Middle East — 04 August 2013
The Muslim Brotherhood – what next?

Dr. Mohammed Zahid

The removal of President Mursi and the crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has raised many questions concerning the future of the movement in Egypt, given that the movement had worked since the 1970s to try to engineer itself to the top in the political system.  I will present a number of possibilities and then determine which one of the possibilities the movement is likely to steer towards in the coming months.

1-    The MB continues with its protests in Nasr city, calling on more of its supporters to take to the streets until its forces the hand of the military to reinstate President Mursi.

2-    The MB calls on the soldiers in the Egyptian army not to listen to the orders from the military leadership and to refuse participation in cracking down on the MB but instead for the soldiers to take side with the MB, as there have been calls from certain MB leaders for the soldiers to stand shoulder to shoulder with the MB.

3-    The MB to join hands with other groups that might not agree with them but are against the presence of the military in politics, as after the removal of President Mursi some groups have turned on the military calling for its withdrawal from politics immediately.

4-    The MB to engage in civil disobedience around the country calling for the overthrow of the military leadership and implementation of a Caliphate system, which many of its leaders eluded to leading up to the election of President Mursi.

5-    The MB to accept offers of negotiations and to enter a round of discussions with the military and interim government. The Jordanian branch of the MB has been calling on its counterpart in Egypt to accept negotiations offers but so far rejected by the MB in Egypt.

To come to determine the most accurate possibility it is important to understand the nature of the MB, it has been a pragmatic movement for decades, sacrificing ideology for political power, leading it to compromise and change political positions on many occasions. This has been a strong current in the movement since the leadership of Umar Tilemansi in the 1970s that aimed to create a new space for the movement in Egypt after the oppression under the Nasser years.

Taking this into consideration, it is unlikely that the MB is to continue with its current position of resisting the military and interim government through calls of demonstrations, protests and sit ins throughout the country, as this will be a massive obstacle to the pragmatic objectives of the MB and history has shown when the MB has faced intense heat from the military it has backed down as in the 1950s and the 1990s by the Mubarak regime.

The MB has been secularised over decades of pragmatism and even Essam al Eyrian a leading member in the movement and spokesman has called previously on the movement to strip itself of its Islamic agenda and adopt a more democratic agenda to further its goals in Egypt. Meaning that the MB has been accustomed to a democratic and secular discourse, making it unrealistic for it to switch to a more Islamic agenda, of calling for a Caliphate in Egypt, something that might appeal with its rank and file members. In 2002, the youth from the movement broke away and set up a facebook campaign to champion the cause of a Caliphate in Egypt but the leadership quickly removed the youth from the movement and distanced themselves from such a narrative. Given this tendency of the movement to disassociate itself from Islamic politics for pragmatic political and short term objectives it is unlikely to expect the MB leadership to completely shift its narrative and discourse, especially it has become part of the political secular narrative in Egypt.

The most probable possibility, which would be consistent with the MB’s history, would be for the movement to enter some sort of dialogue with the military and interim government to achieve some type of political salvation for itself in Egypt. The MB is a Machiavellian movement, that has become driven over decades by pragmatic principles and it is unlikely to change course now and there must be some head crunching going on in the leadership level to decide when it is best for the movement to enter such an alliance and what to demand from any negotiations. The national salvation front has made it very clear that the MB can contest future elections but will not be allowed to have the presidency until it proves itself, which is quite ironic given that the MB’s involvement in syndicates and parliament since the 1980s is evidence and proof of its commitment to democracy and secularism in Egypt but it seems that the secular opposition are not content with this and want more compromises from the movement.

There is pressure on the MB from its other branches in the Middle East to get back into the negotiations as its alienation will have regional impacts, with other Arab leaders seeing an opportunity to dispense of their prostitution relationship with the MB i.e. in Jordan the monarchy used the MB to counter other Islamic parties such as Hizb ut Tahrir and to give itself an Islamic image in return for some seats in the ineffective Jordanian parliament.

This is the only option for the MB if it follows its pragmatic method, which is no different to its past but at this moment it will be weaker in bargaining than in the past, as under Mubarak the MB was the only opposition but after Mubarak other movement have emerged such as the national salvation front that have much financial backing and media support allowing it to project itself across Egypt and giving it muscle in its possible future negotiations with the MB.

This is a critical juncture for the MB and it needs to think hard over its role in Egypt, does it want to be seen as a movement that keeps going back for more even though the military has made its position very clear or a movement that wants to bring real change to Egypt that would inevitably involve some sort of clash with the existing military and political class in Egypt. The saying in Egypt is that the revolution is not dead; this is evident but the question that the MB needs to answer whether it wants to be part of this revolution and fight for a just end rather than being manipulated, which it will be, no doubt and fit further into the existing military dominated political system.

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