If one takes his or her information about the Muslim Brotherhood solely from the media reports coming out of Egypt today, he or she could be forgiven for thinking that the Muslim Brotherhood is a power grabbing, violent group of extremists intent on destroying Egypt. Ever since the removal of President Morsi, articles depicting the Brotherhood as such have dominated both state media and independent media in Egypt. But in reality, are Brotherhood members such violent extremists?
Whilst one cannot claim that Morsi’s presidency was faultless or that the Muslim Brotherhood dominated government did not have its fair share of problems, the reality is that the administration was still in its infancy. Democracy had only recently come to Egypt after decades of autocracy and dictatorship. The Brotherhood had been excluded from political life during these decades of repression, but had nonetheless managed to garner mass support through its social work programmes and active engagement with Egyptian citizens. It was this support that led to the Brotherhood’s successful parliamentary campaign and Morsi’s election as president. Critics have asserted that the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi were undemocratic, attributing Mohamed Morsi with pharaoh-like powers. Yet, these assertions seem to ignore that Egyptian democracy was successfully working, because the fact remained that free and fair elections had been held and were being honored. Oppositionists and critics seemed to ignore the rules of democracy, where if one does not like the result one should express that opinion at the ballot box not through the military.
Yet slurring the Brotherhood now seems to have become a fait accompli; not only are the Brotherhood assumed to be non-democratic, despite successfully participating in democracy, but also violent extremists. As the coup was carried out, Egyptians hastily took to the streets, opposing the violent, undemocratic removal of the first legitimate Egyptian president. Yet very quickly events took a sour turn and scores of protesters were wounded, and in a number of unfortunate incidents, killed. What video evidence eventually proved was that the army, as well as state hired thugs, were behind the violence at the protests. Reports of children being killed and journalists shot at particularly took the world by shock, and in the first instances reports were circulated falsely indicting the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was accused of instigating the violence, thus blamed for the deaths and injuries of the protesters (incidentally, many of those killed were Muslim Brotherhood protesters). When a sit-in of Muslim Brotherhood supporters at the Republican Guards Palace led to the first wave of killings during dawn prayers, rumours circulated that the Brotherhood had orchestrated the massacre to garner sympathy for its cause. It took video evidence from a range of sources, including from field hospital doctors, to win over some (but not all) critics and prove that the military was behind the massacre.
So are members of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists? When events in the Sinai took a deadly turn, the anti-Muslim Brotherhood propaganda war took an ugly turn. Their leaders were accused of collaborating with Hamas to cause carnage in the region. However Hamas leaders and their Brotherhood counterparts were quick to deny any involvement in the events. Hamas pointed out that any instability in the Sinai adversely affects the Gaza Strip, creating untold further difficulties for the already war-torn, blockaded region. The closure of the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza after the coup has further exacerbated these difficulties in Gaza. The tunnel economy had helped to sustain life in Gaza, providing essential products to the residents over the last six years of the blockade. Thus the suggestion that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood would terrorise the Sinai is ludicrous, and evidence went on to prove that it was, in fact, the Egyptian military that had collaborated with Israel.
The Brotherhood has been depicted in the Egyptian media as guilty of a whole range of crimes, but without any evidence to prove these accusations. Thus, the media has been used by the Egyptian military to tarnish the image of the Brotherhood and try to diminish the growing support that the movement has gained in the Egyptian streets. In reality, this hasn’t worked, and support for the Brotherhood has grown. And even if some are not supporting the Brotherhood, many Egyptians are at least on the same side as them now, as they too echo the calls for democracy, legitimacy and the return of their first ever, elected president.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.