Morsi, the MB and the deep state

Morsy past the point of no return: Part 2 | Egypt Independent

Interesting argument by Hesham Sallam — I'm still mulling it over:

Many Muslim Brotherhood figures have characterized the clashes at Ettehadiya Presidential Palace as a manifestation of its conflict with the deep state and remnants of the Mubarak era. But in reality, the Brotherhood is not fighting against the alleged “deep state” and Mubarak remnants within the opposition and inside the courts, as it claims, but rather the deep state within the ranks of its sponsored government.

The Brotherhood’s decision to escalate its standoff with the opposition, and the seemingly irrational ferocity with which it has begun to antagonize its opponents must not be understood merely as an attempt to eliminate challengers. Equally important, the Muslim Brotherhood-initiated escalation is a strong message to the deep state that the Brotherhood-controlled presidency is fully capable of erecting a political arena in which its decisions and commitments are supreme. The Brotherhood and its sponsored political order, the message goes, is here to stay, and you would be better served to jump on this bandwagon and come to its defense before it is too late. Whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood has been able to make this case convincingly remains to be seen.

Read part one here.

What the Brothers said about the constitution in 2011

A Muslim Brotherhood leader on bin Laden, Israel and Egypt’s elections - The Washington Post

From a May 2011 interview with Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam al-Erian:

Will the Muslim Brotherhood win the next election because it is so organized?

The next election must represent all political factions, even weak groups. We as the Muslim Brotherhood are keen to have a coalition to go to the elections together to have a parliament that represents all Egyptians, not only powerful groups. All Egyptians must be represented — Muslims, Coptics, leftists, liberalists, nationalists, Islamists — all must be there to have a neutral committee to write the constitution. This is very important for a real democracy.

[via Nour Nour]

Morsi isolates himself

As Egypt’s Crisis Deepens, Morsi Turns to Muslim Brotherhood - NYTimes.com

As tens of thousands chanted for his downfall or even imprisonment in a fourth day of protests outside the presidential palace, Mr. Morsi’s advisers and Brotherhood leaders acknowledged Friday that outside his core base of Islamist supporters he feels increasingly isolated in the political arena and even within his own government. The Brotherhood “is who he can depend on,” said one person close to Mr. Morsi, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Mr. Morsi appears to believe that he and the Brotherhood can deliver a strong vote for the draft constitution in next Saturday’s referendum — strong enough to discredit the opposition, allow him a fresh start and restore some of his authority.

And this:

“He called on the Muslim Brotherhood to become a human shield and protect the presidency because he can’t trust the state,” said the Brotherhood leader. “He is isolated.”

Some leaders might have concluded that this is because they simply don't have a broad mandate to do what they would like to do. Morsi  overreached by implementing a decree that resulted in a much stronger pushback than he expected, and then compounded his mistake and doubled down on rushing the constitution. He has pushed himself increasingly to rely solely on Islamists, and if this referendum takes places he will have only them to rely on for the rest of his administration. Moreover, he and his party last Wednesday incited people to go out into the street and "defend the presidency" — an unjustifiable action with predictable consequences (and an unnecessary one, after all he has the Republican Guards even if interior ministry forces are not to be trusted). Muslim Brothers went out there and held (and allegedly tortured) protestors for 12 hours, on presidency grounds, to extract confessions of a conspiracy. Morsi referred to these as "evidence" of a conspiracy in his speech the following day, but his own public prosecutor released these people. I am struck that this has been missing from much of the coverage of the situation in US media.

Morsi has pushed himself to rely on Islamists and appears to be accepting their resorting to violence on the grounds that violence has been used against the MB. On this trajectory, one can easily see him rely on such "muscle" for the foreseeable future because these protests will not stop once the referendum is held.

