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Muslim Brotherhood

An Egyptian court dissolved the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, on 10 August 2014. The ruling came nearly a year after a court banned the Muslim Brotherhood itself in September 2013. Back then the ruling did not mention the Brotherhoods political wing, meaning that it could be allowed to run in parliamentary elections. The new ruling effectively banned the Brotherhood from formal participation in electoral politics.

In August 2013 security forces dispersed Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo. Hundreds, possibly more, died in the crackdown, most of them supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi, Egypts first freely elected leader. Thousands of Morsi supporters were later jailed. Anger over Morsis one year in power remains high among many Egyptians, who blame him and his Brotherhood supporters for their often violent exclusion from Egypts political process and attempting to impose a narrowly-based Islamist rule.

In a 23 September 2013 ruling, an Egyptian court banned all activities by the Muslim Brotherhood, including demonstrations, institutions and associations, and ordered a seizure of the group's assets. The ruling, in a case brought by the leftist political party Tagammu, did not order an outright ban on the group itself. A second, pending lawsuit against the Brotherhood seeks to take that step.

Egypt's military-installed interim government criminalized the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood on 25 Decembe 2013, further cracking down on a movement that had risen to power in national elections in 2012r. Egypt's interim government declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, broadening its authority to move against the the country's largest opposition group. A spokesman for Egypt's Interior Ministry told government TV that anyone participating in Brotherhood protests would be sentenced to five years in prison. He added that leaders of the group could receive the death penalty.

In what is being called the biggest capital punishment verdict by Egypt's judiciary, 529 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi were sentenced to death on 24 March 2014. The condemned were convicted of killing a policeman, attacking others and destroying property. The sentencing, believed to be the biggest mass death dentencing in history, came after just two court sessions and before the defendants lawyers say they were permitted to make their case. The majority was condemned in absentia, with fewer than 200 of those on trial in court, 16 suspects were acquitted.

Background

The Muslim Brotherhood [MB] carries with it traditions of idealism and violence, piety and terror, which have been difficult to disentangle and sever. Soon after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, registered a legitimate political party once party restrictions were lifted. The group was banned under Mubarak's rule. The Muslim Brotherhood formed the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to assert its role in Egypt's nascent democracy. The dominant face of the protests in Tunisia, Egypt and in other Arab countries was not a religious one. Even in Egypt, rocked by massive anti-government demonstrations, the long established and popular Muslim Brotherhood was late to join the movement.

The Muslim Brotherhood -- an Islamist formation that operates missionary, charitable, and political activities -- was banned as a political and social movement in Egypt. Unlike the Islamic revolution in Iran in the late 1970s, there was no unifying figure within the opposition. There was no cleric or mullah who had the same status and prominence as did Ayatollah Khomeini. In the most extreme case, a situation could arise in which there is a radical Sunni force dominating Egypt, a radical Shi'ite force dominating Iran - and an ongoing competition between the two of them to show who is more active and effective in confronting Israel and the United States.

On 31 January 2011, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Ghannem, reportedly told the Al-Alam Iranian news network that he would like to see the Egyptian people prepare for war against Israel adding that the world should understand that the Egyptian people are prepared for anything to get rid of this regime. He went on to say that the Suez Canal should be closed immediately, and that the flow of gas from Egypt to Israel should cease in order to bring about the downfall of the Mubarak regime.

The Muslim Brotherhood unveiled its plans to scrap a peace treaty with Israel if it comes to power, a deputy leader said in an interview with NHK TV. On 03 February 2011 RIA Novosti reported that Rashad al-Bayoumi said the peace treaty with Israel will be abolished after a provisional government is formed by the movement and other Egypt's opposition parties. "After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel," al-Bayoumi said.

The March 2012 decision by the Muslim Brotherhood to field a presidential candidate marked the latest reversal in the group's tactics during the nation's political transition. Political analysts were split over whether this would help or hurt the Islamist cause. Similarly, the Brotherhood went back on its word on writing a new constitution. After promising to include a wide array of voices, the drafting committee is dominated by Islamists, with liberal and Christian groups as well as Islamic scholars withdrawing from the very limited role they were offered. If the Islamists could frame the referendum on the constitution as they did on a similar vote in 2011, using "Islam is the Solution," sheer numbers in this Muslim majority nation were likely to approve it. But it faced internal rebellion from younger members of the group, and tensions between fundamentalist Salafi politicians and Muslim Brothers run high. Stories of corrupt Islamists are fodder for the media, with one Salafi member of parliament resigning after lying about his cosmetic surgery.

Following the militarys ouster of president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood faced stark choices following the militarys violent crackdown on the group and the arrest of its leaders. The Brotherhood can either adopt a non-violent approach and bide its time until there are new elections, or it can turn to militant confrontation, possibly even the violent path of al-Qaida and other jihadist groups. Jihadists, led by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, argue that violence is the only way to establish a truly Islamic state, while mainstream Islamists counter that Turkey is the better model to follow.

Eventually, the military regime in Egypt will pass, and the country will, once again, go to the ballots. Then, the Brotherhood, perhaps with a new political party and new faces, will have a chance to compete. Turkish Islamists responded this way in 1997 when the army forced out an Islamist government in Ankara. Instead of violent confrontation, Turkeys Islamists responded with restraint and remade themselves by launching a renewal movement and forming a new political party.

But the situation in Egypt is developing along different lines and the ongoing violence has handed the jihadists an opportunity to advance their agenda. And al-Qaida leaders, wasted no time in their courting of Egyptian Islamists. Egyptian-born al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri posted a 15-minute message on militant websites arguing the crusaders in the West and their allies in the Arab world will never allow the establishment of an Islamist state. Zawahiri urged the soldiers of the Qur'an to wage the battle of the Qur'an in Egypt.




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