By Steven Brooke, University of Texas at Austin
* This memo was prepared for the “Islamist Politics in the Shadow of the Islamic State” conference, January 23, 2015.
The Egyptian military’s July 3, 2013 deposition of President Mohamed Morsi triggered a wave of Muslim Brotherhood mobilization, and in these spaces a multifaceted internal debate over the future of Islamist activism has sprung up. However, the Brotherhood’s subsequent strategy of street protest also intertwines with larger processes of regime formation and consolidation that are currently underway in Egypt. Ironically, both the regime and the Brotherhood seem to judge the protests useful to help resolve issues that stretch beyond the specific regime-Brotherhood confrontation. On the one hand, the Brotherhood’s tight focus on protests demanding the reinstatement of Morsi helps the group maintain unity and forestall difficult internal debates. On the other, the regime exploits the Brotherhood’s street mobilization and civil society activism to justify a series of more and less violent interventions in Egyptian life. In practice, these efforts are serving to embed a more invasive police state than the one the Arab Spring protests so recently displaced.
A year-and-a-half out from the military coup that ended the term of Morsi, the Brotherhood has shown little sign of deviating from their strategy ofcontinued protest. Their insistence on reinstating Morsi and returning to a pre-July 3 political system is puzzling, given that these demands are clear nonstarters for Egypt’s military regime. It is unclear if there is a better alternative for the Brotherhood. Both in terms of allowing the Brotherhood to generate advantages vis-à-vis the group’s ongoing conflict with the regime and to resolve internal contradictions, protest seems to offer the best of a generally bad array of options. Read more on The Monkey Cage.