Will The Brotherhood Change? The Muslim Brotherhood And How It Adapts To New Situations

08 June 2012

By Osman Mirghani

How one wishes that Dr. Mahmoud Hussein, Secretary General of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, did not issue his recent statement. He said that with the announcement of Dr. Mohammed Mursi's victory in the presidential elections, Mursi had ended his organizational relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party, and that he had already tendered his resignation, presenting it to the Brotherhood and the party immediately after his victory was declared. Statements like these not only seem unconvincing, but they give an excuse to accuse the Brotherhood of continuing its policy of circumvention, or even worse, a policy of ridiculing the people by issuing words that are far from the reality that they see in front of them. I cannot imagine that this statement will convince anyone that with a stroke of a pen, Mursi's relationship with the Brotherhood group and its party has come to an end, especially as Hussein's words originally came while the Brotherhood was mobilizing its supporters and staging protests in Tahrir Square. These moves were intended as a means of pressure and intimidation before and during the announcement of the election results, threatening further confrontations if the Brotherhood's candidate was not announced as the winner, prompting many to wonder what would have happened if Mohammed Mursi had not been declared victorious.

The statement brings to mind what was earlier echoed by the Brotherhood's first candidate, Khairat el-Shater, who was quick to say that he had resigned from his position within the group because he wanted to be a president for all Egyptians and would not follow the will of the General Guide or members of the Brotherhood's political party. It is strange that el-Shater said those words during the same press conference that his candidacy for the presidency was declared, announced by the General Guide who sat next to him, whilst on the other side sat the president of the Freedom and Justice Party, Mohammed Mursi, before he was put forward to run as the Brotherhood's substitute candidate, fearing that appeals would overturn its first choice nomination, which is what exactly happened. That day, el-Shater's words did not seem convincing to the people either, rather they seemed like a blatant attempt at circumvention. This was followed by another attempt when the Brotherhood declared that it would focus entirely on its Dawa work(the Islamic equivalent of a missionary work), and that there would be no organizational links between the group and the Freedom and Justice Party, whilst in reality all the party's officials come from the Brotherhood's leadership. Indeed, it is a tall order to convince anyone with a mere announcement that the Freedom and Justice Party will have no organizational or membership links with the Muslim Brotherhood.

These statements increase rather than dispel people's doubts towards the way the Brotherhood works in the political arena. They suggest that the Brotherhood is practicing hypocrisy in politics, and trying to hide even what cannot be hidden because it is obvious and well known, and because there are many interlaced statements between officials of the group and officials of its party, when it comes to political matters. In recent times it has been difficult to separate between the statements of the Brotherhood's officials and the leaders of the Freedom and Justice Party. Indeed, the media is full of statements in which Brotherhood officials talk about the affairs of the Freedom and Justice Party, sometimes even appearing to be official spokespeople fighting battles on the party's behalf. They do not shy away from politics in spite of the recent talk about dedicating themselves to their Dawa work and leaving politics to the party itself. Take for example the statements of Medhat al-Haddad, a member of the Brotherhood's Shura Council and director of its administrative office in Alexandria, who was quoted in Asharq al-Awsat following the announcement of Mohammed Mursi's victory as saying: "The revolutionary forces will remain in every square to emphasize the popular demand to repeal all decisions issued last week by the sole will of SCAF, most notably the supplementary constitutional declaration, which gives broad powers to the military". Al-Haddad threatened not to leave the squares until Mursi had obtained all his powers as President of the Republic.

This ambiguous situation, which could have been justified when the Muslim Brotherhood was a secret organization, cannot be understood at a time when it has begun to move freely, with representatives of the Brotherhood's party winning the majority in the parliamentary elections, and the head of its party being elected President of the Republic. Trying to deny or cover up the relationship between the two entities with elastic statements only strengthens the lingering doubts and suspicions that many hold against the Brotherhood, and leads to accusations of double standards and a lack of clarity.

If Egypt has changed after the revolution and the elections, then the Muslim Brotherhood also needs to change and end the confusion and ambiguity. It must make up its mind whether it is a Dawa movement dedicated to this role, thereby distancing itself from politics and disputes, or it must tell people clearly that it wants to engage in political work because that is its right, and because it has a program that it wants to implement. In the latter case, the Brotherhood must dissolve and merge with its political party as a single entity working clearly and publicly on one project. In the region today there are many examples of Islamic movements operating as political parties without ambiguity or duplicity, such as the Ennahda movement in Tunisia, the Justice and Development Party of Morocco, or the AKP in Turkey. In these cases, the voter does find themselves confused about who they are dealing with, there is no question about whether they are voting for the candidate they see before them, or a mere proxy for the General Guide, whose name does not appear on the ballot box.

The Muslim Brotherhood will be under the microscope in the coming period because many people want to put its intentions to the test and find out how it will act on several issues, especially the anticipated battle over the constitution, the battle to dissolve parliament, the relationship with the military and its role in the coming period, and the issues of citizenship rights and the rights of women. In addition to all of this there is the economic situation that needs to be rescued quickly because people are waiting for programs to provide them with housing, employment, medical treatment, education and all the necessary services. Egypt has passed the obstacle of the presidential elections and has succeeded in nullifying many of the mines that surround it, but it is still facing many challenges, one of which is the Muslim Brotherhood and how it adapts to new situations and deals with them politically. The question remains as to whether the Brotherhood will change and openly engage in political action as one entity, or will it continue to be ambiguous and hypocritical, and maintain its double-sided policies?



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