If you follow me on Twitter or you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you will realize by now that I am a critic of Egypt’s current regime that took power following the popularly backed coup of last July. The repression and police brutality we’re witnessing now far exceeds what occurred during Mubarak’s 30 years in power. These abuses culminated in the biggest single day massacre of civilians in the history of modern Egypt. The military backed regime’s excesses make us ask the question: was the Muslim Brotherhood a better regime?
My answer is a no. I firmly believe that if the MB leadership were in total, 100%, control of the state, they would have not relented in doing to their opponents exactly what the military backed government is doing to them right now.
A few days before the anti-MB massive demonstration on June 30, 2013, Nader Bakkar, a senior leader in the Salafi Nour Party, said something very profound during an interview with Financial Times. “If June 30 failed, the Brotherhood will turn into an unstoppable beast,” he said. I am not a fan of Bakkar’s religious ideologies, but I do applaud his longsighted political view.
While it’s true that the MB did not fully control institutions such as the police – though it did manage to fire the interior minister and replace him with one of its choosing – and the army, it was slowly but surely extending its tentacles to control Egypt’s other institutions and it was doing pretty well. The entire state media empire for example came under its command to the extent that a literature periodical praised MB strongman Khairat el Shater and placed his picture on its cover page (I have no clue what Shater had to do with literature!). The MB surely had the strongest media arsenal, that included all religious channels and thousands of mosques, yet it still complained about 4 or 5 privately owned channels which it was intimidating and most probably trying to shut down (the MB government did shut down Al Farayeen channel and MB affiliated Prosecutor General summoned Basem Yousef).
From the onset of its victory in the parliament elections, it was clear that the MB had only one aim: to consolidate and monopolize power. That goal was evident when Morsi issued his dictatorial constitutional decree in November 2012 granting himself sweeping powers. What the MB did back in 2012 does not differ that much from what the current leadership is doing now. Both want to consolidate power and exclude their opponents. Take the position of the Prosecutor General for example. During Brotherhood rule, the appointed Prosecutor General was an MB loyalist who served the interests of the ruling political organization. The current Prosecutor General is not that different; he too serves his masters and oppresses their opponents, who are now the MB and its supporters.
The MB also used violence against opposing protesters. The most cited incident took place in December 2012 at the Presidential Palace. The Brotherhood leadership decided to send their cadres to violently break up a sit-in at the Presidential Palace. I saw with my own eyes the MB cadres while they were firing birdshots and throwing rocks at protesters from behind police vans (Ironically, these are the same police vans that are now used to break up MB demonstrations and marches). Scores of protesters were tortured right at the Presidential Palace gates. One man did not disclose his Christian name lest they torture him even more.
Another incident took place near the MB headquarters in Muqattam. The cadres captured tens of protesters and kept them inside the nearby Bilal mosque where they were tortured. Again, Christian protesters inside the mosque received a “special treatment”, courtesy of the Brotherhood.
Would a Brotherhood-led government have committed a massacre such as Rabaa? Judging from how the MB reacted after the “mini-Rabaa” that happened during its rule; the answer is yes it would have committed a similar crime against its opponents if it had full control over the state and its guns. The “mini-Rabaa” I am referring to is the Port Said prison massacre that happened in January 2013. 52 people were gunned down by the police in a few minutes when families of convicts tried to storm the prison to protest a court verdict. The MB cadres on social media were fully supportive of what the police did citing various justifications such as “the families were armed” and “they tried to storm a prison”. These justifications are similar to what pro-army folks say to justify the Rabaa massacre that happened after the MB lost power. The Port Said prison massacre triggered the first mass revolt against MB rule since they reached power.
Even though Rabaa was by far bloodier than Port Said, the reaction of both parties in both instances proves that there is no profound different between supporters of the Brotherhood and supporters of military fascism. Both incidents had a tiny minority of armed protesters that killed policemen. One policeman was killed in Port Said, 8 were killed in Rabaa. The Brotherhood supporters blamed the armed minority after Port Said just as the military supporters blamed the armed minority after Rabaa. Nobody blamed the police officers for their brutality and reiterated that the presence of an armed tiny minority does not justify a massacre, except a few revolutionaries and human rights activists.
Lastly, what happened at the Presidential Palace during Morsi’s tenure is another indication that, if they saw the need, nothing would have hindered a Brotherhood-led government from killing its opponents. As mentioned above, the MB cadres tortured people at the presidential palace gates and in a mosque and he who tortures at the presidential palace gates and in mosques can do anything else.