Once again, the Muslim Brothers!

Once again, the Muslim Brothers!
Tuesday 22 November 2005 09:58.
By Mahgoub El-Tigani

Nov 21, 2005 — Aside from a wide discontent with the results of the elections, the Egyptian elections reflected a successful manipulation and leadership by the Muslim Brotherhood of the liberal mode of Egyptian voters versus the dominion of al-Hizb al-Watani, the State’s ruling party. Interestingly, the Brotherhood raised the Holy Qur’an in public demonstrations as it deemed necessary in some instances, emphasized in media interviews the commitment to a civil society that should be ruled by a civil state in other instances, and conjoined in all circumstances the Brotherhood’s political logo “Islam is the only solution” of corruption, poverty, and the other ills of society.

The final outcome of the elections, as predicted by several observers, will not allow the Brotherhood to control the parliament. The Brothers, nonetheless, have competently assumed the status and role of an influential competing group with the ruling party in the governance of Egypt, despite many harsh censorial policies, including abrupt arrests of Brothers’ leaders by the ruling elite and other “security” actions. The question remains: what would the final result be via such isolationist policies of the ruling elite that thus far produced nothing but a dramatic failure of both liberal and ruling parties versus the Brothers’ right-wing collectivities?

The Wafd party, once the biggest middle class political party, the al- Tajamu’ activist group, the Nasserists, and the few other left-wingers or liberals, including al-Ghad/Kifaya movement (whose leader, Dr. Aymen, was defeated in the parliamentary elections, irrespective of his collaboration with the Brothers in the presidential elections) would probably continue as an intellectual voice of liberality in the Egyptian arena to stress the need for more freedoms and human rights in the state and the society. These left-wing and/or liberal groups, however, have been forced by both presidential and parliamentary elections to line behind the Brothers, their common antithetical foe in ideological thought and political activity!

This contradictory situation would further affect the historic alliance between the Copts minority group and the other political players in the arena: both the Coptic Church and the Brothers have collaborated in peace, despite a few hostilities that erupted from time to time between extremists of the two groups. As time goes on, many young Copts would be migrating to the West to enjoy liberal freedoms and business opportunities away from the new conservatives’ alliance.

The bulk of the Egyptian liberal and/or left-wing groups, however, will not enjoy the same option: poverty-stricken, less oriented to western norms, still emphasizing the Arab nationalism and other anti-capitalist stands, they might gradually come in terms with the Brothers, the only voice available in the parliament to voice their socio-economic and political grievances albeit the Brothers, in fact, never acted in their public history as a faithful supporter of the nationalist anti-capitalist parties or liberal civil society groups!

The antagonistic realities that deeply separate the Brothers from the liberal opposition of Egypt have been repeatedly discussed in a number of Arab media agencies. For one (the Jazeera T.V., November 21, 2005), Salah Hassan, a prominent liberal journalist, questioned the Brothers’ political intentions in the next parliamentary period. Speaking for the Brothers, Dr. al-Gazar affirmed “the Brothers would work as an Islamic group that would adopt the concerns of all other groups in a national manner!” At that point, Salah Hassan exclaimed, “That wouldn’t be possible, so long as the Brothers’ concept of an Islamic Caliphate is never acceptable by the other groups!”

The liberal journalist explained the insistence of the Brothers throughout the 20th century to establish an Islamic Caliphate despite a “dual concern” for constitutionality to appear as a modern group supportive of a civil-minded (versus a theological) polity. “We are all Muslims!” exclaimed Salah Hassan: “The Brothers claim a patronage over Muslims only to increase political influence by abusing Islam in public politics. All other parties address themselves to politics as a non-religious issue. Why wouldn’t the Brothers follow suit with a clear political program?”

The Egyptian presidential and parliamentary elections mirror to some extent the upcoming transitional elections of the Sudan. True, there are important differences between the political settings of the two Nile Valley nations. Still, both ruling parties are authoritative, largely accused of corruption, and have been forcing themselves in the seats of power for decades by authoritative perpetuation rather than democratic persuasion.

