Rashidi: The Rule of the Brotherhood

Egypt: The Rule of the Brotherhood by Yasmine El Rashidi | The New York Review of Books

Yasmine's latest, on the November-December crisis:

When Morsi took office last summer, the big question on people’s minds was whether he would be able to separate himself from the Brotherhood, the group that had authorized, guided, and financed his presidential campaign. Aside from his symbolic act of resignation from his post in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, could a longtime member of a secret fraternity distance himself from the control of the Guidance Bureau without being kicked out or defamed in the way that Morsi’s Islamic rival Aboul Fotouh had been the summer before?

By this winter, the public seemed to accept the fact that there was no alternative to Morsi’s Brotherhood running the show. As a source close to the Brotherhood’s leaders told me, “Morsi is simply overseeing the presidential portfolio on behalf of the Supreme Guide’s Office, and so in negotiating with him you are simply speaking to a messenger.” For many, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, for all its defects, seemed to be the lesser of two evils. In the lead-up to the referendum, as political tensions were high and protests continued, talk of a civil war seemed to be everywhere. I kept hearing, repeatedly, people “pray” for an intervention by the army.

On December 11, I went to a local sporting club where retired ministers and officials are often found around the pool. A former Interior Ministry chief warned a circle of keen listeners—of whom my father was one—that the Interior Ministry could no longer contain the situation and that the army would be forced to intervene. I was told later that the interior minister had met with the defense minister and told him as much. That afternoon, the army made its appearance, putting out a call and invitation on Facebook to hold a meeting for a “national dialogue” the following day. The president’s office reacted, saying the invitation was a rumor. The army responded that the president would be attending. The president’s office said he wouldn’t. The army responded by changing the wording—they were inviting Morsi to a “humanitarian dialogue” and “luncheon.” Eventually the president’s office said Morsi would be attending “given that the invitation had come upon counsel from him.” Politics would not be discussed, and lunch would be served.

The next afternoon, the meeting was canceled. The Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood had intervened. For him, it was not tolerable that the armed forces should be seen as capable of gathering together all factions, including the president, in a national dialogue, while the president himself had utterly failed to do the same. At the state TV and radio building that day, a reporter told me that the media’s hands were increasingly tied:

It’s no different from when Mubarak was in power. The red lines of what we can say and can’t say are being redrawn. Instead of Mubarak, now it’s Morsi. We know that it was the Supreme Guide who gave orders for the lunch to be canceled. We know there is a tension between the army and Brotherhood, but we can’t say that.

Read the whole thing.