The Muslim Brotherhood is on the run

The Muslim Brotherhood is on the run

Its leaders, including its Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, are in prison. Badie’s deputy, Mahmout Ezzat replaced him, and is apparently free for now, but others are imprisoned or sought for arrest. Its protestors have been scattered by police and the army, losing hundreds of lives in the process. The cancellation of its legal status is now being discussed by the military-backed government.

The loss is still visible in the streets around Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo, where the Brotherhood and their supporters camped for weeks before the military moved in last Friday.

There are lines of burnt out cars and other equipment standing sentry around scorched pavements and buildings.

The violence that cleared this space changed everything. In Egypt, nearly all but the Brotherhood and its supporters accept it as a necessary act. In an interview, the former presidential candidate and co-leader of the National Salvation Front, the leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, said that the revolution had gotten rid of Mubarak’s secular dictatorship only to find it replaced by the Mursi’s Muslim dictatorship. The army “stood with the people” to get rid of the latter: Egypt “would never return” to a dictatorship.

This is now the position of almost all public figures, and is echoed across the spectrum.

The Brotherhood had seen Egypt as a bulwark in the attempt to Islamize the Middle East. It wanted to make Egypt, the region’s biggest state with its largest military, a model Islamic society. The problem was that Egyptians Muslims felt patronized by the Brotherhood’s attempts to tell them about how best to be a Muslim.

The party now has little chance of a comeback. The brutality with which its protests have been put down, the enthusiasm with which the army’s actions have been received both in Egypt and in most other states in the region and the reluctance on the part of the United States and the European Union to cut off aid and links with the new government, have for now condemned the Brotherhood to impotence. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, told ABC News that he doesn’t fear civil war. He is likely to be right: the Brotherhood is not in fighting shape.

From here, the Brotherhood — down but not out — has three possible options.

First, it could continue its strategy of inviting martyrdom, in the hope that further bloody repression will stir the consciences of more than just foreigners. Leaders of the movement called for renewed protests in the coming weekend immediately after the killings last weekend, and these may again run into the impatient savagery of the military and the police. The latter perhaps avid to avenge the murder, earlier this week, of 25 of their number in Sinai by Islamist militants (not, according to the Brotherhood, its members). This weekend may be a flop; but the week after – Friday, August 30 – has already been identified in graffiti and posters as the day when the “martyrs” parade themselves in force.

Second, it could develop a strategy of terror, which it has so far claimed to avoid. Terrorist movements — the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland is the classic case — can, if determined to carry on the struggle for years, attract enough support to force the governing power to compromise with it, and bring it again into the political arena. The sociologist Ramy Aly told me, “The authorities have now transformed the Brotherhood into a terrorist organization, and are saying to Egyptians, if you’re not with us you’re with these terrorists.” Some of the more ardent spirits in the Brotherhood might be tempted to make the charge a reality.

Third, the party could remember its origin and pose as the savior of the rural and urban poor. That class is now getting poorer, and is likely to continue to do so. The collapse of Arab socialism, which had been the creed of President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1956-70) has left a vacuum that a gamut of leftist and far-leftist parties have not filled. An Islamic socialism, basing itself on calls for equality, which are held to be a basic value of Islam, could have considerable force.

Alternatively, the Brotherhood may simply disintegrate. The group misread its fellow Egyptians, who seem to be determinedly moderate. The U.S.-based scholar Fouad Ajami writes, in his book, The Arab Predicament, that Egypt has long been attached to peaceful, moderate ways; not to the kind of radical visions “that would grip those who see societies driven by the purity of saints and the fire of revolutionaries.” If the Brothers forgot their own insight into the ungovernability of their country, they perhaps never learned Ajami’s.

They may now.

*This abrigded article is taken from Reuters.