It is important to note here that one of the most eloquent spokesmen of the Brotherhood, Sheikh Safwat Hijazi, appeared on the 1st of May this year, and gave a speech that was broadcast live for thousands of people to see, as part of the Brotherhood’s preparations for the elections. In his fiery discourse Hijazi announced that the goal of the Brotherhood is the unity of all the Arab states into one giant Islamic Caliphate, under Morsi’s flag, whose capital will be “not Mecca and not Medina but al-Quds [Jerusalem].” His words reflect very well the goal of the movement – to erase the heritage of colonialism, principally the borders marked by colonialist interests, which damaged both the Arab world and Islam; the elimination of Israel; and imposition of Islam on Judaism. It might be that this referred to a far-off hope and not immediate plans, but the cheers of support from the throats of the masses who crowded into the street expressed the collective energy behind the idea, just waiting for the suitable moment to turn it into reality. Besides this, we must take very seriously the hopes of others, because the state of Israel is exactly the realization of hopes (“If you will it, it is not a legend”), and our enemies learn from us how to realize hopes as well.
With their victory in the Egyptian presidential election last week, they have conquered another position on their way to the realization of their Islamic program, and the question of how they will procede disturbs the sleep of many in Israel and in the world.
The Challenges Confronting the Brotherhood
Part of the problem is the fact that the organization is not monolithic, rather there are various differing trends, whether because of cultural or personal factors. There are many among them whose culture is similar to that of the Salafi movement, while other, more modern members seek partnership especially among the secular, modern groups. Most of the adults in the movement see the situation with the moderate eyes of an adult who has accumulated experience and know that life is complex, while young people conduct themselves like youth and see the world in black and white. The raison d’etre of the Muslim Brotherhood was to challenge the state’s authority, and this has shaped its character accordingly. Thus, it is not spared the crisis of leadership and the crisis between the generations that exists in most of the Arab societies.
Therefore, the main challenge that confronts the Brotherhood is to translate their political-religious hopes into a practical program, both in the internal Egyptian arena, as well as in the foreign arena: the Arab, Islamic and global.
The Internal Arena
The principal controversy that occupied the organization during the past year, especially in the period after the parliamentary elections, was whether to field a candidate for the presidency or not. During 2011, those who opposed fielding a candidate overcame their opposition, and they even eliminated Dr. Abdul-Manam abu al-Fatouh, who dared to defy the decision and fielded himself as a candidate for the presidency as an independent. After the victory in the parliamentary elections, the voices of those in favor of fielding a candidate increased because they were encouraged by the results, but the movement lost much of its following because of their inconsistency on this issue. The movement fielded two people, Khairat al-Shater and his substitute, Muhammad Morsi, in case the first was disqualified, which was what indeed happened. Those who objected to running a candidate for presidency based their stand on a fear – that is fairly well based – that the president will not be able to solve the complex problems of Egypt, and that his failure will be interpreted, both in Egypt and outside it, as a failure of Islam. Seculars and liberals also feared being marginalized, which might exacerbate the internal split between modern sectors and traditional ones, between secular and religious groups. They also know that as the ruling party with a president from among its ranks, the movement will be accused of the expected failures, and thus will lose its support.
Another disagreement among the Brotherhood is the relationship to the military, if it continues to hold onto power and imposes its agenda on the elected civil authorities (the parliament and the president), and on the legal system. Egypt does not have a valid constitution at present, so there is no clear division between the authorities of the various powers, and therefore differences of opinions between the military and the Brotherhood might deteriorate to a situation of open conflict, which the military would win in a bloodbath. Must the Brotherhood demand from the military to pass the baton of state administration to parliament, so that they can choose a permanent government, write a constitution and legislate laws that reflect their way, or must it accept the military as “a state above the state” as it was during Mubarak’s time, just to avoid a frontal conflict from which there will be only losers?
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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