CAIRO: The recent war of words between the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Revolutionary Socialists (RS), not only represents an ideological conflict, but also indicates how the political map of Egypt will be shaped in the coming period, analysts say.
MB lawyer Gamal Tag filed earlier this week a complaint to the Prosecutor General against three leaders of RS, including prominent socialist intellectual Sameh Naguib, accusing him of plotting to "demolish the state".
In a video circulated on social networking websites Naguib, speaking in a seminar, said that state institutions should be demolished and rebuilt. The RS, however, claim that the scene in question was taken out of context. The original video was 20 minutes long, while the clip that was publicized by a religious TV channel and the interior ministry lasted only two minutes.
In a press conference last Saturday, the RS clarified that they were referring to the need to demolish the state of oppression and injustice, slamming the smear campaign launched against them.
MB spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said the Brotherhood is not involved with Tag’s complaint, stressing that Tag acted independently.
Observers fear that the complaint is a prelude to a dangerous shift in the MB’s political discourse following their sweeping victory in the first two rounds of parliamentary elections. The believe the MB may become a new National Democratic Party (NDP), which dominated the political scene under ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
Mohamed El-Beltagy, leading member of the MB’s Freedom and Justice Party who is known to be a reformist, slammed Tag’s complaint. He explained that despite his disagreement with RS’ ideology, their historical and shared struggle should be appreciated.
"Ideas should be confronted with other ideas, not through complaints in exceptional courts," El-Beltagy said. "We need real dialogue for the benefit of the country, not accusations and conflicts to destroy it."
The MB and RS were former political allies under the Mubarak regime; the RS defended MB leaders who were tried in military courts such as Khayrat Al-Shater and Essam El-Erian.
"Fear and lack of trust is what controls the MB now; what they want is the stability of the state, in the quickest way possible, with any concessions possible," former Brotherhood member Mohamed Elhamy told DNE.
"The RS represent the opposite of this, and the MB does not want any confrontation with the ruling military council, which will eventually lead to a conflict with radical revolutionary forces like the RS," he added.
Elhamy believes that Tag’s complaint was probably met with approval inside the MB, but the once-banned group had to pressure him to avoid being seen as betraying their former allies.
Political researcher Nabil Abdel Fattah sees that both sides now suffer a state of "arrogance of power".
"The MB won a parliamentary majority and think now they can change the political and constitutional reality in Egypt according to their own political school of thought, while the RS is feeling powerful after they managed to successfully mobilize street action in Tahrir Square and fuel labor strikes for more than 10 months now," Abdel Fattah told DNE.
He believes that such political competition is normal amid attempts by each group to assert political power in the street.
Although the MB stressed that Tag’s complaint does not represent their official stance, the coverage of allegations against Naguin in their Freedom and Justice newspaper showed otherwise.
On the same day the complaint was filed, the FJP’s newspaper Freedom and Justice’s main headline was "Revolutionary Socialists, violence first". Two days later, as Tag withdrew the complaint after what seems to be pressure from the MB, the same newspaper slammed the RS press conference and their criticism of the MB’s stance and Tag’s complaint.
"I was asked by the FJP newspaper to write an article defending the RS stance and to respond to the newspaper’s attack on us," RS leader Kamal Khalil said. "I immediately refused because we have a thousand places where we can reply. If you realized how shameful your stance was, openly criticize yourself in your newspaper."
Many argued that even if Tag’s stance does not represent the MB’s leadership, the media coverage exposes other currents within the group.
"This image of the MB as a strictly strong hierarchical organization that is run with an iron fist that controls everything is simply not true," Elhamy said, describing the performance of MB’s media outlets as not necessarily following the orders of the group’s guidance office.
"The guidance office does not know how every member inside the organization is acting, so you cannot say it directly controls the performance of its media outlets," he added.
Director of Research at Brookings Doha Center Shadi Hamid agrees with Elhamy, citing incidents of MB members going to Tahrir protests that the group had distanced itself from as an example of this unrealistic image.
"We should not take this incident as a serious shift in the MB’s ideology; the fact that the group pressured Tag to withdraw the complaint is good," Hamid said.
"The MB is taking the state’s position because it wants to get more votes. They think the street wants stability and is in favor of the ruling military, so they will try not to identify themselves with those who represent revolutionary ideas," Hamid added.
The MB is a strictly pragmatic organization that is acting according to its political gains where there is no room for the purely moralistic views of the revolutionaries, he explained.
"The Brotherhood is critical of the ruling military, but they always make sure not to be too critical, though," he added.
Elhamy said the group is frightened by the possibility of a repeat of the 1954 scenario, when the military crushed them.
"Two contradictory conspiracy scenarios are currently controlling the MB, a scenario that they will not be allowed to reach power in parliament, and a scenario where they will be embroiled with total powers in such a critical time," he explained.
"Believing these conspiracies causes all this confusion in the performance of the MB."