Uncertain prospects for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

The arrest of the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ezzat, in late August in Cairo has sparked a succession crisis, write the editors of European Eye on Radicalization (October 2, 2020). At the helm of the Islamist movement for the past seven years, after the hard repression by Egyptian authorities that started in 2013, Ezzat was considered as a hardliner and had possibly been living abroad during part of that time (European Eye on Radicalization, August 30, 2020). The new Supreme Guide, Ibrahim Munir, has been running the international organization of the Brotherhood for a number of years. His choice as a new leader has apparently not been wellaccepted by younger members, who tend to see exiled leaders as pawns of foreign powers. There have even been accusations that he had betrayed Ezzat to the Egyptian security services. The exiled leaders are getting financial support from Qatar and Turkey—both in competition with Arab countries such as Egypt. Earlier this month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi reiterated that he rejects any reconciliation with the Brotherhood (Middle East Monitor, October 12).

While it might be tempting to turn to violent actions against the Egyptian government both for Brotherhood leaders—in order to gain legitimacy and to show that the movement keep means of pressure—and for their foreign supporters, it should be kept in mind that the Brotherhood in Egypt has lost much of its operational capacities due to the crackdown experienced in recent years. It is no longer possible for its members to organize large demonstrations or to gather significant popular support, as failed attempts after Ezzat’s arrest have shown. Moreover, the Brotherhood leaders do not want to risk being designed as a terrorist organization by the US government. There are also voices advocating for a ban of the Brotherhood in the UK (Arab News, October 20), and the Brotherhood would certainly not want to compromise its presence in Europe. What cannot be excluded, according to the EER editors, is that more radical splinter groups come out from a much weakened Brotherhood in Egypt, thus repeating the scenario that had already taken place after years of repression there in the 1970s.