Morsi continues to panic

Morsy suspends tax plan, calls the increase a 'burden' on average citizen | Egypt Independent

President Mohamed Morsy has decided to suspend wide-ranging changes to the country's tax laws that had been signed earlier this week but just came to light Sunday, calling for "societal dialogue" and further consultation before implementing them.

In an announcement early Monday morning, Morsy said the taxes would amount to an "additional burden" on the average citizen.

"The president of the republic feels the pulse of the Egyptian street, and he realizes how much the citizen is bearing and struggling from his burdens in this difficult economic period," the statement said, according to the website of the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.

This planned increase in government revenue is an important part of the IMF agreement signed by Egypt. Suddenly, after months of negotiations in which there was no "societal dialogue" at all, Morsi decides that it won't do? The main measures were going to be an increase in top-level income tax rates and a 1% on sales tax which would have been felt more widely. The excise tax increase on things like cigarettes have happened annually for years. 

There's a confident president for you. 

The soup kitchen Brotherhood

Uncle Morsi | Inanities

From a lovely post by the inimitable Sarah Carr:

Every day that passes puts another dent in the legend of this 80-year-old group with its dazzling powers of organisation and moderate Islamic vision and familiarity with the Egyptian street. Snort. Morsi is a dull cheating husband who misbehaves and attempts to make amends by offering surprise dinner invitations after he beats his wife up, where his wife is the Egyptian people you understand. The MB itself are a glorified soup kitchen with excellent logistical skills that end at distributing food to the poor and organising large rallies. They are a charity organisation with a militia that finds itself in charge of a country and which seems to think that its decisions do not need to be backed up by reason or say, the rule or law, but can rely entirely on the Egyptian people trusting Uncle Morsi.

In Translation: Dismantling the Brothers’ revolutionary self-image

Taking a break from translations from the press, we offer you this week an impassioned Facebook missive by Karim Ennarah, a human rights activist reacting to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s controversial decree. Ennarah offers a critique of the Muslim Brotherhood’s use of the revolution to legitimate what many see as a power-grab, whereas its record shows it collaborating with the old regime and protecting it from revolutionary justice.

This feature is possible thanks to Industry Arabic, a full-service translation company. Please check them out. We are also grateful to Mandy McClure for editing and dealing with tricky aameyya expressions.

Dismantling the Brothers’ revolutionary self-image

Karim Ennarah, Facebook, 24 November 2012

Morsi’s government is not a revolutionary government. In fact, it has been against the goals of the revolutions from day one. You may think they’re right, but please, this farce of “the revolution vs. the feloul!”[1] has to stop immediately, or I may very well die from the tawdriness of it all. The Muslim Brotherhood’s problem is that they’ve taken hold of the issue of the most esteemed, shitty judiciary[2] and turned it into the sole demand of the revolution. Let me then explain to you the bizarre inconsistencies in your explanations of the president’s decree. (Here I’m speaking to my friends among the MB, Islamists and their sympathizers, or those sympathetic to the president and his recent decisions. You all know that I’m not one for political expediency and have no chronic phobia of Islamists.)

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Paranoid about the courts

The revolution in crisis | Egypt Independent

Nathan Brown - who is being called "The Nate Silver of Egyptian politics" on Twitter write about the fight between the judiciary and the presidency:

The president was explicit in why he felt the need for the November declaration: He feared the SCC was about to turn back the revolution by disbanding the Constituent Assembly, the Shura Council, and perhaps even the president’s August constitutional declaration that had removed the military’s stranglehold over the country’s political system.

Is the SCC a body filled with SCAF sycophants and handpicked Hosni Mubarak stooges? 

No. 

All members of the court were indeed formally presidential appointments. But most were nominated by the justices themselves; their appointment by Mubarak was a formality.

The former chief justice, Farouk Sultan, was indeed a direct Mubarak pick, but he had only one vote and retired over the summer. He was replaced by a president picked by the court’s own justices. 

I don’t wish to make it sound as if the old regime’s habits left the court completely unaffected. There were subtle ways that the bold court of Chief Justice Awad al-Morr’s days, in the 1990s, was gradually tamed by the regime.

