Egypt: Crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood not working
Egypt: Crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood not working
Wednesday, September 16,2009 18:33
By Joseph Mayton

 Over two months ago, reformist Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh was arrested by the Egyptian government. The reason was simple: he belonged to the banned Islamic group. In recent years, since the success the Brotherhood experienced in the 2005 Parliamentary elections, Cairo has been pushing forward on their campaign to silence the Islamic group. Despite the reported hundreds of Brotherhood members, and now dozens of leaders, languishing in jail cells across the country, the tactic of arrests is simply not working.

Aboul Fotouh is a reformer. He is a leader who promotes freedom, justice and openness. Sunday’s arrest of the man shows that the government has no desire to open a dialogue with the opposition group and is arguably taking advantage of the current world attention being focused on Iran to arrest leaders of the opposition group. It is a sad time to be in Egypt, where the government continues to use its security apparatus to curtail any and all opposition movements.

The Brotherhood, being the most popular and largest, receives the brunt of this crackdown. Cairo is able to arrest Brotherhood leaders because there are few people in the West that would criticize the detainment of Islamists, no matter what ideology they may espouse.

With the popularity of Islamic groups across the region on the rise, governments and the United States must search for a new path. Alienation and mass arrests is not working. For every Brotherhood member who is detained, a number of others step forward to take their place. In Gaza, Hamas’ popularity has not waned, despite an international blockade on Gaza and an Israeli war that left over one thousand Palestinians dead. In fact, their popularity on a mass scale is as high as it has ever been.

If Washington, Cairo, Tel Aviv, Beirut and other governments want to force these powerful opposition groups away from the mainstream, the best solution is engagement. If, for example, the West had not isolated Hamas following their 2006 victory in Palestinian elections, it would have forced them to act and accomplish something to progress their state. However, by pushing them into a corner, Hamas never had to change their tune, get anything done for their people. Why would they have to if Israel and the United States continued to avoid contact.

In Egypt, it is a similar situation. The Brotherhood understands their role. President Hosni Mubarak has no intention of allowing for a free and open election, but by continuing to isolate the Brotherhood through arrests and crackdowns, it allows the Islamic group to continue unabated its attacks on the government without developing a strategic policy for the future of Egypt.

What Egypt and other nations struggling with opposition movements need to do is force these groups into the mainstream. Force them to develop platforms for the future of their country. If governments continue to avoid a dialogue with Islamic movements in the region, the radicalization of society and its people in supporting the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas will continue and grow.

Silence and arrests only serve one purpose: popularization of these groups. They must be given a chance to fail, or succeed. If they are not given this opportunity, then why would people stop supporting the only group they view as legitimately fighting for their desire?