The Big Bad Brotherhood

After watching Alan Derschowitz on CNN wax Zionist about the Big Bad Brotherhood in Egypt and the misguided fears of a mass of veiled and burqa-clad women descending upon the streets of Egypt post-Mubarak like a swarm of locusts, I couldn’t help but wonder in agony about how exactly we have gotten to this point of such blatant institutionalized racism in this current day and age. (You can also imagine my bewilderment then over how Derschowitz can still be a law professor at Harvard Law School.)

Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly at all, during the first few days and weeks of the Egyptian Revolution, leading American politicians, such as House speaker John Boehner, threw their lot behind Hosni Mubarak in fear of the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged takeover of power. As hundreds of thousands of Egyptians from different walks of life, faith, political affiliations and socioeconomic backgrounds descended upon Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand their inalienable rights as citizens and human beings, Western politicians and neoliberal political pundits audaciously dismissed the Egyptian people’s fight for freedom by focusing instead on their fears of an Islamist party takeover.

However, as a New York Times (NYT) article detailed, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood would only muster up a mere 20-30% support base among Egyptians. Since the organization’s founding in 1928, the Brotherhood’s appeal has been its offering of a space wherein grievances – political and otherwise – could be expressed and shared. What this has essentially meant is that, for the most part, the Brotherhood has offered up the only true democratic alternative to Mubarak’s corrupt National Democratic Party (NDP).  For decades, from King Farouk, to Gamal Abdel Nasser, to Anwar Sadat and Mubarak, all opposition groups have been imprisoned, outlawed, or silenced. The Brotherhood’s ideological backbone gave Egyptians, frustrated with their lack of a political voice, an arena and space where they could be heard. As newspaper editor and human rights activist, Hisham Kaseem, stated in the very same NYT article: “If people met in a café and talked about things the regime didn’t like, he would just shut down the café and arrest us […] But you can’t close mosques, so the Brotherhood survived.”

Although a seeming thorn in the regime’s side, the Muslim Brotherhood was in fact Mubarak’s saving grace as it gave him just another pathetic excuse to offer up to the people: “Stick with me, the other guys are radical extremists who will cover up your women and take away your freedoms.” Likewise, the more corrupt and oppressive the regime became, the more the Brotherhood gained in strength and support. They almost seem like the best of friends, or unwilling collaborators…

Recently, during a phone conversation with an Egyptian friend of mine who lives in Cairo, he expressed these same fears that have been propagated by Mubarak’s regime for decades about the scary extremist Brotherhood taking over.

My only response was, “So what are you going to do about it?”

My friend’s misplaced fears were exasperating at worst, and ironically reassuring at best. Exasperating in its lack of a realistic and logical grounding, and reassuring in the spaces it left for some much needed facts filling.  His expressed concerns only confirmed what I have been thinking, and trying to relay, for some time now. It is not the Brotherhood, who only got an approval rating of 15% after the fall of Mubarak, that people like my friend should be worried about, it is the remaining sector of Egyptian society that has lain dormant for 30+ years.

It isn’t the Big Bad Brotherhood we should be worried about; it’s the silence and inaction of the remaining 80% majority or so that should have us shaking in our boots.

There are no more excuses and no more chances. Now is the time for active engagement, civic participation, and informed decision-making. The only question remains: Is the 80% up for the challenge?

– Change in a Box


One response to “The Big Bad Brotherhood

  1. The western media love to hate Islam. Anyway nobody reads the New York Times anymore, or the Times in London (Rupert Murdoch’s paper) or indeed the Guardian which is supposed to be left wing liberal but has even worse journalists than the right win g papers, or any other mainstream newspaper. That’s why blogs are become so successful. Everybody has had an encounter with the western media on some story or other which has led to them being no longer physically able to pick up any of those papers except perhaps to wrap fish. Take the NYT article quoted. It says “Many people outside Egypt believe that the Brotherhood gains political influence by providing health clinics and charity for the poor. But the very poor in Egypt are not very politically active”: but the point is the Muslim brotherhood doesn’t provide clinic for the poor for political advantage, it does it to help the poor, that’s unfashionable in the US where the poor are reviled and treated like animals, but Islam asks us to help the poor. The NYT article goes on to say “… the group has only six clinics in Cairo, a city of 18 million”, but doesn’t say that Mubarak imprisoned the Brotherhood leadership [who have now been released] and closed 50 businesses which were used to fund the clinics [which are now being re-opened]. This pressure from the Mubarak regime meant the brotherhood couldn’t do their job properly – now they can (to the dismay of the NYT journalist and his editors no doubt). The Mubarak regime also wanted to destroy Hamas because of their link to the Brotherhood and in order have a good excuse to do that, Habib el-Adly and Omar Suleiman authorised the bombing of Al-Qiddinsin Church in Alxandria on New Year’s Eve, killing 23 Christian worshippers. Did the NYT run an ‘outraged’ article about those new facts that have emerged? Of course not because not only are Egyptian muslims not important, neither are Egyptian Christians. They are all dispensable. Given the trustworthiness of the leaders of the Brotherhood they will do much better than people give them credit for: it will be down to the judgement Egyptians make democratically about their leaders. Those Egyptians within Egypt who ‘fear’ or ‘hate’ the Brotherhood are those well-heeled individuals and families who fear poverty and the poor. As the writer of the blog says: if you are worried about all this – get out there and do something about it

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