The Brotherhood’s Fall and What It Means for Political Islam

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Article Summary
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt fell from power because it tried to impose its philosophy on the masses and shied away from a national dialogue.

The defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood on June 30 was not only limited to politics — it extended to become an ideological, social, moral and structural downfall. Furthermore, it was not only related to Egypt, because the country was transformed on that day into a vicarious battlefield between many parties. The hero of that epic, however, was without a shadow of a doubt the new masses. The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood was accompanied by the fall of Islamism, as the movement went from empowerment and Brotherhoodization to bewilderment and exclusion, and from aspirations of power to the labyrinth of decay.

The Muslim Brotherhood: numerical and male predominance

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt did not fall due to the livelihood crisis and the failure to overcome hardships in the aftermath of the January 25 revolution, which left the people with high spirits and aspirations. The fall came as a result of the inability of the Muslim Brotherhood to establish a societal rhetoric capable of making the masses stand by them while enduring the crisis and its inconveniences. The rhetoric of the Islamists was based on numerical majority and misconceptions about themselves and society. They saw in themselves a numerical and male predominance, with all its masculine power. The Islamic movement did not expect to collapse due to a group of people who took to the streets, baffled the organization and did not shy away from adopting violence in response to violence. The Islamic movement believed that it is was the fiercest party and the one with an ideology most inclined to fighting. It slipped their minds that the masses did not fear the hordes of central security forces or their armored vehicles, and that these masses did not abstain from confronting the army with all its heavy arms, despite the fact that the army is socially rooted in the power structure.

The visions of the Muslim Brotherhood would have proven right if we were talking about Egypt prior to the revolution and not about a new society. The active institutions of the old society were based on the old power structure that was represented by the interests of the ruling party, which was an extension of socialism following significant structural changes — the army, the security and intelligence agencies, the religious authorities represented by the Coptic Church and Al-Azhar mosque, and Islamism with all its electoral, educational and preaching forms. In general, the revolution has brought about a radical change: the presence of actors from outside these institutions and the collapse of representation and deputyship.

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Neglecting new values

The predominant feature of a society whose youth is aspiring to freedom — along with direct political, social and cultural representation that passes over the old political scene framed within the parliament and parties — is the abundance of new values and the propagation of these values within the social fabrics, without any need to be expressed through an institution.

Values and ideas directly took the place of the “institution.” while networks and new forms took the place of the “structure” and “organization.” In all cases, the rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood, when it came to cognitive vision and political practices, was a far cry from these new concepts. Instead of going along with the aspirations of the revolution — containing and adhering to it — the organization tried by all means to break its will and discredit its supporters. The rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood can be summed up as follows: “die with resentment; we are the best structured and the most capable of taking power."

Indeed, the Muslim brotherhood clung heavily to the old society, in which it has represented for decades one of the two components, the regime being the other. The regime played a rope-pulling game with the Muslim Brotherhood, shifting between oppression, containment and sweet talk. The rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood revolved around inflicting fear of the halt of production, creating a security scarecrow, and identifying with, being submissive to and continuously flattering security institutions such as the army and police. This was clearly shown in the speech delivered by former President Mohammed Morsi on June 30 before the minister of interior, the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces and the Muslim masses.

They have lost everyone …

The Muslim Brotherhood has entered a war with both the new and old society. A sectarian inclination — along with resorting to Islamic extremist groups to support the rule and creating a ruling coalition against the opposition’s liberals, leftists and revolutionaries — has led the organization to completely lose the support of the church. In fact, the cathedral was subject to many unprecedented incidents during the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, notably when tear gas was fired on its premises. Shortly afterward, the organization and its allies entered a war with al-Azhar and attacked the Grand Imam in many forms. They even tried to isolate him by taking advantage of the issue of food poisoning in Al-Azhar University. It is important to note that there is an ideological rivalry between Al-Azhar and the different Salafi groups, which emanates from a deep-rooted conflict between Ash’arism, Sufism and Salafism.

