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Rising Differences inside Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

There are increasing signs that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood may be headed for more internal troubles.  On one side of the organization stand the middle-level cadre particularly in rural areas and Upper Egypt; some members in the Guidance Bureau; and most of the exiled leaders.  On the other side, are the urban youth and the leaders who are currently imprisoned in Egypt.

Obviously, such categories are not set in distinct straight lines.  But in general, it is possible to say that the main issue that separates the two camps is one question:  What to do next?   A call for a kind of accommodation with the regime of Abdel Fatah Al Sissi in order to stop the continuous bleeding of resources and the relentless campaign against the organization is repeated by the less radical members who wish to go back to the days of Mubarak, when they were allowed  a limited margin of movement.

During these Mubarak years, the organization succeeded in controlling many professional unions, expanding their popular base and winning a considerable number of seats in the Parliament.  Many businesses initiated a business equation that shared results between the organization and its members, thereby creating vested interests for both sides.  It was said that eight thousand such projects were created in the last two decades of Mubarak rule. MB members who want to see a return to their “old lives”—both personal and business—represent an internally illicit force pressuring for a new deal with the military.  Theirs is a logic based on considering what happened to be a “fait accompli” and on finding a way to preserve the organization and what is left of its infrastructure.

On the other hand there are the youth who bet on the hope that the economic crisis will create a favorable environment for yet another popular revolt, this time against Al Sissi, on which the MB can be carried back to power. The arrested leaders of the organization are siding with the youth. There are two main reasons for that:  the first is that the prominent members in the leadership are ideological disciples of As Sayed Qotb, a scholar executed in 1966 because of his rigid teachings;   the second is that they always defended the line that the people would revolt against the military and their calculations were thought to be the main factor that would prevent the army from toppling President Mohamed Morsi.   But Morsi was toppled, and now, the view of the youth is to expect another revolt that will be the ultimate vindication of the Qotbists now in prison.

There are also external factors that are at work.  Qatar is active in trying to get the MB’s leaders to put together “a revision” of the organization’s short-lived power in Egypt and compare it with Al Nahda, the Brothers’ organization in Tunisia.  Qatar has invested heavily in the MB, and they represent Doha’s regional political arm in a way. The MBs in Egypt are the center of gravity of the whole regional and international organization.  It is important for Qatar to get the Egyptians to try to limit the losses and work to regain their lost strength.

In a conversation, one very active youth of the MB defended his radical position by saying that confronting the current regime is the correct way for the organization to recover.  He said that protests are getting bigger and that they feel more and more that the MB is not standing alone.

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