‘The Brotherhood can survive’: Inside the war on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

Patrick Martin reports: The local headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, are burned-out shells in this Suez Canal port city, the birthplace of the Brotherhood 85 years ago. The remaining Brothers are trying to evade arrest by the authorities; the angry ones are considering a move across the canal to the lawless Sinai and a resort to violence.

There are many who see this as the end of the line for the once mighty Islamist organization. Its popularity with the people is at rock bottom and its leaders locked up, including deposed president Mohammed Morsi.

Other Brothers are hiding out or fleeing the country, and more than 1,000 of its supporters were killed in a brutal crackdown when the army seized power in August. To add further injury, an Egyptian court on Wednesday upheld a ruling banning the Brotherhood and all its branches from operating, and ordering the confiscation of its assets.

There’s nothing of value left in the office of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) on El Gomhoreya Street in the centre of Ismaila. It’s a poor neighbourhood, a block inland from the fishing port and just down the road from the luxurious English homes that run along the corniche.

Next to the old Ibad ar-Rahman mosque, the FJP office sits around the corner from where the Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, taught school by day and preached the saving virtues of Islam in coffee houses by night. He set up The Society of Muslim Brothers in 1928 when six Suez Canal workers came to him complaining of the injustices suffered at the hand of the foreign owners.

Ismailia is normally a laid back city. People here tell you that people in Cairo work too hard. There’s lots of green space and the waterfront is never far away. There’s even a sign – in Arabic – that says “Smile, you’re in Ismailia.”

These days, there’s a tank parked beside the sign and a military checkpoint behind that. Down the road, 10 tanks stand in front of the courthouse.

Posters of Mr. Morsi still can be seen everywhere; most of them, however, have been defaced.

Mustafa Shaltoot, 27, has a tell-tale zebiba (it means raisin) on his forehead – the dark abrasion that comes from touching your forehead to the ground in regular prayer. But like a lot of young followers of the Muslim Brotherhood these days, his formerly thick beard has been shaved to about a three-day growth.

Mr. Shaltoot brought a journalist inside what remained of the FJP office, out of sight from the street. “What happened after the coup was terrifying,” he said, referring to the Egyptian army’s ousting of Mr. Morsi and the deadly crackdown on his movement that followed. “I’m afraid all the time. I’m afraid the security will see me talking to you,” he said.

“But this is our history,” he said. “It was this way under [Gamal Abdul] Nasser,” referring to the Egyptian president who ordered a crackdown on the Brotherhood in 1952. “We will survive this too.” [Continue reading…]

Meanwhile, BBC News reports: Egypt’s state of emergency and curfew have been lifted, the government has announced.

The move came two days earlier than expected, after a court ruling.

The state of emergency and the night-time curfew were introduced on 14 August after security forces forcibly ended sit-ins in support of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The measures had been due to last a month, but the government extended them for two more months on 12 September.

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