Bottom line: the Supreme Constitutional Court is a mixed bag. Brothers like to point to statements made by Tahani al-Gebali, who famously told the New York Times last summer that she's ready to do anything to back the army and thwart the Brotherhood. Senior officials I've talked to say they have evidence that the court had already decided to rule against the Constituent Assembly, the Shura Council and the August 12 decree with the aim of bringing back the army. Might be true regarding the first two — but we can't know for sure. As for the third, it seems unlikely: after all, the army itself chose to leave the front row of politics. Why come back now?

The SCC is making a statement later today. We'll see how they react to these allegations.

Hanna on Morsi's mindset

Morsi’s Majoritarian Mindset - By Michael Wahid Hanna | The Middle East Channel

A good piece that lays out a key issue in the current crisis — the contempt in which the Muslim Brothers, by and large, hold other political forces:

Morsi's majoritarian mindset is not anti-democratic per se, but depends upon a distinctive conception of winner-takes-all politics and the denigration of political opposition. Winning elections, by this perspective, entitles the victors to govern unchecked by the concerns of the losers. This polarizing approach to politics bodes ill for the future of Egypt's troubled transition at a foundational moment when the country is fashioning a new constitutional order. This chronic overreach has cemented the divide between Islamists and non-Islamists and heightened suspicions of the Brotherhood's ultimate intentions.

What the Coptic pope wants from the Muslim Brotherhood

Pope (pope-elect?) Tawadros II is off to a great start, not as a spiritual leader or even a Christian, but as one of the most important national figures in Egypt tout court. Here's what he said about his relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP):

They asked me what I would wish for from the FJP. I replied that I request two things from the FJP; freedom and justice, only.

He's also suggested postponing his own coronation ceremony because of the train disaster near Assiut that claimed the lives of at least 50 children this morning, winning much respect for the gesture. Maybe he should do that and give President Mohammed Morsi a chance top reconsider his absolutely flabbergasting decision not to attend the ceremony. You only get a new pope every few decades, after all, and there would be no greater way to reassure Egypt's Christian community and start off on the right foot with the pope.

Salama Moussa suggests the church should leave an empty seat on the front row at Abbesseya cathedral when the ceremony takes place. Maybe that would send back the right message.

More on Hamas' disappointment with Egypt

More on Hamas' disappointment with Egypt

From Nic Pelham's latest NYRB piece:

But Egypt remains the missing piece in Hamas’s regional jigsaw puzzle. With the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s ideological twin, the Gazan leadership anticipated a rapprochement, and on the night of Mohammed Morsi’s election victory, Hamas loyalists cheered in the streets. Hamas ministers prepared feasibility studies for a highway stretching from North Africa’s farthest reaches to Gaza, and appealed to Gulf labor markets to absorb Gaza’s jobless graduates. The Gaza-Egypt border crossing at Rafah “will open fully and Egypt will supply fuel, medicine, and electricity. No one will be refused entry,” mused Mahmoud al-Zahar, a veteran Hamas leader, as we sat in his garden in July on his return from a meeting with Morsi.

But after the initial welcome, Egypt backed off, swayed both by pressure from western powers negotiating an IMF package and by its security forces’ claims that Gaza was complicit in the August 5 attack. In late September, Prime Minister Haniya arrived in Cairo at the head of a twenty-man Gazan delegation only to find his anticipated audience with Morsi declined and his requests for upgrading ties rebuffed. Egypt, he discovered, remained noncommittal on the Qatari fuel it had blocked after the August 5 attack, on boosting Egypt’s supply of electricity and water to Gaza, and above all, on the launch of a free trade zone on the Gaza-Egypt border that would make Hamas a legitimate trading partner. In a further slight, the foreign ministry described Haniya as a visiting guest, not an official.

