CAIRO — Conflicts within the Muslim Brotherhood led Sept. 13 to violent clashes between advocates and opponents of the intellectual revisions carried out by the group in Fayoum prison. Similar clashes had broken out Sept. 2 in the same prison located in the Fayoum governorate, southwest of Cairo.
Before their regime was overthrown on July 3, 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood had their ducks in a perfect row, but the conflict with the Egyptian state seems to have exposed their weakness and brought to the surface internal conflicts plaguing the group.
It all started when on Aug. 1, when Amr Abdel Hafiz, a young member of the Muslim Brotherhood, imprisoned in Fayoum, announced to a number of newspapers that he and other young members of the Brotherhood in that prison called for intellectual and political revisions. In these revisions, members of the Muslim Brotherhood — to reconcile with the state and get out of prison — would admit that they made a mistake adopting extremist religious ideas and opting for erroneous political practices. These calls were supported by several activists in the group such as Hamza Mohsen.
In a press statement in August, Abdel Hafiz revealed that advocates of such revisions in the group had completed a number of booklets containing their final recommendations and the lessons they drew from their mistakes. He said that the booklets would be distributed to all Brotherhood members imprisoned following the riots and violence that occurred after July 3, 2013.
Informed sources from inside Fayoum prison told Shorouk and Ahl Misr newspapers on Sept. 2 and Sept. 13, respectively, that in the background of such calls, internal disputes broke out between advocates of the intellectual revisions in Fayoum prison led by both Abdel Hafiz and Mohsen and a number of Brotherhood members in that prison, headed by Ahmed Abdel Aziz, a Brotherhood leader imprisoned in Fayoum.
The internal disputes remained limited to the Fayoum prison as the revision booklets have yet to be issued or distributed outside of the prison.
The sources told Ahl Misr newspaper, “Abdel Hafiz was attacked by the Muslim Brotherhood in prison, and when he went to the leader in the group, Abdel Aziz, to complain to him, the latter implied that he is to expect such incidents for criticizing the group. Abdel Hafiz subsequently talked to prison officials and submitted a report on the matter, and Abdel Aziz was moved to the discipline section so that he does not incite such incidents. The number of young people who supported these revisions exceeded the dozens who were embracing jihadist and hostile ideas against the Egyptian state, and are now greatly suffering from the group’s harassment.”
Abdel Hafiz told Al-Monitor via Facebook messenger, which he has access to daily for a set number of hours, what was reported by the newspapers about the attack, saying, “The first booklet was written by Mohsen, who described his experience in searching for loopholes in the group. I am currently preparing to write the second booklet to discuss the political positions taken by the group over the past six years.”
He added, “I was attacked because my calls spread among the majority of the Brotherhood's youth who reject the ideology of the group and have to spend years of darkness in prison as a result thereof. The idea of the reviews is to discuss the major questions and issues concerning the political positions and intellectual principles of the group and then bring together all the required sources to discuss and reflect on such issues in small workshops and then larger forums. The most important results of such discussions will subsequently be distributed in booklets to prisoners."
Commenting on the intellectual revisions of the Brotherhood, Atef Mukhalif, a member of the parliament’s Human Rights Committee, told Al-Monitor, “Revisions are rejected altogether, and they are just a trap set by the Brotherhood to return to political action by all possible means as their group fell apart after June 30 and July 3, 2013. They just want to incite [people] against the state again, and the proof is that they do not want to recognize the end of the group and insist on reproducing it through these revisions even though it is a group that does not recognize the state and limits its members’ loyalty to the group, as stated in the writings of Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb.”
Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928. Qutb, one of the group's intellectuals, is considered to be the inspiration a large number of radical, Salafist and jihadist ideas.
Mukhalif added, “The idea of the group contradicts with the constitution, which only recognizes political parties and rejects [religious] groups [that practice politics]. If they want to reconcile with the state, then they have to act as individuals, leave the group and disclose all the information they have about it to the judiciary. If they want to work in politics, let them establish political parties.”
Hamdi Bakhit, a member of the parliamentary National Defense and Security Committee, told Al-Monitor, “Revisions are in theory a good step, but we have to be careful dealing with them. We have several possibilities on the table. This could be a trick on the part of some group members to be included in the presidential amnesty. It could also be a plan to bolster the image of the group and allow it to resume its activity against the civil state. A third possibility suggests that these revisions could be sincere, in which case the state should be supportive.”
In October 2016, Sisi established a committee tasked with reviewing the files of those who were detained during and after the July 3 incidents. So far, the committee has presented to the presidency four lists that include the names of hundreds of detainees, and an amnesty was issued regarding them.
“Therefore, the presidential amnesty committee must be careful in choosing whom to grant amnesty to amid thorough interrogations that confirm that advocates of such revisions do not pose a threat [to Egypt’s security]. Also, these advocates should prove their sincerity by leaving the group and showing a will to respect the Egyptian Constitution and act as individuals or partisan members,” Bakhit added.
Ahmed Ban, an independent researcher specializing in Islamic groups, told Al-Monitor, “The state feels some of these revisions are sincere, which is why it is preparing to hold meetings, seminars and discussions in several prisons, not just in Fayoum prison. I think that these revisions will soon lead to the social reintegration of many elements of the Muslim Brotherhood once they recognize the political process that all political forces have come to recognize after June 30 and July 3, 2013. This means that such elements will have to abide by the constitution, which only recognizes political parties and bans religious groups, and will have to respect all the civil aspects of the state away from any kind of religious discrimination.”
Although many indicators confirm the state's support for such revisions as it facilitates the holding of discussions in prisons, caution is still the name of the game for many politicians and parliamentarians, knowing that for such revisions to be accepted, their authors have to cut off ties with leaders of the group and recognize all the principles of the Egyptian Constitution and political life.
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