Egyptian Junta designates Muslim Brotherhood as “Terrorist Organization” in Attempt to Crush Dissent

(By Juan Cole)

In Egypt, the interim appointed government of Prime Minister Hazem Biblawi, backed by the military junta that made the coup of July 3, on Wednesday formally categorized the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The decree was published by the feared Interior Ministry (kind of like US FBI but with torture) on its Facebook page.

It was a startling further turnaround in the fortunes of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 by schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna as a form of political Islam (injecting religion into politics). After being semi-banned during the presidency of Hosni Mubarak (r. 1981-2011), the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party was recognized as legitimate. It won the parliamentary elections of late fall 2011 and in June of 2012 its standard-bearer, Muhammad Morsi, won the presidency. After a year in office, Morsi’s heavy-handed and sectarian ruling style and a shrinking economy had turned millions of Egyptians away from him. In late June massive public demonstrations demanded that he stand for a recall election. On July 3, the powerful Egyptian officer corps intervened to place Morsi under arrest and to conduct a nationalist coup against Brotherhood rule. In the aftermath, 2000 high Brotherhood officials were arrested, and major sit-ins were cleared by main force, leaving about 1,000 dead (thought that number includes some police shot dead by Brotherhood snipers).

In the six months since late June, the Brotherhood has gone in Egyptian law from a legitimate party that won free and fair elections to a mere terrorist plot.
In the six months since late June, the Brotherhood has gone in Egyptian law from a legitimate party that won free and fair elections to a mere terrorist plot.

Al-Shorouk Online reports in Arabic that Muslim Brotherhood “activity” is now prohibited as ipso facto a form of terrorism. That is, if Muslim Brotherhood women hold a coffee klatch and discuss worship, they are now engaging in terrorism. It is also terrorism to preach in favor of the organization orally or in writing or any other medium, and it is terrorism to donate funds to the organization.

Continuing to assert that you belong to the Muslim Brotherhood after today makes you a terrorist. The Egyptian government has conveyed its decision to other Arab nations that signed the 1998 anti-terrorism convention.

The armed forces and the police have been charged with with protecting universities and guaranteeing that students will not be safe from the terrorism of this group, and that public edifices are secure.

The decree justified this Draconian step with reference to the blowing up of the security directorate in the provincial city of Mansoura, which killed some 14 persons and wounded 140, some of them high-ranking police or domestic security officials. Yet the placing of the Brotherhood in the category of terrorist organization was carried out, al-Shorouk notes, before any formal inquiry into the Mansoura bombing and before there was clear evidence of Brotherhood involvement.

Muslim Brotherhood activists, undeterred, announced that they would publicly demonstrate on Friday without a permit against the decree, under the rubric of “The coup is terrorism.”

Egyptians on social media pointed out that the military government of Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser (r. 1954-1970) had attempted similarly to ban and extirpate the Muslim Brotherhood but had failed.

The core support for the Brotherhood probably stands at around 20% of the country, and obviously another 31%, not themselves adherents of political Islam, would be willing to vote for or support the Brotherhood’s civil party under the right circumstances. If the US declared 20% of Americans terrorists, that would be 60 million people and it would cause a lot of trouble to attempt to marginalize them all.

Other Egyptians on Facebook or Twitter expressed the conviction that the military government stigmatized the Brotherhood in this way so as to have a way of damning any sort of oppositional activist as a terrorist.

Dalia Ziyada of the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Human Rights asked President Adly Mansour to define more exactly what terrorism is and how the category is arrived at, and asked him to issue a list of terrorist organizations in Egypt. She vowed to continue to try to get the US and Europe also to brand the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

Muhammad Abu Hamid, a former member of parliament, accused the April 6 Youth Organization, a secular left-of-center group, of having been a mere tool whereby the Brotherhood overthrew the Egyptian government.

This sort of accusation shows the ways in which, once one major political group in Egypt is made taboo, the taboo can be spread to other, unrelated groups merely because they oppose the military government.

The true enormity of what Egypt’s military junta did on Christmas Day, 2013, won’t become apparent immediately. But over time it will likely destabilize the country and contribute to a revival of political Islam and of Muslim terrorism.

