New Brotherhood Supreme Guide Linked to "Radical Qutb Current"

Following the arrest of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, veteran leader Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat was selected to temporarily lead the group.

al-monitor Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat, seen here on May 30, 2010, has taken over leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He is known as the Brotherhood fox. Photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.

Topics covered

muslim, leadership, egypt

Aug 21, 2013

The Muslim Brotherhood is now under the leadership of a deputy supreme guide, Mahmoud Ezzat, following the arrest of Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie at dawn on Aug. 20, 2013. Ezzat is the third deputy of the Brotherhood's supreme guide, and will take over leadership in accordance with the organization's regulations, following the arrest of the first deputy guide, Khairat al-Shater, and the second deputy, Rashad al-Bayoumi.

Confusion emerged among the ranks of the Brotherhood regarding Ezzat's step to temporarily assume the position of supreme guide. After the Brotherhood announced — via the website of its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) — that "Dr. Ezzat has assumed the position of interim supreme guide" following the arrest of Badie, it then issued a statement on the FJP's official Facebook page saying: "The Brotherhood did not issue any statement following Badie's arrest, and there is no truth to recent reports of a so-called interim guide." At the same time, the FJP website announced the news that Ezzat was selected [as interim supreme guide].

During a media conference held yesterday, Khalid Hanafi, a Brotherhood leader and the FJP's secretary in Cairo, said, "I can neither deny nor confirm the news that Dr. Ezzat was selected as supreme guide." This indicates that there are internal differences within the group regarding this matter, or at least that this is a tactic aimed at avoiding any divisions that may arise following Ezzat's selection. The latter is known as a hard-liner.

According to Brotherhood regulations, in the event that the supreme guide is out of the county, or cannot fulfill his duties because of illness or an emergency, his first deputy shall take his place in all its powers. Furthermore, in the event that there are factors preventing the supreme guide from fulfilling his duties, his first deputy takes his place, then the oldest of the remaining deputies, then the oldest member of the guidance office.

It is believed that this confusion is caused by the fact that Ezzat likely left Egypt following the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi. This was reported by Egyptian media sources, but could not be verified. Kamal Helbawy, a former Brotherhood leader, told Al-Hayat, "The history of the group has always been characterized by this kind of ambiguity, especially in times of major crises, like that experienced by the group now."

Helbawy pointed out that "according to Brotherhood regulations, if the supreme guide's movement is restricted or faces anything that prevents him from working, someone must take his place, usually a deputy. Thus, Ezzat took leadership [of the group]." He added, "Similar things have happened throughout the Brotherhood's history. Even before Umar al-Tilmisani was chosen as supreme guide following the death of the group's second supreme guide, Hassan al-Hudaybi, there was a secret supreme guide who took command before Tilmisani was chosen. This supreme guide was chosen by the people in secret, because the majority of the group’s leaders were in prison and never appeared publicly."

Helbawy said, "Ezzat is a well-mannered, decent man; he is not a great public speaker and prefers to work in secret more than in public. … Given these characteristics, I don't think that he is a suitable leader for the Muslim Brotherhood at this stage." He explained that Ezzat is affiliated with the "radical Qutb current" within the group, in reference to adherents of Sayyid Qutb, who was jailed alongside Ezzat in 1965.

Ezzat is one of the Brotherhood's most mysterious leaders, and prefers not to appear in public like most of the group's "Qutbist" leaders, such as the group's eighth supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, and Khairat al-Shater. Ezzat only rarely appeared in press conferences next to Badie, giving the impression that he is a “man of the shadows.”

Ezzat, 69, is wanted in connection to the killing of demonstrators in front of the Brotherhood's Guidance Office during the June 30 demonstrations, which led to the overthrow of President [Mohammed] Morsi. Ezzat is a member of the Brotherhood's Guidance Office and a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Zagazig University. He also received a diploma from the Institute of Islamic Studies in 1998.

Ezzat joined the Brotherhood at an early age, when he was still in his teens and was a student at the Faculty of Medicine at Zagazig University. He was arrested several times, first in 1965, and spent 10 years in prison. While in prison, he became a pupil of Shukri Mustafa, himself a pupil of Sayyid Qutb. Furthermore, he was imprisoned in connection with the well-known Salsabil case in the 1990s.

In 1981, at the age of 53, Ezzat was named a member of the Brotherhood's Guidance Office. Helbawy said that Ezzat maintains strong relations with the international Brotherhood leaders, and is very interested in the idea of "[the Brotherhood's] organization and interconnectedness." Helbawy also pointed out that Ezzat's role in the group is "primarily related to organization." Given his slender frame, sunken eyes and sharp features, Ezzat became known as the "Brotherhood fox." He is known to have a role is silencing reformist and moderate voices within the group during the elections held for members of the Brotherhood’s Shura Council and Guidance Office at the end of the last decade.

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