Passenger crossings between Gaza and Egypt at the main Rafah terminal, which had reached almost quarter of a million since the start of the year, fell back to levels of a year earlier. And at their common border, Egyptian bulldozers began digging up tunnels with a tenacity Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, had rarely shown. Tunnel traffic dwindled to a third of pre-August 5 levels: had it not been for a significant easing of Israel’s closures on Gaza the impact would have been intense. In a huff, Hamas removed the banner of a smiling Morsi and Haniya holding hands against the backdrop of the pyramids from the walls of its Gaza City parliament, and replaced it with a large portrait of Qatar’s Emir.

Pelham also scores an interview with leading Gaza-based jihadist Abu Walid al-Maqdisi.

Nasser, the Muslim Brothers and the veil

 

This is a wonderful video of a speech given by Gamal Abdel Nasser in which he recounts a meeting with the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood (at the time, probably Hassan al-Hudaibi) in which he tried to patch things up and, as he puts it, "set them in the right direction." He asks them what their demands are. The Guide replies that his first demand is that all women in Egypt be forced to wear the veil.

The interesting thing is that this line generates an uproar of laughter in the audience. One man shouts out, "why doesn't he veil himself."

With very dead-pan delivery Nasser continues. He says that he doesn't believe that this should be imposed on anyone, that it's a personal choice. The Guide insists, telling him that he should, as ruler, impose the veil. Nasser then relates that he replied: "Your daughter is studying medicine. She does not wear the veil. If you can't impose the veil on your daughter, what makes you think I can impose the veil on 10 million Egyptian women?"

The depressing thing is that, back then, you could mock the leader of an Islamist movement for wanting to impose an alleged religious duty. Today it seems it would trigger anti-blasphemy lawsuits.

Of course Nasser may be at least partly making this up. Although close to the Brothers before he assumed powers, and fully sharing their authoritarian streak, by the time he made this speech he was repressing them. It may have been convenient to ridicule them. But it's the audience reaction that is the most telling.

[Thanks, MG]

Osama Bin Laden And The Saudi Muslim Brotherhood

✚ Osama Bin Laden And The Saudi Muslim Brotherhood

Enlightening piece by Stephane Lacroix in FP on the Saudi Brotherhood(s):

From the days of Hassan al-Banna, the Saudi monarchy made it clear that it wouldn't allow the Brotherhood to establish a section in the kingdom. Yet from the late 1960s onward, different groups of Saudis influenced by Egyptian and Syrian Brotherhood exiles started creating local semi-clandestine organizations claiming an affiliation to the MB. A sign that this was the result of a bottom-up dynamic, not a top-down creation, is that four such distinct organizations saw the light at about the same time: one in the western province, called the Brotherhood of the Hejaz (ikhwan al-Hijaz); and three in the central region -- two named after their alleged founder, the Brotherhood of al-Sulayfih (ikhwan al-Sulayfih) and the Brotherhood of al-Funaysan (ikhwan al-Funaysan), and one called the Brotherhood of Zubayr (ikhwan al-Zubayr) because it was established by Saudis whose families had lived in Zubayr, in Southern Iraq. Although the four groups attempted to coordinate their activities and saw themselves as part of one broader entity, they never managed to formally merge.

These groups of Saudi Brothers maintained links to the MB in Egypt and elsewhere, but, because of the sensitivity of the topic, those links remained loose and were never formalized. For instance, Saudi Brothers sometimes attended meetings of the Brotherhood's international organization in the 1980s, but officially they did so in their individual capacity, not as representatives of their organization. Also, Saudi Brothers generally did not pledge allegiance to the supreme guide in Cairo, as members of the Brotherhood are usually required, because, as Saudi citizens, they were already bound by an oath to the Saudi King. In terms of ideology, Saudi Brothers were also quite different from their counterparts elsewhere: although they did read Hassan al-Banna, Sa‘id Hawwa, and Sayyid Qutb, they were also heavily influenced by Salafi authors whom they quoted on issues of creed and on certain issues of fiqh.

