Muslim Brotherhood's war of words with local press

Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood is in a new battle. This time it is not between the government, but between the Muslim Brotherhood and a local newspaper, Al Sharouq, who continues to hound the group in a series of articles aimed at what the Brotherhood has called a campaign to “discredit” the popular Islamic group in the country.
Egypt brotherhood shourouq

CAIRO, July 28, 2009 (MENASSAT) — In recent months, the Muslim Brotherhood has been battling the most recent government crackdown, which has left a number of prominent leaders behind bars. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh being the most notorious reformer now languishing behind bars.

On Saturday evening, a solidarity conference for Aboul Fotouh and three young Brotherhood bloggers was called, but government security forces were quick to shut down any possible action. Barred from getting out of his vehicle, Brotherhood Deputy Mohamed Habib was forced to leave the area before he could join the activists on the streets around downtown Cairo’s Journalists Syndicate.

The daily Sharouq newspaper lashed out against the Brotherhood leadership saying the Islamic group has “an unwritten agreement between the ruling regime and the Muslim Brotherhood” concerning demonstrations and opposition activities. The newspaper had previously reported that the Brotherhood would not oppose Gamal Mubarak as a possible successor to his father, President Hosni Mubarak.

The accusations have sparked a war of words over the recent arrests and jailings, which hit a head last week when two prominent bloggers Abdel Rahman Ayyash and Magdy Saad were arrested by security forces upon their return from Turkey. Saad was released from his detention on Tuesday, and Ayyash released today, but their detention shows the struggle when it comes to blogging in the country. The Brotherhood has been outspoken in their demands for their release and have lashed out at the government over the crackdown, but Sharouq argues that this is part of the “game” being played with the organization.

Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood Executive Board member and head of its political affairs unit, said that his group has no desire to get into a war of words with local press, but that Sharouq’s accusations of colluding with the government are “unfounded.” He argued that the newspaper is attempting to discredit the powerful opposition during a trying period when dozens of leaders are behind bars.

“The ruling regime does not want any real reform and what took place is clear evidence of the obstruction of freedom,” he said in an attempt to move the conversation away from media reports. “Arrests, crackdowns and the repeated shutting down of companies belonging to leading figures of the Brotherhood are a clear indication,” he explained.

Morsi argued that the Brotherhood has nothing to hide and is not involved in any confidentiality agreements with the government. He continued to say that the Brotherhood's “activities and positive influence are clear to all, and anything befalling the MB members from persecution, military trials and special procedures are very obvious.”

Sharouq newspaper did not return numerous requests for comment on the reports concerning the Brotherhood’s collusion with the government.

Secular leaders stand up

Ahmed Abu Khalil, who was arrested on Wednesday when security forces raided his home, remains in government custody, and worries of torture and maltreatment continue to concern the Brotherhood. A number of leaders also believe that Sharouq’s attempts to "discredit the group" are not serving the public’s interest.

On the other hand, secular leaders are beginning to show their support with reform-minded Brotherhood figures.

Abdel Halim Qandeel, the coordinator for the Kefaya (Enough) movement, said on Saturday at the failed demonstration that he is ready to protest against the government for their actions against the bloggers and other reform elements within the Brotherhood.

The secular leader and former newspaper editor argued that Egyptians “must all work together to end this horrible dictatorship we find ourselves in. By claiming one thing over another and created divisions among the opposition will serve no real purpose.”

The Brotherhood leaders who also made their way to downtown Cairo were welcomed by Qandeel and other secular leaders at Saturday’s debunked protest. Surrounded by dozens of black-clad riot police, the opposition, for a change, came together in a show of solidarity for a common cause.

“It is good to see that we can work together. The government wants to create divisions and sometimes the power game boils over into the press and doesn’t help,” said a statement from the Brotherhood.

It is clear, however, that the leading daily newspapers in the country have no love for the Islamic group. They prefer secular attitudes and beliefs and in recent months their campaign has continued against the Brotherhood. Morsi hopes that together, the realities in the country can begin to be “shown to the people” or, he warns, more divisions and hate will be created.

“The Muslim Brotherhood's views regarding various issues whether they include internal affairs and corruption in all its forms, or foreign issues related to national security and the Palestinian issue in particular is very clear,” Morsi argued.