The Muslim Brotherhood remains caught at the centre of the problems that dominate Egyptian politics. Regime hardliners believe that all the ills of Egypt could somehow be traced to an elaborate conspiracy by the Muslim Brotherhood to destabilise the country.
Muslim Brotherhood members or supporters believe that former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi will one day come back to the presidential office and that the acknowledgment of Morsi’s legitimacy is the first step to reform Egypt.
but it does not signify its full extent.
However, the idea of the Muslim Brotherhood is not a difficult concept to interrogate for those who stand at both extremes. It is not a difficult position to hold to believe in one single explanation for all your ailments while denying the evidence of a multitude of causes; nor is it difficult to choose to hold on to a failed political administration, which stood on manufactured legitimacy and a non-representative electoral procedure.
The real difficulty lies with how the Brotherhood figures in the imagination of those who are neither here nor there and how we define this group. Terminology can be elusive and generalisation breeds nothing but inaccurate stereotyping and that is why finding the right term to identify that third party is equally problematic.
But what I know personally from my participatory observations is that this third stream is constituted by a wide range of ideologies, social, and political movements and a mass of non-politicised Egyptians.
The main problem for that third stream, which I confess to belong to, is the contradiction between your ideas and beliefs and your practical experiences with hardliners on both sides. You know very well that the Muslim Brotherhood’s year in office was disastrous. You are perfectly aware that the Brotherhood used the revolution until it was time to turn its back on it and stand for everything they once stood against.
It is no secret that the Muslim Brotherhood’s idea of democracy was nothing other than manipulative electoral campaigns and a process that propped up elites on the heels of their electoral victories. The Brotherhood’s ideas of citizenship, religious diversity, equal rights, and civil liberties and freedoms are hard to define and always elusive. Their commitment to their own narrow interests supersedes any national vision or strategic reforms. These facts were proven continuously from February 2011 to June 2013.
However, to be aware of the Brotherhood’s defects and shortcomings is not to be blind to the fact that the Brotherhood is a resilient social and political component of Egyptian politics and society. At the same time, hatred for the Brotherhood’s discourse and political practice does not make you forget their basic rights as Egyptian citizens and as human beings.
Moreover, your fundamental conflict with their ideas and practices does not allow you to endorse the resurrection and the promotion of authoritarianism in the name of standing up to the threats posed by the Brotherhood. You hate the Muslim Brotherhood but at the same time you equally hate politicised trials, propaganda, repressive security measures, cracking down on freedoms of association and expression, and disregard for human rights and dignity. What the Muslim Brotherhood represents to us is a dreadful model that is unfortunately being recreated but on a different platform.
The turn of political events from July 2013 until now has perhaps created some common ground between the Muslim Brotherhood and that third stream represented in opposing repressive and authoritarian measures. But that common ground does not mean that the goals and the ideas are common as well.
There is a huge difference between an actual struggle for representative democracy and a struggle for resurrecting a failed regime and a more massive difference between acknowledging rights and principles and adopting political visions and strategies. What some people tend to forget, specifically in the thick of all the propaganda, is that the Muslim Brotherhood is a lot more problematic to those who oppose the regime than it is to those who support it.
Ziad A. Akl is a political analyst and sociologist. He is a senior researcher at the Egyptian Studies Unit in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.