If and when Syria is run by the MB, and if and when the MB strengthen their position in Jordan, the al-Sauds will have to start really worrying about their local MB.

When Shafiq sought MB backing

When Shafiq sought MB backing

From Egypt Independent's press review:

On a rather different note, everyone’s new favorite newspaper, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice (this reporter’s newspaper vendor says it outsells all other papers and that customers now suspect he’s hiding it because it’s always unavailable) puts a picture of none other than Ahmed Shafiq on its front page, the last person one would expect to see.

The reason why the almost-president-of-Egypt is there is because Brotherhood member Hassan Malek is spilling the beans on a meeting he had with Shafiq before the nominations for the presidential election began. And what a story it is.

According to Malek, Shafiq called him and asked for a meeting in July 2011 (that year again), which happened at the house of a “mutual friend.” During the meeting Shafiq asked Malek for the Brotherhood to back his candidacy for the presidency. He also requested a meeting with Mohamed Morsy and Saad al-Katatny to ask them their opinion on his candidacy because “if they don’t agree then I won't do it.” Malek then purportedly told him that it wouldn’t be a good idea because his connection with Hosni Mubarak had “burned him.” Malek then informed the other Brotherhood members of Shafiq’s wish to meet them and they refused.

And it doesn’t end there. Shafiq apparently wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept calling Malek, at one point urging him to arrange a surprise meeting at his house, before chiding Malek by saying, “Are you stingy or what?” Malek then met him again to convey the Brotherhood’s polite refusal to meet him. Politics and gossip can sometimes be one and the same.

There are no permanent friends or enemies in Egyptian politics, just permanent personal interests.

In Translation: Salafis vs Ikhwan

We’ve discussed several times, on this blog, the rivalries between the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood. If one goes by the results of the 2011–2012 parliamentary elections, the Salafis are the MB’s most potent political adversary, able to challenge them at the ballot box better than any other political movement. In terms of social outreach, the Salafis have a far more diverse and spread charitable movement than the MB’s, albeit one that is fragmented among any different organizations. And with regard to religious legitimacy, not only can the Salafis out-Islam pretty much everybody, they have a longstanding suspicion towards the MB’s secretive structure and the idolization of figures such as the movement’s founder, Hassan al-Banna (indeed, the former regime used to encourage Salafis to denounce Brothers as practitioners of shirk — basically polytheism or undermining the oneness of God — and hizbiyya, the prioritizing of the movement/party over pure adherence to Islamic values.

The article below is about video appearances by major Egyptian Salafi preachers in which they lambast the MB on religious ground. This is based on the usual roster of Salafi critiques honed by late 20th-century Saudi Wahhabi clerics such as Sheikh Bin Baz and Sheikh Rabee al-Madkhali — hence the references to “Madkhalis” in the article below to denote his followers. If you really want to know more, follow a site such as this one which goes on at length about Madkhali’s “exposure” of the MB, and especially al-Banna as a Sufi (the horror!) and Sayyid Qutb as a crypto-Leninist Ash’ari. There is a whole universe of anti-MB Salafi literature on the internet. Of course, this tension (which is not universal to all Salafis, of course) is one aspect of the uneasiness the Saudis feel towards the Muslim Brothers’ rise in Egypt and elsewhere. It appears it is bound to be a major feature of the post-uprisings Arab world for years to come, too.

Featuring translations from the Arabic press in Egypt and elsewhere is made possible with the support of Industry Arabic, a really good translation service specializing in Arabic. Reports, press articles, technical documents — you name it, they can do it. If you have professional Arabic translation needs, check these guys out.

