By R. Upadhyay
According to media reports on Egyptian crisis, an agreement has been arrived at after talks between Vice President Omar Suleiman and the Opposition leaders, including Mohammad ElBaradei and the representatives of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) for constitutional reforms.
But a close look into the background of MB suggests that the possibility of the orderly transformation of democratic power in this heart of the Arab World is not so certain particularly when this outlawed radical Islamist group was also on negotiating table.
This Egypt-born fundamentalist organisation which was founded by an ultra Islamist reformer school teacher Al Hussain Banna(1906-1949) in 1928 might not have been at the centre stage of the over two-week mass upsurge in this most populous Arab country which led to many deaths- participation of this largest opposition group along with a number of smaller liberal and leftist groups during the negotiation with the government on February 6 should certainly be a matter of concern for those who want a transformation into a new democratic and secular government.
Dedicated to the credo – “The Prophet is our leader, Qur’an is our law, Jihad is our way, dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope”, Muslim Brotherhood does not believe in democracy, secularism, human rights and social justice. Its recorded history of “working under the doctrine of concealment (Kitman)” (Rachel Enherenfeld) and close link with Wahhabi society of Saudi Arabia suggests that it can go to any extent to create an Islamist state by exploiting the present turmoil in Egypt. Even USA is aware of its radical Islamist designs. “Wahhabism, which R. James Woolsey, former CIA Director identified as “IslamoNazi” ideology, may turn out to be the new emissaries carrying the fanatical Wahhabi creed that is bound to advance the MB agenda in the U.S.” (Ibid.).
Ever since the MB was disbanded in 1948 by the Egyptian monarchy which led to the assassination of its Prime Minister and in return Al Banna, the founder of this organisation was also assassinated in 1949, it has been in the news of international concern. But in 1954 when Gamal Abdel Naseer became president of Egypt in 1954 after plotting a bloodless coup against the monarchy and gained immense popularity by heralding a new period of modernization and socialist reforms in his country, he cracked down on the MB activists due to their suspected attempt on his assassination. As a result thousands of their members fled to neighbouring countries including Saudi Arabia.
Since then the Saudi King used them against Nasser and “nasserism” and also funded them for an independent faculty in the Islamic University in Medina. Thus with financial support from Saudi Kingdom, it emerged as an Islamist force for chalking out a Jihadi strategy against the “infidels”. It thus became an organization of international concern due to its global network and close connections with various violent Jihadi groups like al-Jihad and al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya in Egypt, HAMAS in Palestine and Islamist terrorist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Gradually, with its branches in over 70 countries of the world, including: Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Indonesia, Philippines, Britain, Switzerland, Lebanon, Pakistan, Morocco, France, India, Jordan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and the United States and many radical Islamist organizations like Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Students Islamic Movement of India and Islamic Chhatra Shibir of Bangladesh also.
The MB has not only made a visible dent in Muslim world but also become a known organization of International concern.. Even Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an interview re-iterated the slogan of MB saying “Mosques are our barracks, minarets our bayonets, domes our helmets, the believers our soldiers” (Pioneer dated December 6, 2009).
Although, MB is a banned organization in Egypt its members have been contesting election as independent candidates. In 2005 Parliamentary election it secured 88 seats and was the largest opposition bloc. Even though it could get only one of its members elected to the parliament in last election in November 2010 ( it is now openly admitted that it was a rigged one) its demand for a fresh election suggests that it is confident to exploit the political, economic and social unrest and use its wide net work of madrasas and other social fronts to be a spring board for asserting control in formation of a possible new government and would try to impose its brand totalitarian ideology.
MB’s move to instruct the people for organising demonstrations without taking the leadership even in Alexandria where it has a sound base, reveals that its tactical low profile is a part of Islamist strategy. Being in opposition since Egypt had its revolution in 1952; it has made a visible political space in the country. Although, it claims to be a non-violent organisation, its involvement in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for making peace with Israel and also in several attempts to assassinate Mubarak proves otherwise. It may be mentioned that top Al Qaeda leaders namely Osama bin Laden and his deputy Zawahiri started their Islamist career in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Thus beginning with Tunisia toppling its dictatorial regime and its likely repetition in Egypt, there are clear signals that the enraged Arab youths may fall in the trap of Islamists as they do not have any nationally accepted leader leading their uprising. In case this radical Islamist political group succeeds in holding the key in formation of next government in Egypt, the most powerful Arab state, it could play a pro-active role in transforming the entire Middle East into an Islamist controlled region as power in its hand would accelerate the growing instability in many other Islamic countries where Muslim Brotherhood has a wide network.
Against the backdrop of the violent activities of this longest lasting and best organized 83-year old opposition group in Egypt which believes in Islamism as the only solution to the problem of people, it is difficult to understand whether it will co-operate for the desired change. The question arises that even if a new government is established; will Islamism be the solution to poverty, price rise, unemployment, gender equality, ethnic and regional quarrel and miseries of common people?
The disorder resulting from the sudden spurt of political activism against the thirty year rule of Mubarak might have shown a sense of Egyptian national unity but in the absence of any nationally accepted leader believing in democracy and secularism, (except for Al Baradei) it is difficult to understand whether the uprising led by people of different persuasions from leftists to Islamists will be able to meet the democratic aspirations of the people of this country. People expecting a change for the better should therefore be cautious lest the power from one dictatorial and dynastic regime is not shifted to another dictatorial and authoritarian Islamist regime. Violence is central to the history and culture of such groups and therefore if the mosque and state are allowed to have an alliance to run the new government the whole exercise will be futile.
(The author can be reached at e-mail [email protected])