Giovanni Giacalone, January 2022, GCTC Conference
In the last months, a lot has been said about the clash within the Muslim Brotherhood-MB, with the London-based branch led by Ibrahim Mounir accusing the Istanbul-based branch, led by the Secretary-General of the MB, Mahmoud Hussein, of corruption; while the latter is accusing Mounir of attempting a coup against the group. It is also interesting to notice how the two branches are now
running two different websites. On top of that, younger members of the MB are accusing the old guard of using the money received
from financial donations to enrich themselves. According to researcher Amr Abdel-Moneim, the MB’s Turkish administrative office receives an estimated $ 1.7 billion monthly in donations from various sources.
Researcher Amr Farouk explained that the clash between the two branches also has to do with the Egypt/Turkey reconciliation moves that began in mid-2021, as part of a process that led Ankara to shut down anti-Egypt TV stations based in Turkey and expel some of its employees. Egypt’s Minister of Information Osama Heikal said he welcomed news of Turkey’s decision to ban anti-Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood channels, referring to it as “a good initiative.” Heikal said the decision “creates an appropriate atmosphere for discussing controversial issues.” Additionally, he also said Egypt’s position was constant and worked to “develop relations with everyone according to common interests.”
Those Egyptian MB members who fled to Turkey as Al-Sisi took power in 2013 are now afraid of being deported back to Egypt and many of them see London as a safe haven. In the meantime, the MB also has to deal with its lack of credible leadership, with the critics of
younger members accusing the old guard of failing to reach any kind of reconciliation with al-Sisi that could help in the release of activists currently behind bars. As if it wasn’t enough, many activists also complained about the inflexibility of the old guard.
One statement that is worth mentioning is the one made by Ahmed Matar, a Muslim Brotherhood member affiliated with the London branch who not only said that the group’s Supreme Guide, Mahmoud Ezzat (currently detained in Egypt), and his followers in Turkey are “a secret gang that joined the MB between 1954 and 1974, and are not really MB”…He also added that “this subgroup was responsible for excluding qualified members of the group during the one- year presidency of Mohamed Morsy”. It is indeed evident that the MB is going through the worst phase of its history due to its internal crisis that goes side to side with a very complicated situation on an international level.
According to some information, Turkey and Qatar would be limiting their support to the MB, but it is hard to say what is really going on behind the scenes. Is it realistic that the two Muslim countries are willing to withdraw their historical support to the Islamist organization? Or is it only a façade move that hides other objectives?
The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is in a critical situation doesn’t necessarily mean that it will lose its importance, and even less, that it will collapse. As Dr. Nasser said during the GCTC conference, the MB is a functional group and it has been so
since its very beginning. Interests and ideas don’t die and the MB will preserve, even if on a small scale.
As Peter Mandaville explained in his work “Global Political Islam”, the MB is able to adjust its models and methods to suit local circumstances and priorities. The organization and its branches can adapt to situations and environments, in order to reach their objectives, may them be survival, political leadership, ideological hegemony over the Muslim communities. Taking a step back, there is no doubt that the MB went from glory to misery in very few years. During the so-called Arab Springs, the Islamist organization was seen by many international key players as the only possible democratic solution to the Middle-Eastern regimes.
Before the revolutions, from their Western hubs, MB leaders were very efficient in their propaganda against those regimes while at the same time displaying a democratic façade that enchanted some Western leaders, but that unfortunately did not correspond with reality once they took power in Egypt and Turkey.
The year of government led by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was disastrous, with a systematic persecution of political opponents and journalists not aligned with the Islamists. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information denounced the sad record of the “Morsy era” in regards to the legal measures against journalists. According to this report, the number of complaints was four times
greater than in the Mubarak era and twenty-four times greater than that of Sadat; now, considering that Mubarak stayed in power for thirty years, Sadat for eleven years and Morsy for only one year, the data is alarming.