It will also further damage the prospects of democracy in the region. Why would any group risk playing the democratic game if they thought at any moment all their electoral victories could be wiped out and they could find themselves behind bars (after having had the presidency!) and accused of terrorism.

Related video:

Euronews reports

16 Responses

    • If there was an internal debate within the Brotherhood about electoral politics vs. violent resistance, it has just been won by the bomb-builders.

  1. I disagree with the gist of this article. After one terror attack on civilians after the other and the death of Egyptians in many violent terror attempts, Egypt was boiling. Mansoura’s disaster sealed the MB’s fate. And don’t tell me that Ansar Bayt El Maqdis are not connected to the MB. Why the escalation after Morsi’s ousting if they are not connected.
    My article of only two days ago: defunct. Still, it tells you why the designation of the MB as a terrorist group happened.
    “Can the MB enjoy a resurrection?” link to azzasedky.typepad.com

  2. Culley

    @willybach2011 pretty good that #Egypt is giving dystopian example of how state can abuse power of designating terrorist groups….

  3. Culley

    @willybach2011 …by designating the political opposition terrorists. Notice ruling powers can only do so because they are ruling.

  4. Culley

    @willybach2011 that’s the absurdity of the “terrorism” label & how it’s used to control.

  5. Stephen Hatt

    Who is to say that this is not consistent with what may truly be American policy? We promote democracy and inclusion but in some circles would seriously fret over the Brotherhood, and for good reason.

  6. This is 100% Orwell. The more Egypt’s political establishment is allowed to get away with blaming scapegoats for its failures, the greater the slide into totalitarianism will be. The next step may be that the April 6 movement, the Ultras, the Revolutionary Socialists, and others will be outlawed as allies of the Sinai insurgents, American agents, anarchists, traitors, “terrorists,” and spies.

    If people are willing to sell themselves into slavery because a puppet master manipulates the term “terrorism” to anathemize freedom, human rights, and dissent, then subjugation is unavoidable. The more Egypt’s “liberals” help this process, the greater will be the destruction of everything they claim to value. By placing all blame for the country’s problems on a number of scapegoats carefully nutured, defined, and maneuvered by the puppet master, even when there is no evidence they are guilty of their supposed crimes, the path to totalitarianism is being traveled rapidly.

    Potential candidates for the presidency may be rounded up to preemptively help the deep state’s favored fascist candidate.

    • ‘The more Egypt’s “liberals” help this process, the greater will be the destruction of everything they claim to value.’

      Are they helping this process? It seems that the labor/youth movements that began the anti-Mubarak protests, and the anti-Morsi protests, have themselves become targets of the Sisi regime.

      Or are you referring to a different segment of the body politic when you say “liberals?”

      • There seem to be three broad categories of liberals/social democrats in Egypt in terms of their relation to the present government and willingness to ally with its narratives. Let’s say that one reflects the inner-most core of the 2011 revolutionary spirit and consists of individuals and groups like April 6, Elbaradei, Amr Hamzawy, Khaled Ali, Khaled Dawoud, elements of the Constitution party and many others. Then, there is a more middle ground like the Popular Current and a fraction of the Egyptian Social Democrats. The third group consists of much of the non-Mubarak political establishment that predates the phases of revolutionary activism, like the Tagamu party, Wafd, the Free Egyptians, and some others. Tamarod is a special case that does not clearly fit into any of those, though its behavior in practice most resembles the third group.

        It definitely is the case that many liberals/leftists/social democrats are being persecuted. Yet even though this persecution is escalating, many of the second and third groups remain silent. Why was it possible to work so many so-called liberals into a bloodlust yet they remain silent over the absurd indictments against Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma, and Mohammed Adel? The government classifies the Brotherhood as a “terrorist” organization and then these people immediately forget that state terrorists killed Bassem Mohsen so recently? Why do they barely condemn the ongoing massacres and the massive amount of torture being practiced by the police and at prisons? In fact, many of these political parties have rationalized and applauded a great many of the junta’s massacres. Why do they tolerate the impending constitution’s creation of a government ruled by the defense and interior ministries and the trashing of the judicial system through the preservation of military trials for civilians?

