July 7, 2011
Cairo - Reservations by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood over the US Administration's use of the expression "resuming" contacts reveals the group's awareness of the probable dangers that stem from opening up to Washington, which in general does not enjoy the "appreciation" of the Egyptian people.
Despite the Muslim Brotherhood's immediate welcoming of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statements in which she stated her country's desire to continue contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized group in Egypt has stipulated conditions for such rapprochement. The Muslim Brotherhood says that the group "does not rush hurriedly to open a channel of communication with the United States."
Analysts say that the US statements might worsen the apprehensions of Egypt's liberals and left-wingers about the Muslim Brotherhood monopolizing power. The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to remove the causes of these apprehensions before the parliamentary elections which are scheduled for September 2011.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has the largest presence in the Egyptian street, has announced that it will compete over half the parliamentary seats, has engaged in a dialog with major parties over the coordination of the principles of the new constitution of the country, has announced that it would be possible to revise the number of the parliamentary seats it aims to occupy in the upcoming parliament that will elect the commission that prepares the constitution, and has announced that it will not compete over the post of president.
Former Muslim Brotherhood Guide Mahdi Akif wonders: "What more can the group offer (to calm down apprehensions)? They attack us without any logic or vision, but the Muslim Brotherhood should not pay any attention to such words." Akif plays down the impact within the group of the US desire to open up to the Muslim Brotherhood. Akif told Asharq Al-Awsat: "These statements are worthless, because our policy is firm. We work for the benefit of this country, and for serving the faith."
Days before the US statements, the Muslim Brotherhood Group ostracized a national newspaper that published details of a meeting that took place during the final days of Mubarak's rule between the US ambassador to Cairo and Dr Saad al-Katatni, member of the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau. The group has been keen to explain this by saying that Al-Katatni's meeting at the US Embassy was undertaken in his capacity as a Member of Parliament, with the knowledge of the previous regime, and with the attendance of former People's Assembly Speaker Dr Fathi Surur.
In statements to the press, Clinton hinted that the US Administration's contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood were part of a policy that commenced in 2006, when the group won 88 seats in the parliament that was elected in 2005, which was the greatest percentage of representation obtained by an Egyptian opposition power since the former Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat restored partisan life to Egypt.
However, Dr Rifat al-Said, leader of the left-wing National Progressive Unionist Grouping Party [NPUG], warned the Muslim Brotherhood against opening up to Washington; telling Asharq Al-Awsat, "Every time the Muslim Brotherhood has tried to engage in alliance with tyranny under the pretext that necessity knows no law, its fingers were burned."
Al-Said went on to say that: "The Muslim Brotherhood has allowed itself to establish relations with foreign countries as part of the joint-interests game. This has not only happened today. The German documents that the British discovered in the office of a German press attachÚ say that Hasan al-Banna (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928) received funds allocated to him to promote the propaganda of the Axis (Germany, Italy, and Japan) in Egypt. This was done to the extent that Al-Banna then claimed that the three countries converted to Islam."
Al-Said adds that the Muslim Brotherhood have engaged in an alliance with King Farooq, and this ended up with a catastrophe; in an alliance with Al-Nuqrashi Pasha (Mustafa al-Nuqrashi was one of the Egyptian prime ministers before the 1952 revolution), before he ordered the dissolution of the group, which led to his assassination; and in an alliance with former Egyptian President (Jamal) Abdul-Nasser, before he launched his campaign against them. This time, the issue is more serious because the US statements refer to that the US Administration is contacting the cadres of the second rank of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The expected rapprochement between the Muslim Brotherhood and the US, which is trying to establish a foothold in post-Mubarak Egypt, is a test for the group. Observers say that the relations between Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which is considered a part of the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, and with which the United States has labeled a terrorist organization, will be one of the most sensitive issues. Analysts are contemplating what the group can offer to get closer to the US dealing with the Islamic resistance movements.
Leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood (Freedom and Justice Party) express their belief that the latest US statements (about resuming dialog with the Muslim Brotherhood) mean implicitly contacting Hamas. Dr Essam al-Aryan says: "The Muslim Brotherhood Group as a public Islamic organization is the umbrella for many Islamist movements, including Hamas." Al-Aryan points out that any contact with the United States ought to be established on Washington's interests and not Israeli interests.