Salafis Wage Video Warfare Against Muslim Brotherhood

Abdel Wahab Eissa, al-Tahrir, 16 September 2012

Political disagreement, or maybe even rupture, has come to characterize the relationship between Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood recently, as statements from both camps against each other have become more heated and full of invective, which indicates that the united front they seem to present is only against common enemies. Some of these statements have been compiled by the Madkhali Salafi Front in a single video that contains harsh commentary and criticism against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) by Sheikh Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini. It also includes grim, virulent attacks by Sheikh Yasser Burhami, and a fierce offensive waged by the premier Madkhali sheikh in Egypt, Sheikh Mohamed Said Raslan.

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E-Militias of the Muslim Brotherhood

E-Militias of the Muslim Brotherhood: How to Upload Ideology on Facebook

This is a fascinating piece on the Egyptian Muslim Brothers social media propaganda strategy by Linda Herrera and Mark Lotfy for Jaddaliya:

The Brotherhood’s presence on social media is slippery, hard to pin down with precision since much of its activity is camouflaged. It appears that the MB operates on five tiers. First, there is its official presence, as represented with the page of their political party, the Freedom and Justice Party. Second are the pages that initially appeared to be independent, but turned out to be orchestrated platforms with complete loyalty to the Brotherhood.  RNN (shabakat rasd), a news network that is approaching two million “likes,” fits this category. When RNN was first launched on 25 January, 2011 at the start of the Egyptian revolution, its Administrators were anonymous and the page appeared to be an independent entity, though a highly professional and well oiled one. Its masks have since come off and the page is known as a Brotherhood page in all but name. RNN has grown into a regional platform with branches in Libya, Syria, Morocco, Turkey, and Palestine. The third tier are pages with sympathies to the MB whose Admins post or do things in support of the Brotherhood line. Fourth are concealed pages, ones that on the surface do not appear to have anything to do with politics or the MB, but in a critical moment, like prior to the presidential runoff elections, expose themselves as pro-Brotherhood pages. Finally, the fifth tier are the E-militia foot soldiers who—using both real and fake profiles—scout out pages and Facebook discussions to interject points to influence opinion towards the Brotherhood position.

Very important to remember that one of the MB's key beliefs is in the importance of indoctrination, especially of youth. One shudders to think of their plans for the ministries of education or state television. 

Is the World Too Easy on Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Leaders?

Is the World Too Easy on Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Leaders?

Steve Cook writes in The Atlantic:

. . . primarily Western analysts and a good chunk of the American foreign policy establishment have come to believe that the Brothers can be a genuine force for progressive political change. This conclusion is based on an alleged evolution of the Brotherhood that is reflected in its discourse about reform and democratic change. Observers also point to the Brothers' past performance as parliamentarians when they sought to hold corrupt governments under Mubarak accountable. If neither of these arguments is convincing, it may not matter so the theory goes because circumstances will force the Brothers to become democrats despite themselves. Left without the means of coercion, the only resource the Brothers have is their popularity and as a result, they will go back to the ballot box again and again in order to outmaneuver their political opponents. Eventually the principles and practice of democracy will become institutionalized.

As I have written before, much of this is based on hunches, wishful thinking, or historical analogies that are interesting but are hardly predictive of the Brotherhood's political trajectory. Still, if the reception that the Freedom and Justice Party received in Washington last March is any indication, these arguments hold sway and insulate Morsi and the Brotherhood from the widespread denunciation they deserve when they pursue non-democratic policies.

I can think of a few analysts who advocated the position Cook describes, of looking at the MB as "moderates" (whatever that means) who should be embraced, but I think he actually misdiagnoses the main issue. It's not that many in power in the US, or influential analysts, are prepared to think of the MB as a "genuine force for progressive political change" — something it obviously is not in many respects.

