Egyptian Government Threatened by Muslim Brotherhood
The Islamist group is growing so popular, Cairo says it’s time to crack down. Competition is raging over control of Egypt’s future. On one side is the present moderate, secularist government of Hosni Mubarak. Posing a strong challenge from the other side is the radical Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to transform Egypt into an Islamic state. The sympathy this group enjoys among the Egyptian people is extraordinarily broad and deep. Mubarak’s government knows this and intends to do something about it.
For the past two months, the government has been clamping down on the Brotherhood, its main opposition group. This Islamist group, though officially banned, has managed to get 88 of its members elected to the national parliament (they ran as independents), and to infiltrate the nation’s media, education system, social services and culture to a startling degree. Despite continual repression by the government and periodic crackdowns, the Brotherhood is a dominant social and political force within Egypt.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says the radical Brotherhood already “claims the loyalty of many and possibly most Egyptians” (Newsweek, January 8).
With Egypt approaching an expected period of political instability with the aging and apparently ailing Mubarak’s reign nearing an end, it appears the government has been making a concerted effort to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood to prevent it taking advantage of any such instability. Reuters reported, “Analysts say Egypt fears that unless it stops the Islamists now, they will make enough gains in coming elections to bypass rules aimed at blocking them from eventually mounting a real challenge for Egypt’s presidency” (February 5).
Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (ndp) used a Dec. 10, 2006, march by Brotherhood students, masked and cloaked in black, at a Cairo university as a pretext for its latest offensive. The government, for the first time, is accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of being a security threat to Egypt and is investigating accusations that it has a military wing.
Egypt’s security forces have arrested some 270 Muslim Brotherhood members, including third-in-command Khairat al-Shatr—known as a key financier—and dozens of other senior officials, 180 students and numerous businessmen. The government froze the assets of 29 Brotherhood members on January 29, the first time it has ever taken such action.
In addition, the government shut down many businesses and publishing houses associated with the Brotherhood and blocked its English-language website to Internet users in Egypt.
It has also attacked the Muslim Brotherhood via articles in government newspapers. The severity of these measures indicates how serious the government considers the threat. A primary source of contention is the ndp’s proposed constitutional amendments, which are seen as an effort by the government to exclude the Muslim Brotherhood from running in future elections.
In all, amendments are proposed for 34 articles in the Constitution. One of primary concern to the Muslim Brotherhood calls for a ban on religious parties. The Brotherhood responded by announcing that it would, within a few weeks, make public the platform of a new civil party it is proposing to form. Both domestic and international pressure, however, will limit the extent to which the government can suppress the Brotherhood.
Domestic discontent with the autocratic Mubarak regime was demonstrated in the December 2005 parliamentary elections: The Muslim Brotherhood gained one fifth of the seats despite governmental fraud and electoral interference aimed at limiting the Brotherhood candidates’ success. A barometer of who is winning in the battle for control of Egyptian society is how Islamic dress has taken hold in the country.
The New York Times reported January 28 that “the increasing prevalence of the hijab is a sign that the Islamists are winning.” While not many years ago only a small number of women in Egypt wore the head scarf, today, about 90 percent at least cover their heads. What’s more, when the Egyptian culture minister labeled the hijab as “regressive” recently, he received an onslaught of protest, with 130 parliament members calling for his resignation.
Dr. Mamoun Fandy, an Egyptian-born scholar and columnist, commented in the London daily al-Sharq al-Awsat January 22: In light of the storm of responses to Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni’s statements about the hijab, it became clear that [the number of] Muslim Brotherhood [supporters] inside the National Party might be greater than [the number of] members in the banned [Muslim Brotherhood] organization [itself], and that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated into all Egypt’s state apparatuses. Dr. Fandy went on to say (emphasis ours):
The Egyptian press is perhaps the best reflection of this infiltration: The front and back pages of Egypt’s government papers belong to the ruling party, while the 20 inside pages of every paper belong to the Muslim Brotherhood—and they do what they want with them [via] their correspondents, theoreticians and propagandists.
Whoever reads the Egyptian press today cannot but notice that Egypt is living in the Muslim Brotherhood era. … As was clarified to me by a member of the National Party, “[T]here is [only] one party in Egypt, and that is the Muslim Brotherhood.” Over more than 30 years, the Muslim Brotherhood has been gaining control over Egypt’s domestic arena—its streets, its institutions, and its press—and nothing stands between it and [full] control except for foreign issues, the first of which is the Palestinian problem.
According to Dr. Fandy, the political success of Hamas—whose predecessor was the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood—in the Palestinian territories will strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. If Hamas is victorious over Fatah in the current struggle, Fandy says that will put the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the top of the country’s political pyramid. “When [Hamas leader and Palestinian Prime Minister] Ismail Haniya comes to Egypt, he will go to the Cairo branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, instead of meeting with the senior officials of the Egyptian state.” Dr. Fandy also explained how the Muslim Brotherhood has at its disposal the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera.
“Al-Jazeera wastes no time, and it is already propagandizing for [Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader] Mahdi Akef and the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization at the expense of the Egyptian state.” Using the same method to garner popular support as terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood is also spreading its influence in Egypt through operating social services such as schools and health clinics.
This growing influence, together with the Islamic resurgence that is occurring among Egyptians, demonstrates how effectively the Brotherhood has already infiltrated Egyptian society. Egypt will likely find that the government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, though perhaps frustrating the group in the short term, will do little to damage its popularity and, furthermore, may lead to further radicalization of its supporters.
Even as the moderate Egyptian government takes political, economic and security actions against the Muslim Brotherhood, its hold on power remains tenuous. The Brotherhood has been held at bay for years primarily because of the emergency laws that have been in place since 1981 for that purpose. As domestic—as well as international—pressure increases on the Egyptian government to enact political reforms that would make the system more democratic, it appears it is only a matter of time before the Muslim Brotherhood gains more political power.
If a successor to Mubarak lacks the strength to suppress the Brotherhood as the current leader has managed to do for a quarter century, the Islamists will seize the chance to take over Egyptian politics. The trend in the Middle East is toward radicalization and the rise of the Islamists—clearly demonstrated by the success of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, Shiite Islamists in Iraq and in Bahrain, and so on.
Watch for this same trend to play out in Egypt. The Trumpet has often pointed to this inevitability, based on biblical prophecy. Editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in the booklet The King of the South, “Daniel 11:42 implies that Egypt will be allied with the king of the south, or Iran.
This prophecy indicates that there would be a far-reaching change in Egyptian politics!” If Egyptian politics was to fall under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, the way would be opened for Egypt to form an alliance with Iran.
This development would be disastrous on several fronts, not least for Israel—which shares a border with Egypt—and the United States, which would hate to lose one of the few allies it currently has in the Middle East. However, in the wider context, what we see are the pieces of end-time prophecy falling into place that will lead up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Watch for political change in Egypt—just one of those prophetic pieces.