Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is slowly recovering after the political crackdown and is about to rise again under a young new leadership. The Brotherhood’s former President, Mohammed Mursi, was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges in connection of the killing of protesters during demonstrations in 2012. Alongside Mursi, another twelve Brotherhood leaders were sentenced and still hundreds of its members are jailed.
Amr Darrag, the co-founder of the dissolved Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Brotherhood, said in a media interview that the movement was about more than one man and had become more revolutionary under a new generation. According to Darrag, the ruling against Mursi was meant to test world reaction. If the International Community fails to object to such rulings, one can expect that harsher penalties will follow.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt’s oldest and best organized political movement. It has seen hundreds of its members killed or detained since then-army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi overthrew Mursi in July 2013. The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist movement and Al-Sisi proceeded to crush the movement, which he says is an existential threat to the Arab and Western world. Qatar and Turkey were the only regional countries to back the Brotherhood after the Egyptian army had overthrown Mursi but Qatar has been under pressure from Gulf Arab states which consider the Brotherhood as a threat to their monarchies. Despite the portrayal of the coup in Egypt as struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army respectively liberals the Brotherhood, Darrag claims that it is a struggle between democracy and civil state against the military and deep state. Thus he is convinced that the Muslim Brotherhood, which is deeply rooted in Egyptian society and purportedly independent from foreign financing, will manage to come back.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood is rejected as fanatical organization by the majority of the Muslims, it has enjoyed support from the United States and Great Britain for many years. Both countries regard the Brotherhood as moderate Muslim group and platform for promoting democracy.
The two central reasons why the Muslim Brotherhood receives their implicit protection are money and political influence in the Middle East and North Africa.
- Business and politics are inextricably connected. Qatar is among the wealthiest states and not only funds different political factions in the MENA like the Muslim Brotherhood but is also an important investor in the USA and the UK.
- The USA and the UK both want to regain a stronger role in the region and regard the Muslim Brotherhood as reasonable partner on the ground as well as back home. Thereby, they fail to notice that the Brotherhood is not a pro-democracy group but only uses democracy to gain power. When the Muslim Brotherhood was in power in Egypt and tried to enforce the Islamization of the country, its President, Morsi, was overthrown due to massive public rejection. It then portrayed the incident as military coup d’état.
Summing up, it can be said that the Muslim Brotherhood is an extreme rightwing organization that aims at forcing hundreds of millions of Muslims to accept their ideology. Despite their denial, the USA and the UK back the Brotherhood and thereby will also be rejected by those people whom they actually try to influence. Hence, Western cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood can be regarded as counterproductive.
Saudi Arabia’s Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthis in Yemen was a reaction to the risk that the Houthis would gain control of the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait and thereby threaten shipping in Egypt and the Gulf. High ranked members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood condemned the removal of the Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi by the Houthis and the Brotherhood’s political arm in Yemen even welcomed the military intervention. At the same time, the Egyptian Brotherhood opposed Egypt’s participation in the mission reasoning that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi came to power through a coup just like the Houthis. Rassd, a pro-Brotherhood news site, published a statement from the international Muslim Brotherhood that generally condemned what it called “regional support for coups” (which is a reference to the Gulf regimes’ support for the coup in Egypt and Iran’s support for the Houthi coup in Yemen).
According to experts, there might be confusion between the branches of the Brotherhood, given the Egyptian branch’s rejection of Egypt’s participation and the Yemeni branch’s support. Brotherhood supporters are taking to the streets to denounce the operation for which reason Brotherhood leaders in Egypt are incapable of connecting with their bases who definitely reject any measure taken by the current Egyptian authorities under Al-Sisi.
Egypt’s Shiites have neither clearly opposed the military operation nor explicitly criticized the Egyptian regime. Sufi leader Ala Abu al-Azaim said that the operation is not a conflict between Sunnis and Shiites but part of an effort to combat terrorism. Operation Decisive Storm is the first incident on which the positions of the Brotherhood, the Salafist Call, the Sufis, Gamaa Islamiya and Al-Azhar have all largely converged. Nonetheless, each group supports the operation based on their own calculations.