It's that these people look at the MB as credibly in charge and capable of running Egypt. They don't care whether it is progressive, just like they did not mind much Mubarak not being progressive. And this is what the MB is selling itself as, combining easy assurances of being democratic (an untested proposition) with the more important selling point of being ready to do business and able to deliver on issues of agreement. The phenomenon that Steve is describing — of the MB being given a pass, notably by the Obama administration — is therefore more the result of a need for a dependable interlocutor in the US (which the MB is more than other political forces in Egypt, because it has the ability to enforce a position among its ranks) and the need to keep Egypt open for business on a few select issues: military cooperation, Israel. The problem Cook describes, in other words, is actually mostly that people are willing to make excuses for the MB or engage in wishful thinking because the democracy and human rights bit is simply not that important to them compared to more strategic issues.

I agree with his conclusion, though:

It is too early to draw any firm conclusions about the Brothers in Egypt, but it certainly seems that their first inclination is to advance their agenda by any means necessary while expressing fealty to the revolutionary promise of Tahrir Square. It has become a cliché, but what the Brothers do is more important than what they say. After all, doesn't anyone remember "New Thinking and Priorities"? The NDP was also adept at the language of political change and reform, but hardly anyone believed it. Of course, the FJP is not the old ruling party, but in order to ensure that it does not become some variant of the NDP, liberal-minded Egyptians and foreigners (yes, foreigners) need to speak up loudly when the Brothers do illiberal things.

 

Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Springborg: Egypt's Cobra and Mongoose Become Lion and Lamb?

Egypt's Cobra and Mongoose Become Lion and Lamb?

Robert Springborg updates an earlier column for Foreign Policy arguing that the military and the Brotherhood have decided to co-exist rather than turn Egypt into an Islamist state:

A second, more accurate interpretation is suggested by a new analogy to replace that of the deadly cobra and mongoose to characterize relations between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. It is that the lion of the military and the lamb of the Brotherhood will lie down together, but as separate, distinct beings each with its own purpose. While there are certainly already fellow travelers of the Muslim Brotherhood in the officer corps and many officers who will see advantage now in associating themselves with it or at least not opposing it, the corps as a whole is not about to become the striking arm of the Brotherhood. Its primary incentive for facilitating Tantawi's removal was not Islamist commitment, but accumulated dissatisfaction with the Field Marshal's debasement of their institution and its capacities, triggered by his inept political maneuvering. The agreement between key officers, on the one hand, and Morsi and his allies, on the other, will have been based on a division of roles and responsibilities in which the military as an institution continues to be the dominant actor in the formation and implementation of national security policies. The assumption underlying the agreement will have been that the re-professionalization of the military and the exercise of constitutional power by the civilian government, presently dominated by the Brotherhood, are compatible, indeed reinforcing objectives. Both sides, in other words, will have professed their respect for constitutional, legal, and professional norms and their centrality to the new relationship. The lion and the lamb, in short, have opted for coexistence, rather than a struggle akin to the cobra and mongoose fight in which one would ultimately destroy the other.

Whether this agreement proves to be durable or not will depend on numerous factors, key being respect for it by either side. If the Brotherhood seeks to impose its will on the state and nation, including the military, it will meet a reaction from the officer corps. This, and even the threat of it, combined with ongoing and probably intensifying civilian opposition, is likely to cause the Brotherhood to move carefully, whatever its real intentions. While a new form of anti-democratic political influence over the military could still result, were the Brotherhood actually to consolidate total power, the removal of the Mubarak military high command was the necessary, if not sufficient condition to begin the long march to institutionalized, civilian, democratic control of Egypt's armed forces. For that reason alone it is a positive step, if one with other potential dangers.

He has good stuff in there about the steps taken to secure himself by Morsi — getting control of Central Security Forces, sacking Mowafi and Ruweini, etc.

I have a column coming out in The National tomorrow, just written this morning, that takes a similar view and offers some advice for the rest of the political actors in this.

Brotherhood considers mass demo Friday in support of Morsy

Brotherhood considers mass demo Friday in support of Morsy

From Egypt Independent, on plans for a march this Friday by the MB to back Morsi and to protect him against a planned protest on August 24:

Karim Radwan, a member of the group’s Shura Council, said the group is capable of protecting its offices against the thuggery that is planned for 24 August. “We only welcome constructive opposition that helps correct mistakes,” he said.

