Why Morsi’s Exit Marks the end of Muslim Brotherhood
Policy + Politics

Why Morsi’s Exit Marks the end of Muslim Brotherhood

REUTERS/Bezuki Muhammed

Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president who was jailed after the Arab Spring, is once again a free man. Mubarak had been jailed on charges that he killed protestors in the run-up to the 2011 election that eventually brought him down. Now that the military has once again taken control of the country--a military that was once under his control--he will soon be a free man.

It’s also now apparent that Mubarak is unlikely to retake the Egyptian presidency: He’s reportedly in very ill health. But his release has symbolic value for those who suffered under his military dictatorship and reminds them of his violent crackdown on opposition.

Cairo was relatively calm Wednesday. But the violence earlier this week was reminiscent of the kind that occurred with regularity under Mubarak. It’s still not clear whether Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi – who has threatened protesters with more violence – will relinquish power or enter negotiations with secularists and Islamists.

One overlooked aspect of the crisis in Egypt is the disappearance of the man who caused it: No one has any idea where deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is. It’s not even clear if he’s still alive.

No one has seen or heard from Morsi since July 2, when he gave a televised speech arguing for the legitimacy of his government. Protesters initially attacked government buildings where he was thought to be held, but now, he has simply vanished.

The Fiscal Times reached out to Egyptians via social media, as well as Egyptian-Americans with families in Egypt to poll where they think Morsi is being housed. There were countless rumors as to his whereabouts, but the consensus is that he is at a military installation far away from protestors.

"I read an article that declared President Morsi was being detained at a military base outside of Cairo," said Tamir Sukkary, an Egyptian American who is an adjunct professor of political science at American River College, adding that most of his Egyptian relatives are hearing the same rumor. "I know the military-led government wants to keep it secret. That's all I know at this point."

But wherever Morsi is, his exit from Egyptian politics is almost sure to mark one thing: the end of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the most powerful and controversial Islamist groups in the world.

The Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928, and over the years was shaped and fostered many leading Islamic thinkers like Sayyid Qutb.  For decades, the group survived charges of anti-Semitism and a desire to impose Islamic law.

It was not recognized as a political entity in Egypt until 2011, and under Morsi the Brotherhood began to remake Egypt to meet its long-held beliefs. This led to conflicts with the military, the historic guardians of power in Egypt, who quelled the popular uprising and orchestrated the subsequent coup.

It now appears as if the military is attempting to simply dismantle the group. The military is targeting their leadership. They already have Morsi in custody. On Tuesday, the military arrested the group's current leader Mohamed Badie as well.

Some Egyptian politicians are now calling for the group to be disbanded. One Cairo-based journalist reported that a decision on whether to disband the Brotherhood would come within two days. Cabinet spokesman Sherif Shawki told the Associated Press that the government is considering disbanding the group. Other Egyptians are calling the Brotherhood terrorists.

"We are calling for declaring the Brotherhood as a terrorist group," said Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, one of the leaders of the Tamarod youth movement behind Morsi's ouster told AP.

If the Brotherhood is destroyed in Egypt, the place of its creation, it would be an inglorious end to a group that has dominated Islamic politics for nearly a century. And because of the importance of the Egyptian Brotherhood to other branches of the group worldwide, might also be the death knell for the group internationally.

It could also mean escalating violence in Egypt, according to Sukkary.

“Particularly concerning to me is that, if disbanded, the [Brotherhood] and their supporters may resort to violence and terrorist acts. If this scenario plays out, then it will be very unfortunate, as the [Brotherhood] has been largely non-violent and moderate for several years now.