Most recently, the al-Hizb al-Watani of Egypt partially shuffled its political bureaus, allowed a calculated margin for the opposition to share in the state media, and encouraged a few procedural measures to consider constitutional changes in the presidential system by the newly elected parliament. At the other end, the Egyptian liberal opposition with its critical stands against the authorities has been exceedingly overshadowed by the banned Muslim Brotherhood, often by consent of the authorities. This apparently hidden collaboration repeatedly occurred in the elections of the lawyers, engineers, and doctors’ professional unions: the Brothers were actually recognized as a political body by the authorities, regardless of their illegal status by Egyptian law.

The ruling party of Sudan was a direct product of the June 1989’s Brothers’ military coup. The Sudanese opposition has been strongly influenced by the Sudanese Muslim liberals, namely the Umma/Ansar and the DUP/Khatmiya groups. Whereas in Egypt, the ethno-regional politics is only evident in the southern provinces of Upper Egypt, al-Sa’eed, the whole Sudan, however, witnessed an ethno-regional influential politics by the southerners’ SPLM, the Darfurian rebel groups, and the Beja Congress/Rashayda alliance of Eastern Sudan. Hence, while the Egyptian liberal opposition has been largely undermined by the Brothers’ expansionist entity, the predominantly Muslim liberals’ opposition in the Sudan has been actively placed under a tight security control by the Brothers’ right-wing government.

Judged by the prevailing trends and outcome of the political realities of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, it is possibly true that the political mode is favorable of Muslim visions and power relations rather than liberal competitions, let alone the shrinking voting abilities of the middle-class Wafd and the left-wing Tajamu.

This situation will influence the pragmatic adoptions of the Egyptian ruling party, which recently collaborated to some extent with Egyptian liberals in the government-controlled media to wage concerted criticisms of the Brothers in the course of the elections. There were reported arrests and other forms of harassment of the Brothers in the elections campaigns. There were reports on exchanged violence between the competing parties in the election centers as well. But the Egyptian ruling party has not yet taken genuine steps to oversee the Brothers’ financial fortunes or economic activities in accordance with the law, especially those flourishing in close collaboration with the financial firms of the Khartoum Islamic groups since 1989 to the present time!

The hesitancy of the Egyptian rulers to implement a large-scale democratic change in the political life of the country, which alone would bring about a weighty equilibrium between all competing forces, will negatively affect the reflective impact of democracy in Sudan, the twin part of the Nile Valley. Similarly, the Sudanese Brothers’ government that alienated with intensive authoritative actions the liberal opposition of the country would weaken in the long run the democratic transition of the Nile Valley. For all reasons and purposes, new projects of a conservative anti-democratic caliphate(s) would roam the region under a possible alliance of ruling Brothers, opposition Brothers, and authoritative governments (see earlier analyses in the Sudan Tribune by this writer on the possibilities of the Brothers’ alliances despite apparent schisms).

The South Sudan, a promising regional government to spearhead democratic governance in the country by a just representation of all ethnic groups (such as the Nuer, among others) to assure the permanent and just peace of the whole Nation, is virtually handicapped with the restrictive nature of the Brothers’ authoritative rule, the exclusion of the Sudanese liberal and left-wing democratic opposition, and the unabated civil strife of the Eastern and Western Sudan.

The most recent mutual visits by senior officials of the US Government and the Government of South Sudan revealed that many financial, administrative, and political gaps should be redressed by consistent, stable, and effective participation of all opposition groups in the governance of the North and South Sudan. The Naivasha-based NIF/SPLM bilateral government has been inadequately handling the complexities of the country.

What the Egyptian liberal/left-wing groups would do to liberate themselves from the Brothers’ grip of Egypt’s liberal opposition remains to be seen. The Sudanese liberal opposition, however, has re-started a fresh rallying for a national constitutional conference “on Darfur.” Now that the Brothers’ ruling party in Khartoum might be willing to participate in the opposition’s conference, observers believe it would be a de facto conference to decide on the ruling agenda of the Region of Darfur, the other Regions, and the Khartoum Center alike!

*Member of Sudanese Writers’ Union (in exile) and the president of Sudan Human Rights Organization Cairo-Branch.