by Ayman Ahmed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 8, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1434)
Despite the military’s brutal crackdown, the Ikhwan al-Muslimoon are not down and out. They are able to mobilize the street power to pose a continuous challenge to the military-backed regime and the illegal coup.
Despite killing thousands of its supporters, the Egyptian military has not been able to crush al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Muslim Brotherhood). Anti-coup rallies continue to be held in Cairo and most major cities in Egypt. The military-backed regime has also arrested all the top leadership of the Ikhwan — some on such ludicrous charges that they would be laughable if it were not for their deadly consequences — as well as thousands of its supporters. The Ikhwan leaders’ bank accounts have also been frozen to cripple them financially. Admittedly, the Ikhwan have suffered major blows but they continue to show resilience in the face of immense brutality.
At the same time, the regime is trying to prop up the salafist Nour Party that is backed and financed by the Saudi regime, as an alternative to the Ikhwan. Prior to elections, the salafis were opposed to establishing a political party and eschewed any desire to participate in elections calling them un-Islamic. They ran their Saudi-financed television channels talking about such pet subjects as taharah, najasah and the importance of niqab. Length of beards and how high the dress should be above one’s ankles were other favorite themes. The salafis also shunned anti-Mubarak rallies, leaving the heavy lifting to others.
Once the long entrenched dictator Hosni Mubarak was gone and elections were announced, the salafis immediately jumped into the fray. This cannot be held against them; they are entitled to change their mind but the opportunism they have displayed following the ouster of Mohamed Mursi as president is revealing. The Nour Party is trying, with help from the regime and the Saudis, to replace the Muslim Brotherhood as the Islamic voice. Their conflicting position about participation in negotiations among political forces as part of the process to establish new constitutional mechanisms reveals their true intentions. They want to secure a niche for themselves in the political process — nothing wrong with that either — but this is being done at the expense of the Ikhwan with whom they were allied.
In parliamentary elections last year, the Nour Party emerged with the second highest number of seats in parliament after the Ikhwan-backed Freedom and Justice Party. Does it support the military roadmap for Egypt’s future? It depends on the day of the week. Sometimes they claim they support it and on others, they reject it, but their moves indicate that they will participate in the 50-member committee instituted under military supervision to prepare a new constitution and, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, will form electoral alliances and participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Observers on the ground, however, do not see the Nour Party as the sole representative of the Islamic movement even if the Ikhwan have been severely damaged and are unable to participate in the political process. Mohammad al-Saghir, a member of the higher committee of the Gamaa al-Islamiya’s Building and Development Party, which is part of the National Alliance for Supporting Legitimacy, questions the Nour Party’s claims. He attributes its visibility to the fact that it is the only Islamic party that agreed to join those who conducted the coup. Al-Saghir insists that the Nour Party represents only itself and not the entire Islamic movement in the 50-member committee.
“If small Islamist parties are allowed to participate in politics in Egypt in the next phase, there will be no alliances with the Nour Party, which is not expected to win a parliamentary majority nor remain at the forefront of the political scene as a substitute for the Brotherhood. After it allied with secular parties and supported the military coup against President Morsi, Nour has lost its support base, which is concentrated in the Alexandria governorate, as evidenced by the fact that the largest demonstrations against the coup happened on Alexandria’s corniche,” according to al-Saghir who was quoted by Walaa Hussein writing for Al Monitor, a web magazine that specializes in Muslim East affairs (Al Monitor, September 17, 2013).
It is clear that the military is using the Nour Party to undermine the Ikhwan. At the same time, the fact that the Saudis financed the military coup, it is the military’s way of saying thank you to the Saudis. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has heaped voluminous praise on the Saudis in terms that appear close to groveling. It is not surprising; the Saudis not only helped engineer the coup but are also underwriting Egypt’s economy that faces severe problems. If the turmoil continues — and there is little likelihood that it would end any time soon — Egypt would need sustained infusion of foreign aid. Tourism, the mainstay of its economy, has been badly affected. Industrial production is also down. While there is little prospect of the US terminating its $1.3 billion annual subsidy because it is disbursed to keep Egypt out of conflict with Zionist Israel, Egypt cannot sustain itself. America’s bakhsheesh is a small price to pay for neutering the most important Arab country in the Muslim East.
