The Brotherhood After The Ban

In the wake of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official ban by a Cairo court, Eric Trager reviews the group’s options. A worrying scenario:

Muslim Brothers may abandon the Brotherhood and turn to other Islamist movements, including violent ones. After all, younger Muslim Brothers tend to be more radical than their strategically conservative leaders, and they may now act on that radicalism.  Moreover, rank-and-file Muslim Brothers have used violence as a political tool in the recent past—most notably last December, when Brotherhood cadres attacked, tortured, and killed protesters outside the presidential palace in northern Cairo. And history is rich with examples of Muslim Brothers who turned towards jihadi activities during periods of state repression.

Dalibor Rohac expects the ban to backfire:

The Brotherhood was banned during Nasser’s presidency. In Syria, Brotherhood membership was a capital offence between 1980 and 2011. If anything, these and similar bans strengthened the organization’s narrative of victimhood and enabled it to reemerge strengthened and relying on broader popular support. In a recent paper, I show that the electoral success of the Muslim Brotherhood in the aftermath of Arab Spring was foreseeable and resulted from the fact that the group had been actively involved in the provision of social services, particularly to poorer segments of the Egyptian population, and possessed a well-recognized brand name. Over time, this electoral advantage would have dissipated, particularly as the Brethren proved to be rather inept policymakers.

Alas, with the crackdown on the organization, the current leadership of the country seems to be determined to drive the organization underground and to radicalize it.

Joshua Hersh wonders whether the waning revolution has come to an end:

The ruling was breathtaking in scope: it applied not only to the Brotherhood’s political wings but to its social-services activities, and even to any personal declarations of membership individuals might be brazen enough to make—all were declared illegal. The intent was clear: to cast out the Brotherhood from any future role, not just in politics but in Egyptian society altogether. “The plan is to drain the sources of funding, break the joints of the group, and dismantle the podiums from which they deliver their message,” an Egyptian official told the Associated Press.

But if the future of a democratic Egypt is bleak, it is not simply because of sweeping court rulings like Monday’s. Indeed, the question that consumed Egypt for much of July and August —was it a coup?— was always the wrong one. Of course it was a coup. The real question is whether any of the lofty aims of the revolution (the dreams of a popular, democratic government, with civilian control of the military, and a thriving free press), or even the more basic ones (an end to wanton police abuses and outright political corruption) still stand a chance amid the backlash.