The Brotherhood and May 4 Strike: MB Bloc Secretary General Writes

The Brotherhood and May 4 Strike: MB Bloc Secretary General Writes

First: The stay-at-home call of May 4 2008 to protest policies and figures of the ruling regime in Egypt has originally started in the political, media, and public scenes since April 6 and after. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has only decided to endorse the strike on April 29. So we neither organized the strike nor set a date for it.

It is important to highlight the following facts:

1- The MB could not disregard this call, since it represents a peaceful protest against the state of political stagnation that hindered freedom of expression as well as civil society activities and led to the collapse of living standards on all levels.

2- Why did the MB change its stance? In April 6, the MB feared that the peaceful strike might turn into riots that ruin the image of peaceful protests and at the same time place the responsibility on the MB. We therefore had no choice but to announce our support for right of the people to peaceful protests without officially sponsoring the strike.

It is absolutely illogical to speak about political deals with the regime while we had more than 20000 detainees over the last ten years, our leaders and strategists received 3-10 jail sentences by a military tribunal that lacks the basics of justice, and around 1000 members were imprisoned in the run-up to April 8 municipal elections.

The MB has gone through one of the most powerful political protests when they boycotted the local elections after the regime’s refusal to execute the judiciary decisions of placing our candidates names in electoral slates.

May 4 strike has clear goals and mechanisms, therefore the MB had no choice but to participate.

3- Although we oppose the inheritance of power and renewal of Mubarak‘s term (which is clear in our stance toward amendment to articles 76 and 77 of the Constitution), the President’s birthday is not the main issue behind our decision. We oppose corruption and tyranny regardless of the individuals themselves. The MB believes that the ruler should be committed to justice, and we will support whoever fulfils this condition.

4- The MB’s decision to participate in this strike aims at warning the regime against the possible consequences of the current harsh conditions, which may lead to inevitable chaos and destruction that are neither in favor of the country nor the reformists. The MB will never call for civil disobedience that paralyzes the life in Egypt.

Second: Significance of the MB’s participation

Despite being so patient, the MB decided to awaken the people and train them to peacefully call for their rights.

1- The MB adopts peaceful change that begins with the individual and depends upon education instead of coups and revolutions. We never lost our patience in this gradual reform.

2- Though the deteriorating political and economic conditions are many, I will only cite the events of last April:

* 1/4/2008: Denying the government’s responsibility while discussing the bread crisis at the parliament despite the death of some civilians and the semi-starvation crisis in Egypt.

* 2/4/2008: Passing a law criminalizing demos at worship places and self-expression, even if as a reaction to a violation of the country’s security.

* 6-7/4/2008: Violentl crackdown on demonstrators and attempts to ruin the image of April 6 strike, as well as arresting activists such as Israa Abdul-Fattah.

* 8/4/2008: The violations that took place in the run-up and during local elections and arresting and re-arresting 1030 members of the MB, including three former MPs, despite being released by the prosecution.

* 15/3/2008: Jail sentences that range from 3 to 10 years against MB leading figures in military tribunals after being acquitted three times by ordinary civil courts, and after the decision to refer them to a military tribunal was annulled by the Administrative Court.

* Arresting professor Abdul-Hai Al-Faramawi, Chair of Religious Studies Department at al-Azhar University, and accusing him of an alleged plot with Hamas in an attempt to dissuade the people from any assistance to their Palestinian neighbors.

* The report of the National Council for Human Rights that condemns the regime’s violations of human rights in Egypt through torture at police stations, random detentions, killings at the police stations, and lack of fair tribunals, despite the fact that the council members are appointed by the government.


Third: Public Sector Pay Rise

1- The president proposed in a May Day address a 30% pay rise for public sector employees. It is important to highlight the relation between our decision to the to participate in May 4 strike and this historic increase in salaries.

2- The 30% increase is unprecedented in the history of modern democracies. But still, statistics show that an average Egyptian needs a 400% pay rise in order to cross the poverty line ($2 per capita.)

3- However, we welcome any attempt to resolve the people’s problems and address their demands including better bread, purer water, better health care, less restriction of freedoms, fair elections, independent judiciary, and fair trials.

Finally: It seems to me most strange that the victims are blamed for protesting, albeit silently. There are a lot of injustices taking place, and the government itself bears witness to them, and the Egyptians who died in bread lines also bear witness.

Dr. Mohamed Al-Beltagi

Secretary General of Muslim Brotherhood Parliamentary Bloc