If the international community was caught by surprise when Egypt’s government took the bold step of branding the Muslim Brotherhood, its affiliates and supporters “terrorist”, most Egyptians were anything but. In fact, many regretted that the decision had not been taken much earlier. The authorities folded under public pressure when a car bomb rocked the security headquarters in Mansoura on December 24, killing 15 and injuring 134. Enraged locals gathered at the smouldering site, demanding death penalty for the likely suspects — the Brothers — and resolved to drive them out of the area.
A statement from a militant organisation that set up camp in Sinai during former president Mohammad Mursi’s tenure, Ansar Bait Al Maqdis, claiming responsibility, did nothing to cool their wrath against the Ikhwan, primarily because that Al Qaida-linked group is believed to have been funded by former Brotherhood deputy chairman and enforcer, Khairat Al Shater — currently languishing in an Egyptian prison. It is no accident of fate that the country was not a terrorist target until Mursi’s ousting on July 3 and the fact that senior Brotherhood leader Mohammad Al Beltaji announced that he held the remote to stop such attacks in return for Mursi’s reinstatement to office is telling. Since Mansoura and the subsequent branding of the organisation, Brotherhood diehards have gone on a rampage, killing security forces, burning universities, a public bus and private vehicles. They are also accused of planting bombs around the capital that have largely been defused.
In recent weeks, container-loads of sophisticated automatic weapons, pistols, rifles and shell casings have been seized by customs inspectors at Port Said; at least four were shipped on a Turkish-owned vessel. The Turkish government has denied knowledge, but it is no secret that relations between Turkey and Egypt are decidedly frosty over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s staunch support of the Muslim Brotherhood to the extent that he has been flashing ‘Rabaa’ hand signs, hosting International Brotherhood meets and has announced that Mursi is still his “President in Egypt”.
The definition of ‘terrorism’ is “the unofficial or unauthorised use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”, which is exactly the course taken by the Brotherhood since July 3, 2013, when its stated ambition of ruling Egypt for 500 years turned to dust. The Muslim Brotherhood’s first loyalty is not towards the homeland, but rather to the International Muslim Brotherhood and it is out to use violence to disrupt Egypt’s economic growth, tourist potential and political roadmap, set to be implemented on January 14-15 with a referendum on the new constitution.
If the Brotherhood was not inclined towards terrorism a year ago, it certainly is now. Instead of accepting the will of the people expressed on June 30, it rejected repeated invitations to participate in the political process choosing to destroy it. The army and the police have been blamed in some quarters for heavy-handedness, but what people looking in from outside fail to get is that Egypt is at war, battling for its future. Agenda-led foreign media outlets have consistently presented a false picture of realities on the ground, painting Muslim Brotherhood protests as “peaceful” when Egyptians see real-time feeds on their local channels showing masked Brotherhood supporters shooting from AK-47s and hurling fire bombs. They slit a taxi-driver’s throat for playing the pro-army song Tislam Al Ayady in his cab and beat another to death for displaying a poster of Defence Minister General Abdul Fatah Al Sissi. Last Saturday, armed pro-Brotherhood students at Al Azhar University barred their fellows from taking exams. One student was killed during clashes.
A silly question
In response to the Muslim Brotherhood’s tarring, the international community has remained largely silent. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE supported Egypt and hope to convince the Arab League to do likewise. As anticipated, the Obama administration, which most Egyptians believe has been in cahoots with the Brotherhood all along, says Egypt has gone “way too far”. Secretary of State John Kerry has underscored “the need for an inclusive political process across the political spectrum ... to achieve political stability and democratic change”. Here is a silly question. What would Obama do in the event thousands of anti-government armed militants exploded bombs, attacked military headquarters and fired on citizens in New York or Washington?
Kerry and his boss are deluded when the Muslim Brotherhood is broadly detested throughout the country and is bent on fomenting civil war. The time for reconciliation is long gone as even an Egyptian street sweeper will no doubt tell them if they are in a mood to listen. Ordinary Egyptians are taking to the airwaves in droves to remind the US of George W. Bush’s post-9/11 ultimatum to the world: “You are either with the US or with the terrorists”. It seems America has made its choice and for that it risks paying a price.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org