Is the Muslim Brotherhood a New Target of Egypt’s Anti-Government Protests?
By Aidan Clay
Washington, D.C. February 14 (ICC) – Thousands of activists gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square last weekend in continued protests to denounce the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and, in a surprising turn of events, the election of the Muslim Brotherhood-ruled parliament. The large demonstrations marked the one year anniversary of President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster from power.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which won 47 percent of the votes in Egypt’s elections for the lower-house of parliament in January, has fallen under increasing pressure in recent weeks, Christian and moderate activists told ICC. Many accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of participating in fraudulent elections and tacitly allying with the SCAF. Meanwhile, protestors continue to demand that the SCAF immediately cease power to civilian rule while condemning them for committing human rights violations that rival those of Mubarak’s regime.
“Protestors were shouting, ‘No military council and no Brotherhood. This is our revolution, the youth’s revolution,’” Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub told ICC. “Many people have regretted electing the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is more concerned with their movement than the benefit of the country.”
Mary Ibrahim Daniel, the sister of Mina Daniel – a well-known Coptic activist who was killed by the SCAF during a peaceful protest on October 9 – continues to march with demonstrators to defend the memory of her brother and to demand the same freedoms that were sought in Egypt’s revolution.
“I dream that one day all the Egyptian people will demonstrate against the Brotherhood,” Daniel told ICC. “I was surprised to see so many people, including Muslims, protesting against them outside the House of Parliament. I think that finally the Egyptian people are waking up to the fact that the Brotherhood used religion to get into power and are using religion to stay in power. The Brotherhood is hijacking the ideals and motives behind the revolution.”
The Muslim Brotherhood recently pulled away from popular demands that Egypt’s new parliament should immediately replace the military-appointed government, which raises concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood is tacitly allying with the SCAF for political gain. Alliances formed by the Muslim Brotherhood will likely set the agenda of the new parliament, including its appointment of an assembly to draft the constitution. The SCAF has made clear its intention to influence the process and has opted for autonomy from parliament oversight, The Wall Street Journal reported last November.
The Egyptian daily Al-Wafd, published by the Wafd political party, recently reported that the SCAF has discretely helped finance the Muslim Brotherhood, enabling them to carry out social programs which have played a major role in securing votes. Some Egyptians claim that the SCAF will hand over internal powers to the Muslim Brotherhood while it remains in control of defense, security and the country’s enormous budget.
“The Brotherhood has always publicly insisted that there is no deal [between them and the SCAF]. But especially since they offered immunity from legal action to the SCAF for its actions since the revolution, the allegations grew louder,” Mara Revkin, analyst at the U.S. think-tank the Atlantic Council, told Now Lebanon. The SCAF has been accused of killing hundreds of protestors, including 27 Christians on October 9 and at least 41 activists during demonstrations leading up to the parliamentary elections.
Renewed protests are planned to take place outside the hospital where former President Mubarak is being held. In a message intended to undermine demonstrators, the SCAF warned on Friday that it will not bow to threats and plots that aim to topple the state and spread chaos, The Associated Press reported. The Muslim Brotherhood also condemned recent protests, saying that it will not take part in demonstrations that will hurt Egypt’s already fragile economy. However, many activists, including Coptic Christians who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, remain hopeful that change is still on the horizon.
“Every day is a new day. Every hour is a new hour,” Yacoub said. “I stopped predicting what will happen next. I’ll wake up and find that a new disaster has happened. You just don’t know in Egypt. The 24th of January was different than the 25th, which was different than the 11th of February when Mubarak stepped down. I’ve learned to take things step-by-step, day-by-day, hour-by-hour.”