Last week cannot be called anything other than a big mess. Ever since the Brotherhood took office, we have been reaping one misfortune after the other. From political exclusion to cracking down on freedom of speech, regular power cuts to tragic train accidents, blatant lies about achievements to outright hate speech and from false electoral promises to vulgar dictatorial decrees; the Muslim Brotherhood has worked hard to make sure we don’t miss a thing from the Mubarak years.
But Mursi’s recent decisions were an important turn of events. They marked the beginning of a new phase. Before those decisions were out, we were simply dealing with a new president who was backed by the political and financial weight of the group to which he belonged.
We watched that president make one mistake after the other and we watched an army of apologists constantly coming up with excuses. But we watched that president working within the framework of a state. It is true that the balance between the authorities of that state was already out of tune since the president had awarded himself legislative authority together with the executive, but the semi-independence of the judiciary remained hanging by a thread.
What happened last week was an attempt from the president to deconstruct the judiciary and downsize its influence and at the same time grant himself power sufficient to declare a dictatorship. In dealing with the repercussions of those decisions, the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood has grown significantly. For the past months of Mursi’s administration, the public political support he had came from the Freedom and Justice party.
Meanwhile, the Brotherhood was laying low and orchestrating the different moves of the party. However, last week, the Muslim Brotherhood decided to finally come out of the closet and send a clear message to everyone who dares challenge or oppose the president. The message was “he’s our boy and we know how to protect him.”
The clashes last Wednesday were sufficient evidence that the Brotherhood has planned to openly fight the president’s battles. The Brotherhood’s war is no longer in open squares with thousands packed in buses and transported to demonstrations. The struggle is no longer on media channels where the Brotherhood tries to defend the president and it is no longer in elected councils where the Brotherhood uses its financially earned numerical majority to guarantee political support for the president.
The struggle now is on the street with religious and political violence manifesting in rocks thrown and guns fired. The Muslim Brotherhood is no longer satisfied with merely supporting the president; they have moved to personally punishing every individual who dares disagree with their president.
And the Brotherhood did not only deploy an army of well-equipped blind supporters, they mobilized those who are full of hatred, misconceptions and intolerance. Those who were on the frontline from the Muslim Brotherhood were convinced that their war is against sinners, criminals who dared oppose the rulings of the just president, and pagans who live on alcohol and foreign aid. The Muslim Brotherhood fought the battle mentally with their supporters before they fought it physically with their opponents.
The mere fact that the Murshid (supreme guide) presided over the funerals of those who died in the clashes on Friday demonstrates that the Brotherhood has reached the stage where it is willing to sacrifice its members for what the president sees as right (which is in essence what the Brotherhood sees as right).
The Murshid has absolutely no significance in life other than being the supreme guide of the Brotherhood. He is not even a man of religion. His speech at the funeral was a message that those who died sacrificed their lives for the Brotherhood and the Brotherhood in turn recognizes that. The ones who died in the clashes were Egyptians. They died for what they believe in and their death is a misfortune to all. But the Brotherhood chose to recognize and mourn only those who fell dead from its side.
Mursi is not just setting the stage for a dictatorship, he is also allowing his Brotherhood all the room it needs to be his most effective line of defense, even if that means that the Brotherhood turns into a state within the state with the power to punish those who oppose it. This vicious direction has sown nothing so far but hatred, distinction and power hungry violence.
Mr President, those who voted for you did not vote for the rest of the package, and those who are against you will never retreat as long as you rule Egypt in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood alone.
(Ziad Akl is a political sociologist and a Middle East specialist at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. This article was published on the Daily News Egypt on Dec. 8, 2012.)