By Alya Essam
The power struggle between political Islam and the military state is decades old. The revolution may have changed the terms of engagement but how can the two blocks move to better serve the interests of all Egyptians?
Since the coup d’état of 1952, which institutionalised the rule of the military in the country, the relationship between the junta and political Islam has witnessed dramatic convergences and divergences.
After an initial honeymoon between the Free Officers, who led the coup, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Nasser sensed the threat posed by this widespread religious movement on his nationalist ambitions and started a harsh prosecution campaign against the Brotherhood, both in 1954 and 1965.
Following Nasser’s defeat in 1967, which came months after the execution of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideologue SayyidQutb, wide sectors of Egyptians have found their natural refuge in religion and became broadly sympathetic with political Islam.
During the presidency of Sadat, the Muslim Brotherhood made their first deal with the ruling institution, whereby they were free to operate provided they counteract the leftist rising tides.
They made use of the feelings of goodwill the wider population felt towards them and started growing their popular platform of supporters.
During Mubarak’s era, the regime kept the Brotherhood controlled. Their existence showed western allies that political Islam was present and ready to take over if pro-western military dictatorship was shaken.
As such the brotherhood survived this period based upon their deals with Mubarak, reflected in their role in successive parliaments as an opposing minority of independent candidates.
In the post-revolutionary era, the Muslim Brotherhood has been working hard to fill the vacuum created by the sudden collapse of the National Democratic Party (NDP), and have considerably succeeded in imposing their control over the parliament, the professional syndicates, and lately the Constitutional Drafting Committee and the presidency.
The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) was supported by the Brotherhood in many instances in an outright defiance of the revolutionary demands.
This was evident when the Muslim Brotherhood gathered mass support to channel the SCAF’s constitutional amendments and when their MP’s staunchly condemned the demonstrators of Mohamed Mahmoud Street and the Cabinet.
Taking this into account and in light of the decision by President Morsy to restore the parliament against the will of the generals and the judicial system it becomes clear that Egypt faces another confrontational round between the junta and the largest political Islamist movement in the country.
While the military enjoys the support of the judicial system and of a portion of those identifying with liberalism, the Muslim Brothers possess a popularly elected president, added to the ability to gather people in the streets.
Wars of words have already started in newspapers and TV Channels, with pro-SCAF voices accusing the brotherhood of attempting to Islamise the constitution and the entire country while Islamists hurl accusations of loyalty to the remnants of the ousted NDP and regard the demonstrations in front of the presidential palace as an evil conspiracy being knitted against the presidency.
The true way out of this deadlock lies in the unification of all civil state advocates under a single banner, truly representing the interests of the people and the revolution.
This becomes an urgent demand in light of the unexpected mass support to the revolutionary presidential candidates, which altogether dwarfed the vote for Mohamed Morsy and Ahmed Shafiq.
Mohamed ElBaradei’s founding of Al-Dostour Party is certainly the first step.