Indeed it is time for a political divorce; this time it should be a divorce between semi-secular opposition groups and the Muslim Brotherhood. On the April 6 nationwide strike, the Muslim Brotherhood stepped back from participation, claiming that it didn t know the movement’s goal and who was behind it.
The Muslim brothers would not be responsible for its failure, because it was not part of its organization, Dr Mahmoud Ezzat, the group’s general secretary, said one day before the strike. I don t know what information was available for the Muslim Brotherhood at this moment that enabled Dr Ezzat to predicate its failure.
Nevertheless, the Brotherhood has proved, once again, that its political calculations are utterly limited to the interests of the group. It is, theoretically speaking, a part of the opposition, because it has to be a part of something, but the hearts and minds of its members never belong to the opposition movement. This is what fragments the opposition bloc. Not surprisingly, some opposition parties find the regime more reliable and a better ally than the Brotherhood.
In an article published a day before the municipal elections, Dr Essam El-Erian, an eminent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the regime for its exclusionary character. However, it is striking that Dr El-Erian used two different categories to refer to the victims of such political exclusion: the opposition and the Muslim Brotherhood. This means that the group doesn’t consider itself as part of the opposition movement. Rather, it has its own political identity, struggle and goals.
On the day following the national strike, the Muslim Brotherhood called for the boycott of municipal elections. How contradictory were its positions? While it refused to take part in the strike on the basis that it was not a part of its preparatory process, the group decided on the following day to boycott the local elections, also without deliberations with other political factions.
During the 2005 parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood s candidates competed against some opposition figures, and intentionally led to their failure. When asked, the answer was ready; “opposition parties had not coordinated with us. It is not true, such coordination took place, but the Brotherhood refused to give up some seats to opposition parties.
Most of the demonstrations organized by the Kefaya Movement for Change were ignored by Brotherhood members, who always choose to act independently, holding their demonstrations for the sake of their outlawed organization, and chanting alone their own Islamic slogans.
Although we always criticize the political opportunism of the Muslim Brotherhood, the problem remains with the semi-secular opposition groups.
They are weak and lethargic unlike the Brotherhood that seeks every way to influence the grassroots and attract more followers.
In every social stratum there are proponents of Muslim Brotherhood. It’s amazing how such an organization brings the poor and the rich together, and reconciles between the working class and the bourgeoisie. I do believe that this aggregation of support has not been studied yet. Definitely there are conflicting interests among Brotherhood members themselves, but they are still undercurrent.
The conclusion is that the Muslim Brotherhood is stronger than all semi-secular opposition groups. It is natural then – politically speaking – that the Muslim Brotherhood expects others to follow it unconditionally.
The problem is that opposition groups are feeble, while the Muslim Brotherhood is influential. Hence, the opposition always knocks at Muslim Brotherhood s door, tilting towards Islamic rhetoric, and waiting for a deal.
This makes semi-secular opposition groups even weaker, and helps the Muslim Brotherhood to artificially appear stronger.
I don t blame the Muslim Brotherhood for its political attitude. I asked one of its leaders, “why do political parties accuse the group of not coordinating with them? He said Because they think that we are only a source of protestors. They [opposition groups] want us to be the fuel of demonstrations while keeping their leading position. They are not ‘brains’ and we are not ‘muscles.’
This answer, for me, is enough. The Brotherhood wants to be the head of the political movement because it has enough muscles, and it knows how and when it can flex its muscles.
Opposition parties have to get out of this track. The lesson drawn from the experience of the street-level civic protest since 2004 is that Egyptians still wait for a political choice that reconciles freedom with roots. They can align themselves with any political group, regardless of its ideological line if it dedicatedly struggles for such a reconciliation. For this reason, as we acknowledge the right of the Muslim Brotherhood to function as any other political organization, it is time for opposition groups to act as independent political engines, calling for democracy and economic progress. If this political divorce happens, Egyptian political life will flourish and people can make real choices.
Sameh Fawzy is an Egyptian journalist, PhD researcher, and specialist on governance and citizenship.