02 March, 2009

MB on Gaza, internal reform, and the social protest movement

Islam Online recently published an interview with Mohamed Habib, deputy supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, conducted by blogger and journalist Abdel Moneim Mahmoud. It focuses on the question - asked by many - of why the MB mobilized on a large scale during the recent war on Gaza, while being comparatively passive on internal issues, whether economic or political.

Habib's response is that solidarity with Gaza is among the first priorities of the movement, and that this is not separate from but "parallell" or "equivalent" to demands of internal reform, because of the strong link between fighting Israeli occupation and the autocratic regimes in the region. He also says that the issue of Palestine is the central and most important issue for all muslims and arabs, but also something that concerns the whole world. And for the MB, he says, it enters "the heart of our strategy and planing."

He then goes on to say: "The issue of Palestine, with its regional and international dimensions, has both negative and positive effects on the internal situation, whether economical or political, in the Islamic and the Arab world. We shouldn't distinguish between what's happening on the regional level and internally in Egypt. In our view, solving the question of Palestine will be an entrance to solving the internal problems of the arab nation and muslim nation, including the issue of political reform."

Interestingly, this is almost opposite the slogan that is commonly heard among leftists: that the road the the liberation of Palestine runs through Cairo, Damascus and Amman. One possible way to interpret this statement is as an implicit acknowledment that the MB won't dare to seriously challenge the regime as long as the regional situation means that a MB-led government in Egypt risk being treated as a pariah by the US and the "international community," in the same way as the elected Palestinian government led by Hamas.

Habib also says that support for the Palestinian resistance can "liberate us from fear" and inspire the peaceful struggle for change in Egypt and Arab countries. Comparing the issue of Gaza and internal reform, he says: "There are priorities, and when there is a humanitarian catastrophe as in Gaza, it is a human and legal and national duty to pressure our regimes and governments to move, and to express our angers towards the aggressor."

Still, he acknowledges that "the brotherhood did not respond as strongly to social issues like the bread crisis or soaring prices as we should have at the time." His explanation for this is that "involvement in the social protest movement in a political way could make the regime deal with it more harshly and violently." Despite this, he claims, the MB has been giving support to the social protest movement, and "were present" in many of the protests, including the strikes in Mahalla, "but without giving them a political character to ensure the continued existence [of the movement]."

This sounds rather vague. Also, all the union activists and workers I've met in Mahalla and during other strikes and protests in the industrial sector during the last year strongly denied any involvement of the MB (or any other political group for that matter) in organizing or supporting their struggle. In the rare cases where militant workers have admitted association with - or even talked favorably of - any political trend, it has been the socialists or communists.

1 comment:

  1. Great analysis, thanks. Reposted as I usually do.