The most recent attempts at reconciliation between the Muslim Brothers and the non-Islamist forces in Egypt looks like it has met the same fate as its predecessors
“We will show you terrorism you never imagined existed,” was the promise publicly wielded by the Muslim Brother (MB) leader Safwat Hegazi once the Islamist regime of the MB Muhammad Mursi was overthrown last July.
Even though Mursi had been voted into office by the Egyptian public, he quickly lost both favour and trust once he moved to grab power, rendering democracy a sham. He also applied policies that positioned Egyptian interests a remote second to pan-world Islamist interests. This brought on the unprecedentedly massive public protest which, backed by the army, overthrew Mursi.
Day-to-day Islamist terrorism
Ever since, the MB have pitted themselves against the Egypt which rejected them. True to their word, and despite being in the minority, their day-to-day terrorist acts have plagued the lives of Egyptians. The all-out Islamist war in Sinai daily claims Egyptian lives, Egyptian military and security targets are consistently bombed. Attempts against the lives of civilian and military officials have spread terror. Aggressive demonstrations that interrupt normal activity and sap the energy of Egypt’s police, violent attempts to close down universities, aggressively blocking main thoroughfares and the disruption of metro operation are all daily doses of MB terrorist acts. Is it any surprise that such terrorism has steeled Egyptians in their wide majority against the MB, now seen as a bunch of terrorists with loyalties other than Egyptian?
For their part, the MB reduce the Egyptian revolution which led to the overthrow of Mursi to a military coup. They insist they do not recognise the current interim civil authority in Egypt. They reject the notion that they were given the opportunity to be in power but severely messed it up, and insist that Mursi should be reinstated and that they should return to power.
Various efforts to work some conciliation and subsequent inclusion between the MB and the civil forces which now hold the upper hand in Egypt have all broken down thanks to MB intransigence and their refusal to recognise the current political system or talk to what they brand the ‘coup authorities’. Their precondition for any conciliation has been the reinstatement of Mursi as Egypt’s president.
The most recent initiative at conciliation, however, stands out for being proposed by none other than MB leader Mohamed Ali Beshr. The initiative is based on opening a new national dialogue that would involve all the political and revolutionary forces in Egypt, as well as the military. The dialogue, described by Dr Beshr as inclusive of all, aims at resolving the current impasse between the MB and all the other sides, and goes into operation two weeks once an agreement is reached.
Dr Beshr points out that any serious attempt to get Egypt out of the current crisis must undertake a number of basic measures. These include securing a climate of freedom that would lead to an end of bloodshed, halting the hate campaigns in the media, ceasing arrests and security ‘fabrications’, setting free those who were detained after 30 June 2013 Revolution, putting back on air the satellite channels that were closed, confronting thuggery, and securing the main establishments. These measures, he says, must not interfere with the right to peaceful demonstrations, and the genuine desire to bring the crisis to an end. It is also primordial to address it openly and candidly, respecting the will of the people who shape the nation’s destiny.
Not without an apology
The response of the different political parties to the initiative varied. Tareq Tohamy, member of the higher committee of the liberal Wafd party, insists there can be no negotiation with the instigators of violence and bloodshed. The MB is a group banned by the law, he says. “Revolutions aim at getting rid of old regimes which corrupted political life. This happened after the 25 January 2011 Revolution when the National Democratic Party (NDP) was dissolved by court order and all its leaders stood trial, including its head who was at the time the president of the republic. Whatever action was taken against Mubarak must also apply to Mursi and his clan.” Mr Tohamy says that initiatives are proposed with the aim of bridging opinion gaps, not to reconcile with traitors. He sees Dr Beshr’s initiative as a manoeuver by the MB to pressure the State, since they fear the coming period while many of their leaders remain in prison.
Hussam Eddin Ali, spokesman of liberal al- Mu’tamar party rejects the initiative. “The [Islamist] 2012 constitution rushed through by Mursi when he was in office is being amended and will be put to public referendum next January,” Mr Ali says. “So demand for constitutional legitimacy is already answered.” He insists that the MB violence, demonstrations, roadblocks, terrorism, and attempts to halt production are all means to blackmail the current government but will lead nowhere; they call for firm, lawful response.
“We altogether reject any talk of conciliation or inclusion unless the MB apologise to the Egyptian people for all the crime, violence, and upheaval they have caused since they were ousted from power last July,” al-Sayed Abdel-Aal, head of the leftist Tagammu party, says.
The responsibility of all
Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, head of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (Al Tahaluf al-Shaabi al-Ishtiraki) and National Salvation Front leader, however, welcomes the initiative as long as it does not call for the reinstatement of Mursi. As far as political detainees are concerned, he believes that the prosecutor might work a revision since the detentions were based on charges not indictments.
“Mr Beshr’s initiative carries not much weight,” according to Ayman Abdel-Wahab, of the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, “since he is no longer in command with the MB.” The Egyptian people, Mr Abdel-Wahab says, have made it clear they will not reconcile with the MB group which publicly tout its hate for Egypt and its people, fosters terrorism and has ties with international terrorist organisations. The calls and initiatives floated every now and then are only meant to retain some presence for the MB’s on the Egyptian arena and to persuade the international community that they are a peaceful group. The initiatives are nothing but tricks to cover for the international pressure that is being applied to Egypt. “Along the same line,” Mr Abdel-Wahab says, “the Egyptian government is also trying to persuade the world that it is not excluding any political faction but is reaching out for reconciliation.” He calls on the government to reject these futile initiatives and let interim justice take its course.
Professor of Political Science Hassan Nafea, asserts that the crushing crisis can only be resolved if all parties seriously work to find a way out. “This requires changes in position by all to reach common ground. For the sake of Egypt, this is the responsibility of everyone along the Egyptian political spectrum.”
30 November 2013