Shockingly Rapid Radicalization
Not even two years ago, Egypt was an ally of the West, ruled by a man who banned the Muslim Brotherhood and suppressed political Islam. Today, Egypt has a Muslim Brotherhood president; its secularist military has been neutered; its military leadership has been replaced by Brotherhood-aligned thinkers; and it is about to get a new constitution drafted by radicals.
All that has happened in less than two years!
Western pundits—most notably within the Obama administration—who gushed about the Muslim Brotherhood being a moderate political force that can be worked with—are being rebutted daily by the shocking news leaking out of Egypt.
Several Arabic websites have reported on the barbarity with which the Muslim Brotherhood is treating opponents of President Mohammed Morsi. Raymond Ibrahim of the Middle East Forum translated a couple of these sources. One of them, Egyptian website El Balad, reported that when one of the president’s well-known critics and his supporters gathered around the president’s palace in August, they were flanked by MB supporters who “attacked them with sticks, knives and Molotov cocktails, crucifying some of them on trees, leading to the deaths of two and the wounding of dozens” (emphasis added throughout). Shortly after Ibrahim’s article appeared, some skeptics claimed the story was a hoax. However, the information was corroborated by a number of independent sources. Another source wrote, “A Sky News Arabic correspondent in Cairo confirmed that protesters belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood crucified those opposing Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”
Welcome to the new Egypt. So much for the hope that ousting President Hosni Mubarak would lead to greater freedom.
In fact, the Brotherhood is taking full advantage of the laws that gave Mubarak control over Egyptian media. The Brotherhood has inserted its own editors into the major state-owned papers. The second-largest, Akhbar Al-Youm, will be run by a descendant of the MB’s founder. President Morsi has also appointed a Muslim Brotherhood member as his new information minister. Now, the Brotherhood is directing its most vicious energy against journalists and media outlets it considers critical of President Morsi.
On August 8, MB supporters by the thousands stormed the media production facilities of 6-October, a major media complex in Cairo; they locked the doors and physically attacked several journalists. Egyptian authorities have shut down the Al-Faraeen television network, falsely accusing its owner of calling for Morsi’s assassination and banning him from travel. They removed copies of the Christian-owned newspaper Al-Dustour from newsstands and condemned it for allegedly “harming the president through phrases and wording punishable by law.” Why? It ran a front-page editorial warning that the Muslim Brotherhood was taking over Egypt.
In Ibrahim’s words, Arabic websites are saying that “these attacks are part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign to intimidate and thus censor Egypt’s secular media from exposing the group’s Islamist agenda ….” How ironic. Determined to avoid appearing radical, the Brotherhood is using the most radical bullying tactics.
The rapidity of Morsi’s moves to consolidate and expand his power has taken even pessimistic observers by surprise. He spoke relentlessly during his campaign about democracy, promising tolerance and freedom. In his inauguration speech, he declared, “We carry a message of peace to the world.” But he has since demonstrated a very different character. “He plans to soon replace many of Egypt’s 27 provincial governors with Brotherhood members or sympathizers of the group and purge the judiciary of judges known to be opposed to its policies, according to the insiders familiar with deliberations in Morsi’s inner circle,” wrote Associated Press. “They spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution” (August 14).
Clearly, their fears are justified.
Al Azhar University in Cairo, which Ibrahim calls “Egypt’s most authoritative Islamic institution,” issued a fatwa against critics of the Brotherhood, calling violence against them “a religious obligation.” Radical cleric Wagdy Ghoneim issued a fatwa explicitly condoning themurder of anti-Brotherhood protesters; Sheikh Hashem Islam also called for their murder. “Resist them; if they fight you, fight back, if they kill you, you are in paradise, if you kill them, there is no blood money,” Egypt Independent quoted him as saying.
Another group that is suffering under the new Islamist regime is Coptic Christians. Violent discrimination against them has ramped up rapidly. In late August, Islamist groups in Egypt distributed flyers calling for the killing of Copts, which it called “the enemies of the religion of Allah.” Since then, Muslim mobs have been attacking Coptic villages with impunity, burning and plundering properties and even murdering Christians. In the short time since Morsi was elected president, over 100,000 Copts have reportedly fled the country out of fear.
Sadly, all signs indicate that the brutality and heartache in Morsi’s Egypt will intensify. As Raymond Ibrahim wrote, “Under the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the bottle has been uncorked and the Islamic genie set loose. Expect much worse to come.”