Now, Turkey’s situation is even worse when dealing with issues related to political opposition, women’s rights, LGTB’s rights, the Kurdish issue, the persecution of journalists, and the support for Islamist extremism. On January 22nd, journalist Sedef Kabas was arrested for “insulting Erdogan”, after she referred to a proverb while taking part at “The Arena of Democracy” show on pro-opposition TV channel TELE1. Kabas said “When cattle enter a palace, it does not become king but the palace becomes a stable,” during a discussion about Erdogan. Kabas said she was using a proverb and changed it, from ox to cattle, and therefore did not mean to insult the president, according to reports. However, Turkey’s telecommunications watchdog RTÜK fined TELE1 for the episode for “inciting hatred” and banned the show from broadcasting for five episodes, according to reports. Tunisia did not go so far, but the country still faced serious Islamist-related issues during the Ennahda years.It is also important to recall that in March 2013, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood lashed out against the UN declaration for women’s rights (presented to the 57th section of the Commission on the status of women), calling it “a sensational violation of Sharia law that would lead to the disintegration of
Now, considering that reality is based on facts, and not on propaganda, it is clear that the MB leadership was a total failure and the collusion of their major supporter, Erdogan, with jihadists in Syria and Libya did not help. However, the MB, despite all that it’s going through, will still try to reorganize its international efforts through its globally spread branches, in order to connect politically and beyond. In Europe and America, they can now count on new generations that know the social and political contexts very well. They know how to speak, who to speak to, they are able to fit in, and want to become mainstream interlocutors. They don’t have the flaws that the first generation had, such as the inability to use proper language and terminology; the exhibition of extremist ideological and political positions (such as the support for Hamas; intolerance towards women’s rights and LGTB rights), and the obsessive attention to the issues of their countries of origin. These new generations have no trouble in presenting themselves as progressive and mainly going
hand in hand with left-wing parties (mainly, but not exclusively). Not because they share the same values, but simply because that’s where the doors are more easily open for them. We have seen it extensively in Italy, one of the European countries that can be
considered more “Muslim Brotherhood-friendly”, not only politically speaking, but also on an institutional level.
Let’s not forget that Italy was notorious for being the main hub for Morsy supporters between 2011 and 2013 (as claimed by MB activists themselves). The country also hosted strong activity on behalf of the Syrian MB, which still covers major roles within the local Muslim community.
In January 2017, Muslim Anthropologist and community leader Maryan Ismail exposed the links between the Italian left-wing Partito Democratico-PD and the Muslim Brotherhood. Partito Democratico filed a legal suit but the court dismissed the accusations, as the judge indicated that the report wasn’t based on malicious allusions but rather on facts. Let’s also recall that Italy sided with Turkey and Qatar in Libya, backing the Tripoli-based pro-MB government. Even Lega’s Matteo Salvini, who initially had strong positions against Islamists and the MB, changed opinion on Qatar as he took office as Interior Minister and even received Fayez alSerraj in Milan, back in July 2019.
Some European countries are beginning to open their eyes to Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood; we have seen the UK banning Hamas, France, and Austria taking steps against the Islamists, but there is a lot more that needs to be done. Indeed, there is a limit to what a democratic country can and should do, but understanding the real face of the Muslim Brotherhood, its ideology, and its real objectives is extremely important and it can be done, as long as certain State institutions and politicians open their eyes on the Muslim
Brotherhood. No doubt that since the early 1970s the Muslim Brotherhood has been able to root and connect in many countries, presenting itself as the main religious actor able to organize and represent Muslims.They organized separate spaces for Muslims and worked on the Muslim ummah from below, just as they did in Egypt in its early phase. In some Western countries they went far beyond, establishing links with politics, institutions, and even intelligence. No surprise there, considering that the Muslim Brotherhood was used by the West against Socialist Pan-Arabism and the Soviet Union. However, times have radically changed and that type of political
imprint doesn’t make any sense today. The Muslim Brotherhood might have presented itself as the only legitimate democratic alternative to the regimes, but they proved to be no different from them.
In conclusion, it is very likely that the future of the Muslim Brotherhood will once again be played in Europe, not in the Middle East. London could once again become its main hub; the MB will transform and adapt and it will use its multiple connections in those countries that can still be classified as Muslim Brotherhood-friendly. Now we need to wait and what the outcome of the clash
between the London-branch and the Istanbul-branch will lead to