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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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Mordechai Kedar: The Brothers and the Muslims

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Photo Credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90

Another important subject that will compel the Brotherhood to take a stand against another Arab state is the ideological question, because there is some doubt whether it is possible to hope for good relations with the Islamic regime in Iran, and some believe that Egypt must distance itself from this Shi’ite state, which might take advantage of the connection with Egypt in order to penetrate into Egyptian society, as it did in Lebanon and Syria. Will Egypt allow Iranian battle ships to pass through the Suez Canal? Will it allow Iran to stream weapons from Egypt into the Gaza Strip? Will Egypt participate in the Arab effort that Saudi Arabia is leading, the goal of which is to bring an end to the Iranian nuclear project? Only the Brotherhood knows the answers.

In the background is the question of whether Egypt, under the rule of the Brotherhood, will cooperate with regimes, for example the Jordanian, which sees their peers, the local Muslim Brotherhood movement, as an enemy of the regime?

What must be Egypt’s position regarding the states of East Africa, mainly those that have a Muslim majority or a large Muslim community, and also, as of today, develop agricultural initiatives within their territory, decreasing the water that flows into the Nile? What should be the relationship with the state of Hamas in Gaza, which, on one hand, proves that a political Islamic fighting organization can establish and conduct a state, while on the other has divided the Palestinian Authority and eliminated the hope for one Palestinian state?

However, the most important question specifically relates to the United States, because Egypt receives significant quantities of food and monetary support from the US, and therefore it must take into account the interests of the United States, which they see as the source of Western evil. The peace agreement with Israel and the Iranian issue are also connected with American interests.

These questions, which are connected with internal and foreign policy may cause divisions within the Muslim Brotherhood organization because they will force it to take difficult decisions about questions that it never had to address previously, and most of its decision makers haven’t studied Political Science in a university. Decisions that lean too much in the “religious”direction will be subject to criticism by secular groups and the military, while decisions that lean too much in the “secular” direction will necessarily invite penetrating criticism from the Salafis, and thus the Brotherhood might find itself between the secular hammer and the Salafi anvil.

The Brotherhood’s economic decisions as well in the macro-economic arena might be misguided, and the results might be fatal to the sputtering Egyptian economy.

Strong and Weak Points

The strength of the Brotherhood lies mainly the fact that they are guided by the Islamic viewpoint, and that they have “The Economic Guide”, Dr. Mahmoud Badia’, who has already announced that Muhammad Morsi is the president of all Egyptians including himself, and that he – the economic guide – subordinates himself to the decisions of the “president of everyone.” However, beyond the rhetorical value of such an announcement, Dr. Badia’ knows well that there are many among the Brotherhood who do not take the decisions for granted, as happened many times in the past. The sociology of religion affords a few explanations for the fact that precisely a religious framework can suffer from ideological and personal divisions, and that religion, which is supposed to serve as a bond among the people, sometimes actually works more as a flame accelerator, igniting the disagreements between them into conflagrations. One of the reasons for this situation is the tendency of people who are guided by religious principles to become too meticulous, sometimes even exaggerating to the point of being overly concerned with minute details in the application of their principles; and when one person’s meticulousness is different from that of another, a conflict arises which is sometimes irreparable – between them as well as their supporters. This phenomenon exists also among the Muslim Brotherhood, and their present situation, in which they must make decisions that involve compromising on ideological points, it will necessarily throw them into disagreements about much greater and more fateful matters than the minute details of religious practice.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

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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