Inside the Egyptian Revolution: Violence is Rising Because the Muslim Brotherhood is Co-opting the Movement
In the past several days, the dynamic of the protests in Egypt has changed rapidly, and not for the better. What started out as a genuine and positive pro-freedom movement is being steadily coopted by the Muslim Brotherhood and other violent and extremist forces.
There is now a growing risk that the overthrow of the Mubarak regime could lead either to an authoritarian military regime, or a Radical Islamist regime. We must pray neither scenario comes to pass.
The people of Egypt would be further oppressed. The U.S., Israel and the West would be endangered. Bottom line: This is a very complex and fast-moving crisis, and it could get much worse.
This commentary provides several explanations of the various "groups" within Egypt, including the "radicals", the "reformists", the "revivalists" and the "resisters", just to name a few. Then we come to the conclusions:
That said, let’s focus again on the crisis at hand. What we are witnessing in Egypt is an historic clash between true Reformer Muslims who want free elections and free markets, and Radical Muslims who want to use the protests to overthrow the Mubarak regime and install a violent, extremist Islamist government.
The Revivalists in Egypt are, for the most part, staying underground. True to their nature, they are remaining apolitical and are devoting themselves to much prayer for the future of their country and the souls of their friends and neighbors.
For the first first few days of last week, most of the initial protestors on the streets of Egypt were peaceful, respectful, somewhat educated, and poor to middle class. I believe they were genuinely calling for an end to the Mubarak regime’s corruption and authoritarian rule in order to achieve more freedom, more opportunity, a better economy, more and better jobs, and a democratic government that would respect and protect their human rights and civil rights and set them free from the stagnant, stultified, oppressive Egyptian system they have suffered under for so long.
However, beginning on Thursday and accelerating throughout the day on Friday, the situation began to change dramatically.
The leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (which began in Egypt in the 1920) had initially been caught off guard by sudden and intense rise of the protests and had not been involved in planning or developing these protests. But sensing an opportunity, they decided to move decisively and try to coopt the movement for their own purposes.
They mobilized their followers throughout the country and told them to take to the streets. That’s when the complexion of the protests took a turn for the worse, characterized by:
- Violent attacks directed at the police – Agence France Presse reported on Saturday that an estimated 60 percent of Egyptian police stations have been set on fire
- Rioting, instead of mere protesting
- The emergence of gangs on the streets wielding machetes and knives
- Government office buildings being set on fire
- Cars being set on fire
- The looting of the Egyptian Museum, with vandals ripping the heads off of two ancient mummies
- Looting of shops, businesses and homes
- Muslim Brotherhood members escaping from prison –[see this article as well]
- UPDATE: Some 8,000 prisoners escaped from a prison in the east of the country and one report said “prison guards have joined the protests allowing dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members to walk out of jail.”
- A rising civilian death toll as the police have been forced to defend themselves and protect other citizens — as of Sunday, there were more than 100 people dead, and more than 2,000 wounded
To contrast with what we observed in Iran last year:
These are not the actions of a true pro-freedom movement. Almost none of this happened last summer when millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest the fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To the contrary, the Iranian people, to their great credit, initiated what was overwhelming a classic non-violent, principled protest movement against the Radical regime.
For all of Mubarak’s sins, he is not a Radical. He doesn’t want to launch a jihad against the U.S., Israel or the West. He has maintained the peace treaty with Israel. He has worked to counter the Hamas movement in Gaza. He is strongly opposed to the Iranian nuclear weapons program and has worked closely with the West to counter it.
The Obama administration needs to be careful to support positive change in Egypt and support human rights there, without cutting the legs out from underneath Mubarak precipitously, the way President Carter did to the Shah of Iran in 1979.
The Shah had his many flaws, no question about it. But Carter’s actions helped trigger the Islamic Revolution and led to the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the loss of an American ally, and the rise of a terror-exporting country that has gained in lethality ever since. We dare not make the same mistakes with Egypt.
I am praying, therefore, that the Lord would be merciful to the people of Egypt, and that He would give wisdom to Mr. Mubarak and his senior advisors. My ideal at this point is that Mubarak would hand the keys to the kingdom to a group of Reformers, men truly committed to steadily expanding hope, growth and opportunity for all their people, and doing so in a way that creates order and stability, not an opening for the Muslim Brotherhood to seize control.
That possibility seems very remote at this point, unfortunately. It looks like the Muslim Brotherhood will maintain control of this situation as they have the infrastructure and motivation. It would seem very difficult to uproot their influence at this point. We shall see.