At the moment, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is in bad odor with the public. They took power, screwed up the economy, tried to foist sharia law on mostly reluctant citizens.
But there is also little doubt that if an election was held today, they would receive a plurality of votes. The secular opposition just never organized effectively enough to counter the Brotherhood’s social and religious networks.
All of this is moot now, as an Egyptian court has outlawed the Brotherhood in its entirety.
An Egyptian court on Monday ordered the Muslim Brotherhood to be banned and its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
The ruling opens the door for a wider crackdown on the vast network of the Brotherhood, which includes social organizations that have been key for building the group’s grassroots support and helping its election victories. The verdict banned the group itself – including the official association it registered under earlier this year – as well as “any institution branching out of it or … receiving financial support from it,” according to the court ruling, made public on Egypt’s state official news agency MENA.
The judge at the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters also ordered the “confiscation of all the group’s money, assets, and buildings” and said that an independent committee should be formed by the Cabinet to manage the money until final court orders are issued. The verdict can be appealed.
The Brotherhood was outlawed for most of its 85 years in existence. But after the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, it was allowed to work openly, formed a political party and rose to power in a string of post-Mubarak elections. In March, it registered as a recognized non-governmental organization.
Some are arguing that this may be the best thing that could have happended to the Brotherhood. Obviously comfortable working in the shadows, they will probably be less cohesive but will continue their organizing. No crackdown, no matter how extensive, has been able to extinguish the organization. The more members they throw in jail, the more it inspires others to rise up and take their place.
The authorities had little choice. The immediate goal is to bring a level of normalcy back to Egyptian society. Taking the Brotherhood off the streets is a good start. What that means for the future, however, remains to be seen.
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