accused the government of standing against anything the MB organizes. “It does not want our group to have any activities or to spread its ideology.”


However, according to Habib, there is no obvious reason or logic upon which the government chooses to prevent or not to prevent a Brotherhood organized iftar, “but the general attitude is the prevention.”


Nabil Abdel Fattah, political analyst at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Daily News Egypt that he is not surprised to see this contradictory attitude from the government towards the MB, as the government has always been using  a “dual strategy when dealing with the group.”


The government is aware of the huge presence of the group within society and its effect on the public due to its excessive services it provides citizens, Abdel Fattah explained. Thus, the government sometimes allows the group to conduct their meetings, provide services and “even appear in the media through some independent newspapers and satellite channels.”


“However, the government does the exact opposite at the same time; it detains members and prevents the group from organizing some other events out of fear that the group could overthrow the regime,” Abdel Fattah added.


“The government wants to substitute the mawa”ed rahman concept with the new food bags project that it adopted along with some NGOs that work hand in hand with the government, in order to prevent the public from attaching the habit of mawa”ed rahman [eateries offering free food in Ramadan] to the MB group which will give the group more credit and increase its popularity,” Abdel Fattah said.


On the other hand, Ambassador Mahmoud Shokry, writer and political analyst, told Daily News Egypt that he is “not convinced that security officials would ever do something to prevent the public from eating in public mawa”ed rahman iftars especially that we all recognize that this year there is a tremendous decrease in the number of mawa”ed rahman compared to previous years, and that is of course due to the worsening economic situation in Egypt.”


Shokry, who is originally from Sharqeya, has also said that this governorate in specific is known to be one of the most religious governorates in the country, “the citizens there are religiously conservative and that is why I deeply suspect that the government will place obstacles tosetting up mawa”ed rahman there knowing the nature of the citizens in this city.”


Also providing iftar to fellow Muslims is considered a obligatory to all Muslims who are financially capable of doing it, as Shokry explained. “So I do not think that the government will prevent any public iftar regardless of the entity that is organizing it.”


“However,  the government might have sent security forces out of fear that the Brotherhood would  make public speeches against it, especially when the state is dealing with problems like the Shoura Council fire, Taalat Moustafa’s case, and eventually the Duweiqa rockslide disaster,” Shokry said.


On the other hand, Shokry also said that the MB’s public iftars it conducts every year, “have serious implications and are made to serve the group’s political status.”


“The MB has always been known for being present in  times of need and it has a big network of connections and is capable of providing many services to the public and that is one of its main points of strength,” as Shokry said.


According to Shokry, the Brotherhood likes to be involved in anything that has “a human touch” and has a direct impact on the individual.


Habib did not deny that the MB iftars or any type of gathering are usually done to promote the group’s ideology, but he noted that those gatherings provide opportunities “for the different political parties and ideologies to meet to discuss internal issues and concerns and how to deal with the current authority and fight corruption.”


“The ideology of the MB is clear and known to the public, however we always like to exchange ideas and conduct discussions with the other political entities in society,” Habib added.