        As for Tamarod, there appears to be a growing split in that movement. Many of its leaders were repudiated by other parts of the movement recently on the grounds that they approve of/rationalize human rights abuses. Yet much of the movement approved the MB terrorist classification, ignoring the obvious fact that the classification plus the attendant suppression of civil liberties is enabling the ongoing repression of liberals. At some point, the Tamarod movement will have to decide whether it is a democratic or fascist entity. Currently, it is largely facilitating the creation of a nightmarish police state that will devour the gains of the 2011 revolution it if is allowed to continue. One Tamarod leader even condemned the Third Square as a “brotherhood front.” This delusional, intolerant attitude is what the deep state is counting on to dupe people into accepting its actions.

        The first group has admirably stood for its principles and has resisted the temptation support the rolling back of freedom and the creation of a totalitarian police state through the scapegoating of unpopular parties. The April 6 movement in particular reflects one of Egypt’s greatest hopes. This is why the government is going to ferocious lengths to suppress that movement and the war between the two continues to escalate. Yet in order to resist the slide into totalitarianism, Eygpt’s bankrupt political establishment has to eventually take a stand and stop supporting the puppet master’s use of scapegoats to setup a new dictatorship. They need to wake up and see what is really going on. It is only a matter of time before the deep/police state moves to suppress them as well. The second group, especially the Popular Current and the Constitution party, is probably next after the April 6 movement, the Ultras, the Strong Egypt Party, the Road of the Revolution Front, the Black Bloc, and Revolutionary Socialists have been outlawed and suppressed.

        The Egyptian deep state has chosen fascism as its preferred vehicle to reclaim and cement its hegemony. Sisi and the cult surrounding him are simply tools used like an opium to affect public opinion. Many of the liberals realize this. Yet some still refuse to accept that the roadmap is not leading to democracy but to something extremely abominable. Perhaps they still believe that June 30 was some kind of revolution on par with January 25 (it was not, even though early presidential elections may have been a reasonable solution to the impasse at that point). By supporting the August and September massacres, these groups emboldened the government and helped pave the way for the recent persecutions of many liberals.
        Sisi is anti-democratic, illiberal, and an important tool of the deep state. Yet some parties, such as the Free Egyptians, actually insist that he is the sole suitable presidential candidate. Amr Moussa is also demanding that. Such people/groups have abandoned what they originally stood for.

        • You ask “Why?”

          “Why do they tolerate the impending constitution’s creation of a government ruled by the defense and interior ministries and the trashing of the judicial system through the preservation of military trials for civilians?”

          I don’t know. Why are groups that were opposing Mubarak in 2011 supporting the restoration of Mubarakism in 2013?

          Is it the experience under Morsi? Did his term in office, ending with massive crowds in the street calling him “Pharaoh” and demanding his ouster, sour the Egyptian center-left on democracy, to the point of making Mubarakism look good in hindsight?

          That would be a shame.

  7. The Sinai insurgents must be astounded at their amazing luck of having such foolish opponents. Not only due their foes blame, massacre, and fight each other, now police and security power is stretched so thin that these groups are operating more and more effectively.

    The next (inevitable) attack may see the government blame other dissident groups. Recall that trial balloons have been floated on the rounding up of “fifth columnists” and that there is actually a case on the subject of whether to dissolve the April 6 movement.

    The strategy of the junta would be instantly recognizable be Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and many other figures.

  8. I absolutely regret supporting the coup. Everything the anti-coup side said would happen did. It makes me want to be wary the next time the far right reaches out to liberals, because usually when right-wingers do that they use them as a prop in the name of unity til they win and then turn on them the minute they aren’t needed anymore. (Egypt 2013, Iran 1979).

    Keep in mind if discontent continues to rise among progressives here in America many of them will be drawn to the siren song of people like Alex Jones and such. Already he gets a significant number of progressive guests on his show who fall for his fake rhetoric pretending toward unity, all the while I’m certain if he had the chance he would use the NDAA to arrest anyone he disagreed with.

    We have to defend American democracy and preserve our rights before it gets to the point of revolution, because if it gets there whatever happens will almost assuredly be hijacked by our own junta, whatever face or shape it may take.

  9. Doesn’t General al-Sissi realize that the actions he is creating and/or tolerating and/or encouraging is creating more martyrs? Does he really think that long-term stability will be created by jailing youth leaders and detaining opposition leaders? Or does he not care?

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