Brotherhood divided over Friday’s protests

In a new sign of internal rebellion, a group of Muslim Brotherhood  youths have affirmed that they will participate in Friday’s protests despite the organization’s vehement opposition.

“We are taking to the streets because we believe that the revolution should be completed,” said Islam Lotfy, a Muslim Brotherhood leader told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Islam, a 33-year-old lawyer, shrugged off the group’s position on the matter as “bad and superficial”. “The statement issued by the group [Muslim Brotherhood] is only addressing the masses’ instinct of fear… It is not worthy of a group like the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Along with other opposition groups, the 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition, which consists of many youth entities, including some of the Muslim Brotherhood's most politicized young cadres, called earlier this week for a large protest in downtown Cairo on Friday to demand immediate trials of figures from the former regime, a new law to fight political corruption, the dismissal of “inefficient” ministers, and improvement of the wage scheme in the public sector.

The coalition's aim is to pressure the military to meet new demands, and yet its discourse on the performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed forces is one of subtle, rather than overt, criticism. The SCAF has been ruling the country since Mubarak stepped down in February.

Other groups, however, have voiced more radical demands. For the last couple of weeks, cyberspace has teemed with calls for “a second revolution”, with many launching themselves into more overt confrontation with the the military. Some groups had primarily demanded that the military cede the helm of state immediately to a civilian presidential council and that a new constitution be passed before the parliamentary elections – demands that Egypt’s generals have long ignored.

In response to these divergent calls, the Muslim Brotherhood posted a statement on its official website announcing that it would not participate in the protests on Friday. The group dismissed calls for a second revolution as “a revolution against the people” and an attempt to drive a wedge between the military and the people.

“This is a very strange position,” said Mohamed al-Qassas, another 35-year-old Muslim Brotherhood youth leader and a member of the 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition. “I did not expect the group to issue a statement that disapproves of the protests and accuses participants of treason.”

In another statement, the Muslim Brotherhood accused communists and secularists of trying to circumvent the people’s will by calling for the postponement of the parliamentary elections.

Since the fall of Mubarak, many political forces have demanded parliamentary elections be postponed, arguing that nascent liberal parties should be given enough time to build a strong support base. Otherwise, Islamists and the remnants of Mubarak’s party will dominate the parliament. Yet the military decided to hold the poll this fall – a move welcomed by the Muslim Brotherhood

“We are disappointed and we do not understand why the group is acting this way,” he added.

“I am personally going to participate,” added al-Qassas in a defiant tone.

As to how many rank-and-file young Brothers will follow suit, al-Qassas said it is hard to predict, especially since the position of youth leaders is different from that of the group’s highest leadership. By mobilizing against the Friday protests, the group is instilling confusion, he said.

“A lot of young people who wanted to go are now afraid to participate,” he added.

Later, Mahmoud Ghezlan, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau, contended that  youths will not engage in the protests. In a confident tone, referring to al-Qassas and Lotfy, he said, “They will not go [to the protests]. Talk to them later today and they will tell you they will not go.”

He implied that the group had convinced them not to take to the streets.

The disagreement between these youths and their leaders represents a new episode of a series of internal clashes that have made headlines in recent months. The first explicit manifestation of the conflict was the Muslim Brotherhood Youth Conference held in March. Qassas and hundreds of young Brothers convened then – against the will of their group’s leaders – to discuss prospects for internal reforms and political participation in the post-Mubarak era.

The youths attending the conference demanded better representation of young Brothers in the group’s highest power structures and the full independence of  the Muslim Brotherhood’s nascent Freedom and Justice party from all proselytizing bodies. However, none of these demands were heeded, suggesting the possibility of further splits within the Brotherhood youth.

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