Over two years ago, on April 3, 2012, I wrote in this same newspaper an article in which I propose the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or limiting their work to propagation and keeping the Freedom and Justice Party an independent political party. At the time, the reason for this article was the party's decision to nominate Khairat El-Shater for presidency after having expressed their reluctance to nominate or even back a candidate. This reluctance was the movement's admission that it raised the fears of many and may be subject to a serious attack if it sought authority. At the time I said that this problematic situation could only be radically solved if the party is eliminated from the political scene either by means of dissolving the party or limiting its work to propagation, as it was before.
A year after writing this article, as we know, the situation got a lot worse and the words "Muslim Brotherhood" became a "poisonous brand", as I mentioned in an article published in May 2013, making my proposal of dissolving the group more relevant. After the popular movements and the incitement from the media (although unjustified), merely being affiliated with the Brotherhood is a crime. The discourse of the movement and Morsi's government contributed to this, as they continued to deny the accusation of "Ikhwanifying" Egypt. It was as if the Brotherhood was a gang trying to penetrate the state rather than a group of good citizens trying to serve their country after being elected by the people and granted their trust.
After all of this, the problem with matters remaining the way they are became evident and radical change became inevitable. This was reinforced by the subsequent events, including the coup and the Gulf States leading the campaign, which was on the verge of becoming an international campaign against the Brotherhood because Israel, its supporters and the European right-wing (as well as some left-wing groups) have been leading a campaign against the Islamists for years.
We are certain that this campaign will not only fail, but will lead to the opposite effect. It is no secret that the success of the Islamic movements and their popularity only partly stems from their programmes and many of these movements do not even have a programme. The people are attracted to these movements out of hatred for the other competing parties that are either politically, intellectually, or morally lacking. What would attract people to a party named after a dictator who died defeated? This confirms the party's lack of intellectual content, not to mention the orientations of democracy.
What entices people to try what they have already tried under Mubarak's unsuccessful reign; the same people under a new banner? What guarantees the success of the same oppressive campaigns against the Islamists launched by Abdel Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak? It is enough to point out that the Islamic movements are the strongest movements in countries such as Syria, which executes those affiliated with Islamic movements, Turkey, which prohibited and continues to prohibit the mention of Islam in political discourse, as well as Tunisia, Algeria, etc. These campaigns failed because of the ugliness and the bankruptcy of those leading them and this is the greatest promotion for any alternative, even if it is the "Boko Haram".
These campaigns would certainly be an even greater disaster if they succeed. This is due to the fact that, contrary to what those opposed to the Brotherhood have promoted, the emergence of radical Islamic movements came because of the failure, or absence, of moderate Islamic movements. Movements such as the Islamic Jihad, Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group) and the Salafist movements emerged due to the absence of the Muslim Brotherhood and did not stem from it, as claimed by the Egyptian security services and analysts.
Equally, the emergence of the Pakistani Taliban and other extremist groups is due to the failure of the Islamic Group and other parties and movements to respond to the people's aspirations. Therefore, if the efforts to eliminate the Brotherhood succeed, then new movements will emerge, both Islamist and others that will not please the existing governments or foreign backers.
In addition to this, the current situation is not a normal phase in the history of the Arab region, as we are truly in a phase of revolutionary change and its outcomes are difficult to predict. The people have discovered their ability to bring about change and have realised they are not forced to be patient with leaders they are not pleased with. It is enough to witness the difference in the people's reaction towards repression. When Abdel Nasser executed his plan in 1954 by collectively arresting and executing the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, everyone remained silent and the people did not take to the streets to defend the oppressed. Today, despite the Rabaa Al-Adaweya massacre that claimed the lives of hundreds, the mass executions and the use of live ammunition to disperse demonstrations, the Egyptian people are still taking to streets after almost a year since the bloody coup.
As for Syria, the people remained silent during the destruction of Hama in 1982, but they did not remain silent when a dozen children were arrested and tortured in the March 2011. In Syria, as well as in Libya, the people did not take a step back when tanks and aircrafts were used to disperse demonstrations and they remain perseverant despite the destruction of half of Syria and the displacement of half of its population, as well as the murder and kidnapping of anyone opposing the regime. The barrier of fear has been broken and the bank of oppression has gone bankrupt.
However, the absence of a joint vision regarding the direction of change has hampered progress. The people have rejected dictatorship, but did not agree to an alternative authority. The people of ill-will used sectarianism, discord and promoted fear amongst the people as a weapon to regain their positions, but this policy of self-destruction, especially when used against the majority by a minority regime (why else would they fear democracy), is the easiest and shortest way to destroy a nation, because when it fails (it will inevitably fail), it will backfire on these minorities and will lead to an infinite series of destruction amongst the minorities and majorities and will destroy any nation.
There is a moral responsibility for the opponents of dictatorships in general, especially the Islamists, to avoid such destruction. The Muslim Brotherhood can stand its ground and maintain its position and wait until the hostile regimes destroy themselves and the extremist left and right wing organisations reproduce. This will inevitably occur if the current fighting continues. However, this will lead to the same types of danger witnessed in Syria and Iraq, such as the dominance of radical extremist groups that will not let the Brotherhood or anyone else gain a foothold. In the 1970s, the Brotherhood succeeded in neutralising the extremist groups, but it is unlikely to be repeated.
Therefore, there is a need to radically review the Brotherhood's approach. The dissolution of the group or the restructuring of the Islamic arena is not necessarily the solution, as I have suggested earlier. There is an inevitable need to revolutionise the political arena by building a broad democratic front which the Islamists are a part of. Perhaps the Brussels initiative launched last week by a group of Egyptian political forces from various factions is an indication of the direction we should be moving in: Regaining the democratic process by absorbing and containing all of the trends on the basis of common principles, removing the army from politics and respecting human rights and democratic freedoms.
Translated from Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, 12 May, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.