Military backing al-Sisi for President in Egypt-Here we go again..or? Part II The Military and The Muslem Brotherhood
In Part One of this Three Part series on Egypt, we saw that the military has had a prominent role in governing ever since King Farouk was overthrown by The Free Officer’s Revolt in 1952.
The first three Presidents were all senior participants in that revolt. We saw that military connected Presidents held the office from 1952 to the present, save for one-year with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mahmoud Morsi. In Part Two we shall examine the relationship between the military and conservative Muslim Broterhood up to the Presidency of Mohamad Morsi in 2011. In Part Three next week, we’ll take a closer look at Mohamad Morsi’s presidency and his fall, at the hands of the military, and give our opinion on the likely outcome of the upcoming presidential elections.
From its beginning there has been a significant tension between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. This despite the paradox that a portion of the military, in Egypt as well as throughout the Muslim world, have been sympathetic to Islamic jihadism.
In fact, hostility between the military and the Muslim Brothers predates the Officer’s Revolt. Following several bombings in 1948, for example, the government arrested thirty-two members of a jihadist faction of the Brotherhood. Late that year, the Prime Minister of Egypt, Mahmoud Fahmi an-Nurashi Pasha, was killed by a member of the Brotherhood. Following that, the Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al Banna, was killed in an act of retaliation suspected to have been supported by the military.
Hence, by the time of the military coup of 1952, considerable tensions were already present with the Brotherhood. By this time the Brotherhood was estimated to have over a half-million members and considerably more sympathizers from those who felt Egypt had gone too far toward Western materialism and permissive values.
General Naguib, the first President in the post-Farouk era, kept a tight hold on Brotherhood demonstrations following massive fires trashing western style nightclubs, restaurants, and more than six hundred and fifty other buildings. The Brotherhood was accused of taking part in the expansion of the fire. When Colonel Nasser, Naguib’s replacement, became President tensions skyrocketed. Nasser’s socialist views were hardly compatible with the reactionary religious agenda of the Brotherhood. Nasser reportedly arrested fifteen hundred Brothers. When a Brother attempted to assassinate Nasser, in 1954, the retaliation was swift as it was predictable and more arrests and restrictions ensued.
In an effort to ease tensions following Nasser’s death in 1970, Anwar Sadat, released many of those previously arrested by Nasser. He also removed many of the restrictions Nasser had placed on Brotherhood activities. However, once Sadat followed the peace trail with Israel starting with his visit to Jerusalem, Brotherhood opposition became more vocal and militant in tone. This reached a boiling point following the Camp David accords and the subsequent Peace Treaty with Israel. Sadat instituted a severe crackdown on the Brotherhood following demonstrations that became increasingly violent, but failed to capture in its net a jihadi Brotherhood faction within the military itself. Sadat was assassinated by a fundamentalist soldier in that cell in 1981.
Hosni Mubarak, who was wounded in the attack on Sadat, became the military’s fourth President and instituted an increasingly tight grip on the Brotherhood. It should be noted that the Coptic Christian community, by and large supported Mubarak and the others before him who frustrated the attempts by the Brotherhood to make Sharia law the law of the land.
Which brings us up to the Arab Spring and the demonstrations by various disparate factions against the regime of President Mubarak. When Mubarak was forced to resign, elections were set, perhaps too soon for democratic coalition-building to have been successful.As a result, the highly organized and disciplined Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Morsi won in a close runoff election with Interim President, the military’s Ahmed Mohamed Shafik Zaki.
Next week we’ll take a closer look at Morsi’s Presidency and downfall, at the hands of the military, as well as the upcoming Presidential elections scheduled for this April.
Martin, The Pragmatic Liberal-writing on pragmaticliberalism.com