The manner in which the Nour Party has sold itself has led to strong criticism from its former Islamic allies but the secular parties do not trust it either. There is, thus high probability that it may end up losing on both sides despite the money their Saudi patrons throw at them. This is compounded by the fact that a strong current has emerged in Northern Sinai where groups opposed to the military regime are waging a battle against it. There have been a series of attacks on the military and a number of soldiers have been killed.
Interestingly, the Sinai Peninsula was demilitarized under the Camp David Accords of 1978 and the shameless Egyptian rulers — Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak — as well as the pleasure loving military officers were quite happy to accept such humiliation. It is the Israelis that have now allowed the Egyptian military into the Sinai Peninsula to deal with the threat. A group calling itself Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for several recent bombings in Sinai. Faced with such a crisis, the Egyptian military will not find it easy going forward.
Unable to address the multiple crises and explain its total subservience to the Saudi-Zionist alliance, the military has embarked on crude propaganda. Al-Sisi is presented as the “savior” of Egypt. His photographs adorn almost every street corner in Cairo and other major cities. He is projected as the man who singlehandedly thwarted an American plot to take over Egypt. State-controlled television and even privately-owned TV stations that clearly want to curry favor with the new rulers spin fantastic tales of how the Egyptian military thwarted an American-Israeli-al-Qaeda plot to take over Egypt!
In one of his posts (September 2), the Egyptian academic, Khalid Abu al-Fadl, Professor of Law and Chair of Islamic Studies Inter-Departmental Program at UCLA, wrote about the bizarre theories circulating in the Egyptian media. “If you watch any of the government-owned news channels, or even most of the privately owned ones, you will find displayed prominently on the screen, ‘Egypt is at War with Terrorism!’ This is a summation and justification for all of the human rights abuses taking place in Egypt. However, this war on terrorism is rather unique because according to the Egyptian media, the terrorists in this war are supported by the United States and Israel.”
Anyone with even limited knowledge of the reality of Egypt would know that such fairy tales are the product of fertile imaginations. The Egyptian military is fully backed, financed and supported by the US. General al-Sisi was in touch with the Israelis before he carried out his coup. Appearing on Israeli TV channel 2 on July 14, Israeli military analyst Roni Daniel revealed that al-Sisi had informed Israel of his efforts to remove President Mursi three days before the coup.
People with even limited knowledge of the reality in the Muslim East would know that the Zionists were lobbying the US not to cut off aid to Egypt. There was no risk of that but the manner in which the Egyptian military and its media puppets are presenting news, it would suggest as if the US and Israel are opposed to it.
Such fantastic lies are needed because the military needs to build its image as the “sole defenders of Egypt” when the reality is that it is dominated by parasites that have long abandoned their avowed profession of defending the state’s borders. Instead, they have joined the enemy and are totally dependent on it for survival. The co-operation between the Egyptian and Israeli militaries in Sinai is proof, if proof indeed were needed, of this dependency relationship.
At a time when Egypt’s prisons are overflowing with political detainees and the security forces have been given a free hand to torture and kill anyone considered a threat to military rule, such propaganda is needed to camouflage the military’s ugly face and real intentions. But how long will this charade last? Reality will catch up and when people wake up, their reaction will be strong and effective.
The only solution to Egypt’s problems is to defeat the military in the streets of Cairo. Nothing less would do. Further, the top echelon of the military should be put on trial for war crimes and those found guilty publicly hanged to serve as an example to other coup-makers.
It is time some general dangled at the end of a rope. Enough hanging of politicians!