The Muslim Brotherhood's Power Struggle

Monday, 26 Mar 2012 05:23 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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After 80 years the dream of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to reach power in Egypt has come true. The MB now controls a majority of the seats in the Egyptian Parliament and soon it will write a new constitution.

The ascent of the MB to power reminds me of the children’s game, “Snakes and Ladders,” also known as “Chutes and Ladders,” where ladders help players reach the finish line while snakes — or chutes — hinder their progress respectively.

The question is: Will the MB go down a chute after ascending via the ladder of power?

Analysis of the factors that helped the MB reach power reveals that this is a very likely possibility.

The following are factors that helped the MB reach power.

The hijab: When the supreme guide of the MB (The Murshid) had the opportunity to meet with President Nasser after the 1952 revolution, the most important request he had was to teach more Islam to the population — not to encourage people to be more charitable to the poor. He wanted to make all women in Egypt wear the hijab.

The Murshid was a real strategist. He knew very well that making Muslim women wear the hijab is the most fundamental step to Islamize the whole society, promote the concept of Shariah, and prepare them psychologically to become a part of the Islamic caliphate.

For several reasons, the MB failed during Nasser’s time to make Egyptian women wear the hijab; however, it succeeded in doing so during the time of Sadat and Mubarak.

This changed Egyptian society in a way that ultimately led to the overwhelming victory of Islamists in recent elections.

Giving people hope that Islam will solve all their problems: The MB managed to give people hope that Islam is the best solution for their problems, including economic ones. The slogan “Islam is the Solution” has been used successfully by the MB to promote their ideology. The economic prosperity of Saudi Arabia that begins in the late 1970s was used as an evidence to convince many Egyptian that implementing Shariah is the success of Saudi Arabia.

Getting support from Arab countries: After Nasser cracked down on the MB many of its members traveled to the nearby Gulf countries where they gained financial support as a charitable Islamic group that cares for “Dawwa” or preaching.

The petro dollars that were given to the MB helped it promote its agenda by building more mosques, freely distributing Islamic books, and helping it do charitable works to gain public support.

Using the word "democracy" to gain support from the West: The MB understood that after Islamizing the society all it needed to do to reach power was tap into ballot "democracy." MB used pro-democracy groups supported by the West to demand democratic reforms.

The plot was carefully designed by the MB, which knew that the word "democracy" is magical in the West. It could put pressure on the Mubarak regime as well as the military to open the gate for the MB to reach power.

The MB simply used the power of Western-funded pro-democracy groups as a "parasite" that relied on the blood of the host to become more powerful.

Internal unity: For several decades, the existence of one common enemy to the MB (namely secularism) was an important factor that united the group. It was virtually unknown in the past to see strong divisions within the group. "Unity" was simply an important factor for success.

Getting support from the military after the Jan 25 revolution: The Egyptian military represented by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) was under heavy pressure from the U.S. and liberal forces to deliver power to civilians.

This simply meant delivering power to Islamists, who would rule the country. In an attempt to protect their interests and to keep some power in the new Egypt, many believe that the SCAF had a deal or an agreement with the MB to protect the "democratic process" until the Islamists come to power in exchange with having special privileges for the military.

The SCAF denies this deal. However, the selection of an Islamist such as Tarek Al-Bishri to be the head of the committee that directed the political future of the country after the Jan. 25 revolution and the absence of any woman and Christians in this committee support the view that the SCAF and the MB had a deal together as described above. This initial support from the military to the MB helped them become more powerful.

The following are factors that will ultimately cause the MB to decline in power.

A decline of the image of the MB: After choosing the MB in the recent parliamentary elections, many of those who choose them expected some improvements of the problems that the country faces. On the contrary, the country faced more troubles after the Islamists dominated the parliament, such as shortage of gas and a strike of the drivers of the vital public transport system.

The failure to achieve miraculous improvements in the conditions within the country coupled with over-expectations of fast success has created a negative image for the MB in the mind of some people and started to sway many in the public away from supporting the group.

Additionally, the MB gave priority to discussing issues such as placing a ban on Internet pornography instead of enacting legislation to prevent the collapse in the economy. The image of the Islamists in general had another setback due to the actions of some Islamic members such as al-Baklimi (Salafi), who lied to the public about making a cosmetic operation to improve the look of his nose.

Recent rumors that al-Baklimi is secretly married to a famous belly dancer and that he has financially supported the production of her movies just added more damage to the image of the Islamists.

Furthermore, breaking promises such as raising the possibility that the MB may have a presidential candidate in the next presidential elections after they repeatedly insisted that they will NEVER have one made some people lose trust in them.

Internal dissolution: Divisions within the MB became clear on the surface. These divisions include kicking Abdul-Menem Abu-Elfutuh (one of the former leaders of the group) out of the organization and ending his membership for daring to break their rules and insisting on becoming a presidential candidate. This was followed by the resignation of Mohamed Habib (No. 2 of the MB) from the organization. Increasing anger within the young members of the MB from certain decisions of their leadership just added more pressure on the MB.

Loss of support of many in the liberal media:
For several years the liberal media showed some sympathy for the MB as their members were put into prisons during Mubarak's time and the organization was considered an illegal body. This sympathy was predominantly due to the fact that many liberals were predominantly focused on fighting military control over of the country rather than a real support for the MB agenda.

After the MB gained some power in the recent parliamentary elections they expressed hostility toward women rights and toward personal freedoms. This has led many liberals to realize the MB is a real threat to the freedom and liberty in the country. As a result, many of these liberals are decreasing their criticism for the military and alternatively give more attention to warning the public about the threat that the MB poses to the future of the country.

This turn of mainstream liberal media against the MB has become more apparent recently after the MB attempted to dominate the writing of the new Egyptian constitution to make it an Islamic constitution.

U.S. green light to the military: Allowing the U.S. aid to continue to Egypt without being conditional by delivering power to civilians has been seen by many as a green light from the U.S. to the military to do what they feel appropriate to get stability back to the country. Exposure of the anti-U.S. attitudes of the MB may be behind the decision to waive restrictions to the U.S. aid given to Egypt.

Since the U.S. made it clear that they will resume the aid to Egypt without the previous conditions, the military started to show more aggressive — but controlled — attitude toward the MB. A clash has already started between the MB and the military over the new constitution.

Diminished support from wealthy Arab countries: After the Jan. 25 revolution, wealthy Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia failed to support the new political powers in the country. This was partially because they were not well organized and partially because the Arab countries feared that the success of this revolution may make it a model to be copied in their own countries.

The long honeymoon between the Arab countries and the MB that lasted for decades has simply ended as the Arab leaders are not ready to sacrifice their power for the sake of the MB.

The best manifestation of this division between the MB and wealthy Arab countries is seen clearly in the statements of the head of security of Dubai (Gen. Dhi Khlafan) that accused the MB of plotting against the Gulf countries. Gen. Khalfan actually threatened anyone in UAE who will show sympathy or support to the MB of being considered a traitor by the authorities.

The loss of support from wealthy Gulf countries and the animosity that was created between these countries and the MB after the formers felt that the latter may threaten their thrones could be the straw that will break the back of the MB.

To conclude, despite the success of the MB in the recent parliamentarian elections in Egypt, the decay within the group and the presence of many powerful enemies is likely to weaken them. In other words, their initial ascent to power might be followed by a dramatic descent. Such a descent can be better for Egypt but could also provoke a struggle for power that might result in a more aggressive wave of radicalism.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam."Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.









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