18 Aug 2013

What will happen to the Muslim Brotherhood now?

The fate of the Islamic organisation at the centre of the crisis in Egypt is to be decided by the country’s cabinet in crisis talks today.

Egypt has seen four days of bloodshed, with hundreds of people killed after the deposing of Egypt’s former President Morsi on June 3 and the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

The Brotherhood had formerly spent many years in the political wilderness before winning five successive votes to take power after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarek in the Arab Spring of 2011.

Morsi spent one year in office, during which many have complained the government was incompetent and attempting to monopolise the power of the state. In return the Brotherhood’s leaders claim the military has plotted their demise and attempted to undercut their efforts.

The violence reached a crescendo when security forces forcibly cleared camps of protesters campaigning for the release of former President Morsi from jail.

Hundreds were killed when the Brotherhood called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday after these camps were cleared.

Saturday saw the storming of a mosque that had been turned into an impromptu morgue and then latterly a bastion for Morsi protestors. Crowds of cheering onlookers backed the assault.

It is not known how many were injured or killed during the clearing of the mosque, but exchanges of gunfire were clearly visible.

The streets of Cairo seem to be returning to some semblance of normality today after being deserted for so long. A heavy military presence was on the streets overnight with both soldiers and vigilantes stopping cars and checking them for weaponry.

A divided government?

There have been mixed messages coming out of Egypt’s present government on how to deal with the Brotherhood. On Saturday the country’s prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, proposed banning the organisation and forcing it underground.

“There will be no reconciliation with those whose hands have been stained with blood and who turned weapons against the state and its institutions,” he told reporters.

However the more liberal Deputy Prime Minister, Ziad Bahaa el-Dip has called for an end to the state of emergency and for talks to involve all political parties. He does not specifically say what should happen to Morsi or other detained leaders of the Brotherhood.

Saudi Arabia has thrown its support behind the government’s crackdown on the Brotherhood. Western nations have strongly condemned the violence, and the overthrow of the former government despite being equally uneasy with the prospect of Islamist rule.

The Brotherhood has called for daily street protests all this week