The gentle giant has run out of patience: Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — Ghasem Akbari, Maria Sliwa

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JULY 4 — As ISIS moved into northern Sinai this week butchering Egyptian police and military, the metaphorical father of all Jihadi groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, finally lost its patience and resorted to violence. In fact, it has been quite a while since the Muslim Brotherhood has used violence as a means to advance its agenda.

Egypt’s Chief Prosecutor Hisham Barakat was killed this week, after a bomb ripped through his convoy as it passed through north-eastern Cairo. Even though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Egyptian government blamed the Muslim Brotherhood.   

In a public statement the Muslim Brotherhood said, “Murder is unacceptable but there is no way to stop bloodshed except by crushing the military coup and empowering the revolution, only justice can stop the violence," Ahram reported. This is because they will support violence and jihadism whenever the legal and political system prevents their peaceful overthrown of the status quo.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s return to terrorism was inevitable. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been crushing their movement in Egypt. Thousands of activists have been arrested and hundreds of them including the former president, Mohammad Morsi, and the head of the movement, Mohammad Badie, have been sentenced to death. El-Sisi’s strong position and successful crackdown has forced the organisation to think twice about the effectiveness of using their nonviolent strategy in dealing with this powerful, stern president.

Even though Hasan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, it traces its roots back to the 19th century fundamentalist scholar, Sayyid Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani.  Al-Afghani called the rulers of Muslims who did not make Sharia the basis of their legal and political system, tyrants and apostates, in order to dehumanize them and set the scene for their assassinations.

Inspired by al-Afghani’s teachings, his disciple Mirza Reza Kermani fatally shot the King of Iran, Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, in May 1896 because he had been stigmatized as an apostate.  The Muslim Brotherhood has continued to use jihadism throughout the Islamic world against those it considers tyrant and apostate rulers, regardless of sectarian differences. Its branch in Iran, directed by Navab Safavi, assassinated the Iranian prime minister, Abdolhosein Hazhir, in 1949. Inspired by a fatwa issued by the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot organisation, Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya assassinated the Egyptian president Muhammad Anwar El Sadat in 1981. 

Learning that the cost of terrorism, particularly in the West, is high and its benefit is little, the Muslim Brotherhood switched their approach from violence to non-violent means (i.e., Dawa-missionary work) about two decades ago, and began changing communities from within. Changing their image from a known Jihadi organisation to a moderate movement was very difficult and took a lot of effort. Yet despite their evolution toward moderation, many believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is the backbone of jihadists and an organisation without which the jihadism movement is crippled.

In the aftermath of the “Arab Spring” — the Islamic Awakening, when the Muslim Brotherhood won the election under the name of democracy and was pursuing a Shariah-based government, the need for violence to Islamise Egypt’s political system seemed unnecessary and foolish. Back then, the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood never imagined that they would resort to the strategy of terrorism again. 

However their shift to violence has come full circle. Considering that the majority of Egyptians support the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt is going to see more bloodshed as the gentle giant is tired of suppression, and the Egyptian President has promised more crackdowns.

* Ghasem Akbari is certified by the Iranian Bar Association as a Number One Attorney, is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Iran, and is the author of two books and numerous articles.

* Maria Sliwa is an adjunct professor of Journalism at Columbia University.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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