How Egypt’s Revolution veered toward Authoritarian Crackdown

(By Mohammed Fadel)

In response to a December 24 bombing in the town of Mansoura, the Egyptian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The decision, which came despite the fact that an al-Qaida affiliated group—Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis—took responsibility for the blast, was a depressing, even inevitable conclusion to the disastrous course of events in post-Mubarak Egypt. As Egypt approaches the third anniversary of the January 25, 2011 Revolution, democracy has not triumphed. A new dictatorship, much more violent than the one it displaced, is consolidating its control over the country. This time, it enjoys the express backing of the vast majority of non-Islamist political forces, including self-proclaimed liberal parties. Egypt has now returned to the status quo ante, not of January 24, 2011, but of the dark days of the fifties, when the Free Officers, under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser, consolidated their rule by destroying all opposition, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Egypt’s liberal parties.

By declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, the Egyptian government has given itself the power to imprison individuals solely on account of their association, with no proof of violent conduct. And indeed, the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior has stated that mere membership in the Muslim Brotherhood warrants imprisonment
By declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, the Egyptian government has given itself the power to imprison individuals solely on account of their association, with no proof of violent conduct. And indeed, the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior has stated that mere membership in the Muslim Brotherhood warrants imprisonment, taking a leadership role means a life sentence, and leading Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations could lead to the death sentence. And the consequences of this go well beyond targeting Islamist opposition to the coup; both the state-owned and privately-owned pro-military media condemn all opposition, Islamist or non-Islamist, as being secretly part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore designating the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist threatens all opposition to the emerging military-backed order. . .

The revolutionaries failed to recognize the extent of the structural challenges to building a liberal democracy, challenges that may very well have doomed the prospects of any democratic transition. They should have seen the political process that began with Mubarak’s resignation as a down payment toward a democratic future. But, rather than working with the Islamist forces who had been their allies in the January 25thRevolution, the revolutionaries called their political rivals traitors, transforming their political competitors into enemies of the revolution. They eschewed formal politics in favor of demonstrations, boycotts, and strikes, crippling the legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood. They ignored the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood, unlike the military, could be removed from office peacefully by the ballot box.

The notion that elimination of the Muslim Brotherhood would produce a liberal democratic order was wishful thinking. . .

Mohammed Fadel

See the whole essay at The Boston Review, which will hold a forum on this issue soon.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

VOA reports on Muslim Brotherhood protests in Egypt

6 Responses

  1. It appears from the article that most all political parties except the Brotherhood prefer to trust the Army with their short term future rather than Islamists. Might they know their own interests pretty well? It could make sense based on the Turkish model–if I understand it well enough which is pretty doubtful.

    Has the Egyptian army/government committed itself to secular democracy with a timetable for various phases? has that original constitution been amended?

    • Yes to both of those questions. It amended the constitution and finalized it on Dec 14, and the voting for the constitution has already started for Expats at the embassies, and voting will be held on Jan 14-15 inside of Egypt. After that, parliamentary elections and presidential elections are to be held this year, with one in the spring and one in the summer, depending on what they decide is best after the constitution is voted on. Also, the revised constitution has an article banning all political parties based on religion, race, or gender. The army and El-Sisi have put our beloved Egypt back on track! …

  2. Who is Mohammed Fadel? It appears to me that everyone with little, if any, understanding of what is really happening in Egypt, is reporting.

  3. Mohammed Fadel is a well known professor of Law:
    link to

    The article makes a strange leap of logic though… The current government is doing bad practices X to suppress the previous regime… Therefore, the revolutionaries are at fault. Jumped from the authoritarian current regime, over the authoritarian previous regime, to the WEAKEST party (the revolutionary youth who opposed Mubarak and Morsi).

    Does Prof Fadel suggest that if ALL the young revolutionaries had stayed at home June 30th and Morsi’s ouster would NOT have happened? Or Sisi would have been any more “graceful” in his crushing of the Rabia sit in or the brotherhood?

    Why not place the bulk of the blame on those who committed the bulk of the crimes… The MB when they were in power?

  4. The Brotherhood killled a chief Judge , the Head of Police and a Prime minister in 1948 and was disbanded.In 1954 they tried to assassinate Nasser and were again disbanded.In 1964, they kidnapped a Minister and Killed him and tried to stage a Military coup using the cadettes of the Military Enginering Faculty.They were resurected at the Time of Sadat to oppose the communists and Nasserites and they assassinated Sadat.They threatened to Torch Egypt if Morsi was not announced as the President.Morsi(and the Brotherhood) Masterminded the killing of 16 Egyptian Soldiers during Ramadan(the incident was used to Remove Field Marshall Tantawy from his post.They collaborated with AlQaeda & Hamas to attack police and rmy posts(Taped conversations will appear during the trial of Morsi as evidence) .They are behind the terror campaingn in Cairo and Sinai.In addition, they refused to negotiate or join the road map.Whoever plan to destroy Egypt and spread terror should only blame himself.As for Mohammed Fadel, I believe if he did not read the Brotherhood history since inception and did not see on TV the warnings and threats coming out from Rabaa before Morsi’s outster and after(they were recorded on AlJazeerah too) than he better go back to school to learn that before he comes up with conclusions he has to check his proposition and compare it to history an present.Brotherhood is a terrorist organization since inception in the 1930s.

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