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12 January 2014

What happens in Egypt won`t stay in Egypt ما يحدث في مصر وفاز `ر البقاء في مصر

EGYPT`S Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist movement, at least not currently. But the move by the military-led government to ban it from politics and declare it a `terrorist organisation` may become a self fulfilling prophecy. Brotherhood members and donors risk prosecution and imprisonment, and the ban is potentially crippling to the vast network of schools, clinics and other social services the Brotherhood runs and to the poor Egyptians who have long relied on them.

The crackdown will undoubtedly drive some of the Brotherhood`s members to terrorism. Already, the military ouster of Brotherhood leader and elected president Mohammed Morsi in July has lent strength to Al Qaeda`s long-held view that electoral politics is treacherous and that the Islamist project can be advanced only through violence. The government`s action has thrown together adherents of two streams of Islamism that had opposed one another and has created a new wave of recruits for violent extremism.

Egypt`s path is now clear: it is on the road to even greater repression, strife and instability. The radicalisation of the Brotherhood seems more a question of `when,` not `if.

In the name of fighting terrorism, the regime is making the problem far worse.

وما يحدث في مصر وفاز `ر البقاء في مصر. اضطر الحيازة مرسي سيصدره الإخوان الانضمام إلى تدابير لاحتواء حماس في غزة، ولكن الانقلاب يعطي حوافز الإخوان لتعزيز العلاقات مع أبناء الإرهابية.
مع مصر التي تواجه بالفعل تحديات الشرطة تدفق الأسلحة والأشخاص عبر حدودها، يمكن أن تؤدي إلى تفاقم القمع التطرف في غزة وعبر ليبيا وبقية شمال أفريقيا.

And what happens in Egypt won`t stay in Egypt. Morsi`s tenure forced the Brotherhood to accede to measures to contain Hamas in Gaza, but the coup gives the Brotherhood incentives to strengthen ties with its terrorist cousins. With Egypt already facing challenges policing the flow of arms and people across its borders, the crackdown could exacerbate extremism in Gaza and across Libya and the rest of North Africa.

Today, the number of Brotherhood supporters is hard to gauge: Though Morsi won runoff elections with more than 13 million votes, the Brotherhood`s share of the parliamentary vote was closer to 35 per cent, and its popularity fell further given its poor performance in power. So a minority of number of Egyptians are committed backers, and an even smaller number are considered members of the organisation. But whatever the exact figure, it is clear that millions of Egyptians support the Brotherhood.

Arrests of major Brotherhood leaders followed the coup, and the subsequent crackdown killed more than 1,000 Egyptians. The military regime hopes to crush the Brotherhood, eliminating its leadership and intimidating its followers. Neither US calls for reconciliation nor the Obama administration`s belated October decision to tem-porarily freeze some forms of aid have had much impact on what most participants see as an existential struggle for the future of Egypt. Saudi Arabia and other gulf allies have provided billions of dollars to the military-led government far more than US aid and promised to make up any shortfall should Washington further cut support.

Brotherhood leaders, including the ousted president, are being put on trial, and there appear to be no prospects for a compromise that might bring Brotherhood elements back into the political system.

The Brotherhood is vaunted for its hierarchy and discipline and so far, it has not called its members to arms. But this could change as the government further criminalises the group. In the past, the Brotherhood weathered its exclusion from political power by concentrating on civic activism. This time, however, the regime has banned the Brotherhood outright and seized its assets, denying the movement outlets for members who want to build their vision of an Islamic society.

Given this, Egyptians who supported or joined the Brotherhood may take up arms out of frustration with politics. In the past, jihadi groups often excoriated the Brotherhood for participating in controlled elections and for being insufficiently zealous at home and abroad. Now they cite the coup as proof that America and its local lackeys will not allow their Islamist project to flourish. Islamists in other Arab countries are watching and will draw lessons as well.

Thus, one threat of Islamist radicalisation in Egypt is the cultivation of a new generation of extremist recruits for the global jihadi cause.

In addition, the imprisonment and prosecution of the senior Brotherhood leadership weaken organisational discipline, particularly to enforce nonviolence. Brotherhood cells might act on their own to vent frustration or to avenge dead comrades, provoking a government response that is likely to perpetuate violence and repression. If even a fraction of the millions of Brotherhood supporters embrace violence, that means tens of thousands of Egyptians are potential recruits for jihadis.

The situation has implications for the security of Israel and the US. The Egyptian regime is primarily focused right now on securing its hold on power, while America`s interests lie in the stability of Egypt and the region. The United States cannot prevent the radicalisation of the Brotherhood, but it can seek to mitigate its effects on US security.

The Brotherhood might become only a shadow of its former self. But without some peaceful means to participate in shaping their country`s future, the millions of Egyptians who support the Brotherhood may feel no stake in sustaining that future, and some will seek instead to tear it down.

-By arrangement with Washington Post/Bloomberg News Service
By Daniel Byman & Tamara Cofman Wittes: http://epaper.dawn.com/?page=12_01_2014_013

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