From day one, it was clear that Morsi was not able to tighten his grip on the Ministry of Interior and the intelligence agencies. The division between the presidency and the ministry became stark during the incident at the Heliopolis Presidential Palace, when the Ministry of the Interior refused to quell the protests without a written order. Moreover, Muslim Brotherhood leaders engaged in verbal conflicts with the intelligence agency. On the level of daily interaction with components of the societal fabric, the residents of many areas have recounted various incidents about the insolent behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood, which comes in tandem with a failure to meet daily needs and provide services — such as electricity, food products and addressing price inflation — and with a frustration about ever achieving broader societal unity. Therefore, the final scene unfolded: people in the squares surrounded by police forces (the enemy of yesterday and the reluctant ally of today) and the judiciary system, the people who stayed in place and refused to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to remain in power and who engaged in a fierce war of positions with them. In the end, the army, the church, Al-Azhar and the opposition stood in a panoramic scene, announcing the deposition of Morsi.

Failure to create a larger narrative

This fall represented the failure of Islamism to create a narrative that extends far from its supporters, and this is an ideological defeat. After decades of delusions about implementing Sharia law and promises of an Islamic state, in addition to dreams of good governance, the organization was boiled down to a neoliberal/security organization whose political fantasy did not exceed implementing Sharia law, closing the door in the face of everything that is not Islamic and prohibiting bank interests.

This wave will reach the same Islamic movement when it acknowledges its defeat and starts to reflect on it. Dwelling on the defeat will, first, produce a jihadist and Takfiri inclination and, second, create a feeling of disorder and distrust in the system of values and will perhaps usher in the emergence of new Islamic phenomena. Third, the decrease in popularity will be tangible, whether on the level of daily interaction or elections and political work. Fourth, it will be made clear that the American project has fallen victim to bafflement after it aspired to create two capitalist, moderate Islamic poles in the region — the first in Turkey and the second in Egypt — in order to guarantee the stability of the market and the security of Israel and to face the Iranian pole, or at least placate its zest. This was also aimed at controlling the extreme Islamic groups and integrating them into a democratic political process within their respective countries, in an attempt to deter their immigration, or what is known as “exporting terrorism.”

The moral problem

Yet there is a problem on the societal level that is a lot more dangerous than what has been mentioned before. The Muslim Brotherhood refused to peacefully acknowledge their defeat; they instead shed the blood of people, attacked protests and neighborhoods, and tried to occupy by force. For example, they tried to storm into the squares of Abdul Moneim and Sidi Jaber in Alexandria, where they threw young men off the rooftops of buildings, killed members of the army and attacked its headquarters in the Sinai and Matruh.

The Islamists waged a war and the army did not abstain from restlessly shedding their blood. The problem is that the war does not differentiate between the dead, but, on the level of memories and sadness, the winner is the one who makes the real difference. Therefore, many went on cursing the Islamic leadership for leading the people onto that slope. They revealed their secrets, which opened the door for the army to kill them and for the “state” to return to the square along with the security rhetoric. In Alexandria and its surroundings, where violence has become a normal occurrence, the strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood can be divided into two categories. The first strategy is inflicting fear onto the masses and creating a state of hatred that works to its favor, in a way that allows revenge under the pretext that people are traitors, seculars, atheists or army supporters. The second is horrific: if the people cannot afford human losses, the organization can. The martyrs of the Muslim Brotherhood have become the fuel that flares up their revolution and causes the rhetoric of persecution to become deeply rooted in order to support their killing capacity and bolster their capability to continue the battle through psychological and ideological catalysts.

A dangerous strategy

This strategy faces two problems: the first is that the people have witnessed the brutality of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the second is the high toll of martyrs and wounded among the residents, which has made them lose their sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood and created an urge on their part to inflict maximum losses on them. On July 7, a very dangerous banner that was hung in Sidi Jaber read: “Whoever sees a Muslim Brotherhood member shall kill him and shall be rewarded.” When some revolutionaries discussed this banner with the residents, saying that it is dangerous and that it incites killing, the residents almost killed them. On that day, the residents of Al-Hadra in Alexandria started attacking Muslim Brotherhood protesters and forcing them to leave, as did the residents of Bulaq in Cairo.

The residents are leveling a revengeful rhetoric against the Muslim Brotherhood and vice versa. The engagement of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists in a civil war — as the testimonies of many residents note and as facts reveal — will cause the organization to lose the sympathy they hoped for. This was shown by the popular reaction following the army storming into the square and killing around 50 Islamist members. The only danger that emanates from this situation is that the army walked out victorious on the military, political and societal level.

The above article was translated from As-Safir al-Arabi, a special supplement of As-Safir newspaper whose content is provided through a joint venture of As-Safir and Al-Monitor.

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