Brotherhood clings to relevance
CAIRO — Graffiti around the Egyptian capital proclaim the Muslim Brotherhood's call for new anti-military protests on Sunday — dotting walls, light poles and signposts for miles down main avenues and near the presidential palace from which the group was ousted three months ago. It's an impressive show of survival, giving the image that the Brotherhood is everywhere, just under the surface.
But the Brotherhood is in an existential crisis, unsure how to adapt under the heaviest crackdown since the 1960s, carried out by a new military-backed government determined to end the group, at least in the form it has been in for the past 85 years.
With neither side interested in talking for now, the Brotherhood's crippled leadership is reduced to minimizing its losses until it finds an exit from the crisis. It is turning to its international leaders for help in decision-making and waging a campaign of persistent, if small protests to prove it cannot be crushed.
Few political organizations in the world have undergone a reversal as dramatic as the Muslim Brotherhood. It was the dominant force of Egypt's fledgling democracy after the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. It rode the first free elections to win the presidency and parliament, and was poised to mold the country to its vision. Now, three months after the military coup that removed President Mohamed Morsy, it has been virtually decapitated, much of its leadership in prison, the rest in hiding and on the run.
Morsy has languished in military detention, unseen by the outside world, since the July 3 coup. He faces trial, as do the Brotherhood's top leaders and some 2,000 other jailed members.
The Brotherhood's nationwide network of members has fled underground, and the group that often boasted it represents the real Egypt finds itself vilified by government officials, the media and a large sector of the Egyptian public as extremists and terrorists.
Now it and the new government are locked into what is effectively a long, possibly violent process that will determine how the Brotherhood could fit into a democracy that those who toppled Morsy say they want to build. Many Egyptians say Morsy's year in power proved the Brotherhood is fundamentally undemocratic and seeks only to monopolize power. Moderates argue that it cannot be permanently repressed in a truly free system.