The Muslim Brotherhood’s new initiative. Many motives; one dead end.

Over the course of a few days, the Muslim Brotherhood has released two very different statements. One is defiant and was issued by their imprisoned leader, ex-president Morsi, who warns that, “Egypt will not recover from its crisis until the coup that removed him from power has been reversed.” Later on Saturday, his supporters, the national pro-legitimacy coalition, issued a very different statement during a press conference, attended by Mohamed Ali Bishr, the leading Brotherhood member, stating that it was ready to seek dialogue to end Egypt’s bloody political crisis, and interestingly, it did not call for the reinstatement of Morsi, although still several other preconditions for the proposed dialogue were set out by the coalition.

Several other initiatives have attempted to bridge the gap with the Muslim Brotherhood. These include those from the EU’s Catherine Ashton, Deputy PM Ziad Bahaa Eddin, Ex-PM Hicham Qandil, Kamal Abul Magd, and even from the radical Gamaa Islamyia group. This Saturday’s initiative, however, was the first time that a call for “national dialogue” has been backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. The contradiction between the two statements, made only days apart, is quite stark and baffling. There are several explanations for the new stance taken by the Brotherhood.

1- External pressure

According to the Egyptian newspaper Ahram, an anonymous Muslim Brotherhood source has revealed that the recent initiative is a result of “external pressure” pushing for integration in the current political scene, which has been exerted on the group. This is a plausible explanation; external supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, like Turkey and Qatar, might finally have started to see the futility of the current tactics, consisting mainly of defiance and protests. The ongoing protests are a costly business; there are unconfirmed reports that the Brotherhood has raised its annual subscriptions for members by 25%. If true, then money is a big problem, and foreign financiers from the International Brotherhood organization have the upper hand in the decision-making. Morsi’s defiant letter, which was perceived by many as detached from reality, might actually reinforce the demands from outside financiers of the need to try a different approach.

2 – Divide opponents

It is important to understand that the Brotherhood’s opponents are not a monolithic group; various groups exhibit a range of antipathies to the Brotherhood. The Salafi Nour Party and Aboul Fetouh’s Strong Party are against the Brotherhood, at least formally, but they have hinted on several occasions that dialogue and reconciliation are the way forward. The obvious reason for the recent initiative is an attempt to win back some of their “soft” opponents. Even if the proposed dialogue fails to materialize, dividing their opponents is a goal in itself, which would be a small victory for the Brotherhood.

3 – Weakened hawkish camp inside the Brotherhood

The second possibility is that reality has finally started to dawn on the hawks of the Brotherhood. The ousting of Morsi has probably widened the gap between the hawkish and the dovish camps inside the Brotherhood. In a recent interview on CBC TV, the Islamist thinker Kamal Abul Magd predicted that the hawks are the reason behind the failure of his mediation efforts between the Brotherhood and the interim government. He hinted that the hawks, mostly in prison, do not want to end their political careers with a compromise. The reappearance of Bishr, who was the negotiator in Abul Magd’s initiative, is a possible indicator that life inside prison has started to mellow their thoughts. It might be that they are beginning to see compromise as a better alternative to total humiliation.

4 – Anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street bloodshed

On 19 November 2011, clashes erupted between protestors, mostly non-Islamist political activists, and riot police. Forty people were killed and over 3,000 injured, with many losing their sight. The infamous street has not just become a symbol of police brutality, but also a symbol of the Brotherhood’s betrayal of non-Islamists in their battle against the police and the ruling military council. It has sown the seeds of division between the two camps and this continued to evolve until it reached a climax on June 30. This year, the Brotherhood has decided to join the commemoration to protest against “the coup.” Winning over other political activists, whom they previously betrayed, by offering “national dialogue that is open to everyone,” seems a smart move.

5 – The next election campaign trail

 With a referendum on the draft constitution possibly in December, and parliamentary elections early next year, the Brotherhood wants to show their core supporters that they are trying to explore every avenue to find a solution to the crisis. Their Saturday statement called for respect for “the will of the Egyptian people through the ballot box.” If that is an indication of their past success through the ballot box, it is also hints of a desire to maintain this success in future contests. Saturday also witnessed a recommendation by the high administrative court commissioners to disband the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which could mean a future ban on formal participation by the group. That could make things tougher for the Muslim Brotherhood. As such, they need to solidify their base to help them run an underground election campaign.

 6 – Trial balloon

Testing both the government’s and also their supporters’ responses is essential for a group that has campaigned for the last three months on a no-compromise policy. The Brotherhood source quoted in the Ahram story expressed fears that dissatisfaction will arise among some of the Brotherhood’s youth, who believe that any attempt to negotiate with the current government is a betrayal of the martyrs’ blood. Testing the support for compromise, and the potential for mutiny within the junior cadre, is very important for the international Brotherhood organization.

In sum, this realm of possibilities reflects how unpredictable the Brotherhood is as a group at the moment, and also how difficult it is for the battered organization to find a way forward in the current hostile climate. It is doubtful that this proposal will stand a better chance than previous mediation efforts. For many of the group opponents, it is simply nonsense. A government minister said on Sunday that the Brotherhood has to recognize the post -June 30 interim road map if it wants reconciliation with the authorities. Moreover, the death of the police officer Mohamad Mabrouk, who was shot dead in Cairo on Sunday, is not a good sign. Mabrouk was in charge of following up on the Muslim Brotherhood in the Interior Ministry’s National Security division. Regardless of who is behind his death, it is a blow to any proposed negotiation.

