Muslim Brotherhood students dress as militias in Al Azhar sit-in

Brotherhood leader say incident is misinterpreted, stresses the organization doesn’t have a military wing

CAIRO: Students affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood demonstrated in militia-styled outfits on Al Azhar University campus last week.

And although the demonstration sparked questions as of the direction of Brotherhood policies and their possible adoption of violence, the ministry of interior told The Daily Star Egypt that it hasn’t initiated any investigation in the incident.

“The investigation is carried by Al Azhar University; we haven’t done anything about it,” said Ashraf El Anany from the ministry’s public relations department.

The organization is not establishing a military wing as alleged, Mohamed Habib, MB deputy leader told The Daily Star Egypt. He said the whole incident was misinterpreted and blown out of proportion in an attempt to mar the Brotherhood’s image.

Political analyst Amr El Choubkei has also downplayed the incident and its significance. The inclusion of violence or implying its possible use is a feature of the “deterioration of political dialogue,” he said, explaining that it was the government that introduced violence to the political scene.

“I don’t think the Brotherhood leadership condones this type of behavior,” said El Choubkei. “But for sure they didn’t stand against it.”

The demonstrations were part of nation wide on-campus sit-ins and protests against the dismissal of students affiliated with the unofficial “free student unions.”

Politically active students were not allowed to run for student union elections held a couple of months ago. After fruitless demonstrations, the students, mostly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, established parallel student bodies, a decision not welcomed by the administrations of public universities.

About a month ago, thugs, allegedly affiliated with state security, stormed into Ain Shams University and beat up students involved in the unofficial union.

A number of students involved in the free unions were arrested last month. Most of them were affiliated with the Brotherhood.

Students in public universities in different governorates were officially dismissed from universities – either for good or for periods ranging from one month to a week – for taking part in free student union elections.

The official dismissals sparked numerous demonstrations and sit-ins in different university campuses.

But Al Azhar demonstration stood out due to the type of cloths the students were wearing. The demonstrators, dressed in black tops and face hoods, reportedly gave a martial art show to the security forces cordoning them.

“It wasn’t the best of moves,” said Ibrahim El Houdiby, editor at, the Internet outlet for the Brotherhood.

“It doesn’t signify what the Brotherhood stand for,” El Houdiby added.

“This, however, was a reaction to an unjust decision [dismissal],” he added stressing that he is not trying to justify their actions.

Habib said what was reported as “showing off power” was merely sketches organized by the students in the sit-in “for recreational purposes.”

“We have reproached them [the students],” Habib told The Daily Star Egypt. “It’s something we don’t accept,” he stressed.

Even if they were subject to injustice, he explained, their reaction should be in a peaceful frame, a form of expression that can’t be interpreted in the wrong way.

Fighting corruption, he continued, is done through “legal and constitutional channels.”

But violence has become a regular occurrence in any political activity. “To run in elections you have to get thugs,” El Choubkei said.

“The Brotherhood’s ideological education,” he continued, “allows them to raise the young members on this belief.”

Although El Choubkei believes the militia demonstration wasn’t condoned by MB leaders, he says they must be aware that there are members training on martial arts.