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Muslim Brotherhood Breaking Free of Nasser’s Long Ban on the Group

Decades of political repression of dissent in Egypt has created an iceberg out of  the Muslim Brotherhood group –MB– with seven-eighths of its actual size under the surface.

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat / Veterans Today

Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser

it was really the best of times, it was absolutely the worst of times, back in the sixties. President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s time in Egypt when he reigned like some legendary knight as if he was sultan Saladin, the epitome of Arabic chivalry, who united the Arabs and fought back the western medieval crusaders.

Whenever Nasser addressed the Egyptians and their Arab brethren the Arabs all over were all ears. They believed in him and he believed in his dream of a united and one Arab nation from the Persian Gulf in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

Nasser ruled Egypt in 1956 after the Egyptian army had overthrown the royal Egyptian monarchy and forced the last English soldier out of the country, thus ending a long era of foreign colonialism and embarking on a new quest for anti-imperialist nationalism and pan-Arabism

Nasser has led a military coup d’etat in July 1952 to be followed by a popular uprising that paved the way for a domino effect of a series of anti-colonial and anti-monarchial movements in other Arab countries like Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, and Libya.

It was the prime time of cold war and Egypt was actually leading the Arab world by virtue of its historical and geo-political influence.

Nasser and his fellow officers of the “free officer’s movement” who carried out the military uprising in 1952 were supposed to reinstitute pluralism and democratic election to the political theater in Egypt but they didn’t. Nasser and his comrades thought that authoritarianism, or what they called the “just dictatorship” was the suitable rule for the country and that Egyptians or the Arabs were not ready yet for democracy and this was Nasser’s grave and historical sin that kept the whole Arabic world straining under dictatorship for decades to come.

The crackdown and the iceberg

In a failed assassination attempt in 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood movement tried to murder president Nasser in Alexandria while he was delivering a speech. Once they were certain of Nasser’s intention to exclude the opposition and political parties out of the game and to keep the rule of Egypt to his socialist totalitarian regime based on a secular constitution the MB didn’t hesitate to try and eliminate him.

Sayid Qutb behind bars.

Following that failed assassination, and which added to the rapidly growing popularity of Nasser, he declared the MB outlawed and ordered the largest crackdown on its members with the execution and inprisonment of the leading figures of the group including its general guide, sayyid qutb, whose books and writings shaped the ideology of a lot of today’s Islamist groups all over the world.

From then on, the Muslim Brotherhood group has been officially banned but under the surface it kept growing as grassroots movement all over Egypt and some of the Arab countries. Back then in the sixties the group never really enjoyed that much popularity amongst Egyptians and if they were allowed to practice politics in a free and democratic environment, it could have revealed their actual influence and popularity which was bound to decline with the growing secular nationalism and the unprecedented Nasserite mania on the Egyptian and the Arabic street .

Decades of political repression of dissent in Egypt has created an iceberg out of MB with seven-eighths of its actual size under the surface.

Nasser has been known for his defiant policy to the west and the United States and their imperialist ambitions in the region. that made him America’s boogey man in the Middle East especially after he had sided with the Soviet Union which he depended on for armament and technological support of his megaproject of the High Dam on the river Nile at Aswan.

America saw in Nasser’s project of pan-Arabic nationalism a direct threat to its interests in the Middle East and she was willing to abort that project by any means. This is where Israel, the new Zionist enclave in the Arab world came to fit in. The tide of Arab nationalism did not come to a halt except after Israel had conquered the Egyptian army in the swift and sneaky aggression in June 1967 and  which also marked the beginning of the unbreakable strategic bond between the United states and Israel.

Six-day war and the end of the Nasserite dream

The drastic setback or what is known in Arabic as – Naksa– following the defeat of Arabic armies in Egypt, Jordan and Syria has been enough a blow to inflict a deep crack in the pan-Arabic Nasserite edifice that was to be later on almost shattered by the visit of Sadat, Nasser’s successor, to Tel Aviv and signing a peace treaty with Israel.

Nasser virtually died on the day his armies were defeated by the Israeli aggression in June 1967 in what the world and history now knows as the six-day war after which Israel occupied the Egyptian Sinai peninsula, the Jordanian west bank in Jordan and Palestine and the Golan heights in Syria. The MB and the Islamists viewed the Naksa as a divine warning for Arabs to get back on the righteous track and abide by the rule of Islam as they have been highly critical of Nasser’s socialist political system in Egypt.

The whole world has been captured by the dramatic scenes of millions of Egyptians taking to the streets and calling for Mubarak to step down. Well, the world would have been stunned by the never seen before anywhere crowd of people in the millions who swarmed almost every street in Cairo as they marched in Nasser’s majestic funeral and mourned him in tears while his flag-draped coffin slowly proceeded through the town.

People all over the Arab world loved Nasser, despite of all the drawbacks throughout his reign, for the simple fact that he was the one who took pride in being an Arab and he insisted in return that every Arab feel the same way. Nasser was like Nehru for Indians or Kennedy for the Americans.

The average Arab people never really cared if he was the one to allow the authoritarian rule to prevail in the modern Arab world for decades now. If history was to repeat itself again, the Arabs would rally again behind Nasser and his dream of a united Arab nation.

Democracy or theocracy

Sixty years since Nasser started his 1952 military revolution and the Arab people are out in the streets again revolting against years of lost freedom and unbearable legacy of oppression. Popular uprisings are hitting almost all Arab capitals leaving no regime immune from its strong domino effect.

Arabs want to restore their self respect and freedom; they want to be proud Arabs as Nasser always wanted to. But to do that, they have to succeed where Nasser failed. They have to settle the score with Israel’s aggression in 1967 and reevaluate the shortcomings of the peace treaty that allowed the Israeli side to subdue the Egyptian pioneer and potent influence over the Arab-Israeli conflict.

People in Egypt and the Arab world are trying to start over again but this time with the democracy that the free officers movement thought they were not ready for 60 years ago, the Arabs are mature enough now to decide for themselves and walk down that path of democracy.

But democracy is never an easy game; it’s not a free ticket to political paradise, it is the rule of the majority whom could easily be misled or deceived. And when the silent majority in Egypt and the Arab world speak out, will the water around the gigantic iceberg recede exposing the true colossal threat of MB that could well be the start of another cycle of decades of political abuse in the modern Arab world but this time in the form of theocracy?

 Now that they have broken free of a long endured ban that first started by Nasser, will the Muslim Brotherhood movement come back with a vengeance? And the more important question is whether the people in Egypt and the Arab world will yet to miss on another historical opportunity to live in a true and democratic civil society.

For more articles by Dr. Ashraf Ezzat visit his website.

Related posts:

– Arab UPRISINGS: Time-Out For Israel Is Over

– DR. Ashraf Ezzat: The Egyptian Torah



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