The Brotherhood has lost many cards, and their ability to influence the political scene has become deeply weakened, and its search for a reasonable exit strategy for the Brotherhood remains an elusive goal.

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
This entry was posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Muslim Brotherhood’s new initiative. Many motives; one dead end.

  1. Sameer Mohsen says:

    I do not understand what do you mean by “an elusive goal”, every respected journalist writing on the Egyptian issue has assured that the only solution for such deadlock is to negotiate with MB. I think sooner or later the government will approach them with some compromise from both sides. The main problem comes after negotiation is the absence of trust between both parties. I do not know how can they work together in the future, sure they have to work together, but How!!!!!!


    • nervana111 says:

      Well, every respected journalist writing about Israel/Palestine has assured that the only solution is to negotiate. 60 years on, and negotiation failed. Just ask yourself, why the military will negotiate with a group now? What is the incentive? The group leaders are either in prison, or hiding. The Junior cadres have no cohesive plan, and the International organisation wasted so much money, and It did not achieve much.


      • Sameer Mohsen says:

        They have to negotiate!!!!!!!! The situation is totally different from the Israel/Palestinian issue, however if you read the recent comments on the Arab Israel conflict, everyone is assuring that without negotiation Israel will be an apartheid state. This means that it will be out of democratic nations and it will loose gradually the Western support so they have to negotiate to avoid such end.

        Regarding the MB issue, in an endless deteriorating economy and skyrocketing unemployment rates feeding the streets with more angry people as well as sympathizers leading to devastating conditions. Dr. El Baradie was clear about this and many other respected figures assured that without negotiation everyone is loosing and I believe that bone-headed minds on both sides will be kicked out when everyone sees the end.

        Regarding the incentive, as I mentioned the country cannot continue in this direction forever, yes people on one side are saying that now Most MB behind bars and they do not pose any threat but the people in the streets are also angry protesters and their numbers may increase with time. You have almost 50% of the population in their twenties and 25% of those people are unemployed what will they do they will protest.

        Regarding that the leaders are behind bars, they can negotiate also in their cells and you know that the Kurdish leader Abdulla Ogelan is negotiating all the time with the government and he is also behind bars and this is only one example.

        I respect your analysis but you only looked at the issue from single perspective. Of course we all hope that the country moves one but without understanding the situation and the necessity of negotiation we will only postpone the current situation and we will definitely start negotiation later.

        Thank you for your reply. I wish to you all the success in your future writing and I wish to see such good dialogues.


  2. Amr says:

    Thank you Nervana for your good thoughts
    Any Egyptian govemrmt who would start negotiation for including MB in any part of political process and/or gov no matter his good intentions,would probably be toppled by the same people who ousted MB on June30 revolution
    The vile Murder of Police Colonel Mabrouk just put the last nail in MB coffin
    Too bad for MB,had they accepted people’s will junior member with no blood on their hands could have joined political life,it’s now lost not only political but integration in Egyptian society
    More bloodshed from MB or their satellites will further antagonize this, but in all events point of no return in my opinion has been reached and as Nervana said,Qatar ATM machine and others will soon end


  3. nervana111 says:

    To Sameer Mohsen:
    Thank you so much for your civilised discussion. I truly appreciate your comments.
    Just want to clarify few points: First, what I wrote is not my personal view, but my reading of the current state of affairs. I cannot see a genuine desire for a dialogue, whether this right or wrong is a different matter altogether. In politics, it is not what right that is usually happen, but how the balance of power dictate. Thus far, in my opinion, the interim leadership view the Brotherhood as an enemy that must be subdued completely. This may change in the future, but may not. The kurdish example you mentioned is good, but ask yourself, how many years it took the Turkish authorities to understand that it has to negotiate with the Kurds?

    Thank you gain.



  4. George Jankauskas says:

    unfortunately there is no talking and will not be any for a long unforeseeable time in future in last 48 hours 11 soldiers and 2 Senior police officers killed by terrorists and the children at the university acting up until they can shut down schools again same as last round….. all this is part of the plan someone has drawn up same as conflicting statements Morsi says resist and 48 hours later we want to have dialogue ya right this all part of the old Ikhwan trick that’s been played from Nasser’s days say two things so your covered either way when things go right or wrong yet continue to push for what the group wants This the biggest question and all I can see as a Hawaga Muslum is what the Ikhwan are doing in Syria Libya and in Gaza and I see death as Abu Ismail Hazam said on a Friday in a Mosque only 9 months ago lets create 10s of thousand of Egyptian martyrs to get what we want in our life time and this the game they play now and at present use the outside groups so they can do the old Arab shuffle its not me its the same game they play about who flew the airplanes into the towers we all know But the lies keep people happy and ignorant. anyways remember THIS IS IMPORTANT PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING
    I cannot find words better than Egyptian Islamic theorist Sayed Qutb’s to explain what I mean about things falling in order. Sayed Qutb says: “Our mission is not to reconcile with this pre-Islamic society or to show it loyalty for its pre-Islamic/ignorant traits that make it invalid for reconciliation. The first step on our path is to rise above this pre-Islamic society; its values and conceptions and to not alter our own values and conceptions, not even a little to meet that society half-way. For we are both at a fork path and if we take their path we lose our entire system and path. It is high time that every Muslim provide his head as a price for the announcement of the Islamic movement and unauthorized planning to build the Islamic regime, by whatever means necessary”.


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