Khalid Saeed, spokesperson for the Salafi Front, said the Salafis reject any destruction on 24 August. “That is why we will help the Brotherhood secure their offices,” he said.

Anti-Islamist activists distributed statements last month advocating a second revolution on 24 August against the Muslim Brotherhood and calling for the downfall of Morsy and the Freedom and Justice Party.

Well of course physical attacks should not be tolerated, but what's wrong with people protesting against the Islamists or August 24 or any other date? It'll be interesting to see how Morsi and the MB handles this.

And, frankly, the idea of a march in support of Morsi (while reading the Quran apparently) this Friday, at this juncture, may do more damage than good, at least among Morsi-skeptics. But the MB probably doesn't care about that if they're still locked in a majoritarian rather than consensual mindset. The worrying thing thus far is that Morsi has not made attempts to reach out to non-Islamists after his arrangement with the younger generals. It would have been a reassuring move.

The Muslim Brothers' state media powergrab

Bad News for the Brotherhood

Meritte Mabrouk on how Egypt's state newspaper editors were appointed, and how the process was taken ove Islamist lawmakers, in Foreign Policy:

None of the signs boded well.  The 14-member selection committee was headed by FJP member Fathy Shehab and included three other FJP members. Two of its four journalists dropped out protesting what they saw as a naked attempt by the Islamist members to force their own candidates and another seven syndicate board members dropped out of discussions with the council altogether. Magdy el-Maasarawy, a Shura Council member who resigned from the committee last month, told Egypt Independent that the original criteria, which drew heavily on what he referred to as professional skills as agreed upon by the journalists, were scrapped by the rest of the committee. Additionally, he said that the 234 candidates didn't all fulfill the criteria, most notably Abd el-Nasser Salama, appointed head of Middle East's most prominent newspaper, Al Ahram. Salama, said Maasarawy, was never at Al Ahram for the required 10 years. He'd been the Muscat bureau chief for three years before returning to Cairo in 2009 as columnist.

Gamal Fahmy, secretary general of the Journalists' Syndicate, also told Egypt Independent that he thought the majority of the new editors were weak, professionally speaking, and certainly not qualified to lead the kind of large staffs involved in these papers. Professional competence is an especially sore point; Yasser Rizk, the former editor of Al-Akhbar is generally acknowledged to have worked wonders with the ailing publication. However, he has not been supportive of the Islamists and was replaced during the shuffle.

The new editors appear to fall into three categories: the cooperative, the Islamist, and the difficult-to-categorize.

It'd be politically difficult, but most of these publications should be shut down, or at least made to adhere to a budget plan aiming at self-suffiency. They're a drain on state coffers and in many cases not very good. And if they continue to exist, there is no reason to have parliament appoint the editors — hopefully something that can be addressed in the next constitution.

I'm Ikhwan!

This video by rappers in Alexandria is actually several months old, but it captures all the suspicion and cynicism surrounding the Brotherhood's rise to power. The song — supposedly from the point of view of an opportunistic new member — makes fun of the organization's hypocrisy, double-talk and greed for power. This sarcasm is more pointed (and probably more damaging to the MB in the long run) than the hysteria issuing from some quarters these days. 

The refrain uses one of my favourite Arabized English verbs: بيتنرفز (biyitnirfiz, from "nervous", meaning to get irritated or angry) and goes: Don't get pissed at me, man, 'cause I became Ikhwan! I've got the power with me now, everyone say after me: I'm I'm I'm Ikhwan! 

And the video — which has all the lyrics in Arabic — would be a great classsrom tool for teaching Egyptian Colloquial. 

For more conventional criticism of the Brotherhood, see these two recent posts posts by blogger Karim Shafei. 

(And thanks to Matt!)