Talking to someone from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood these days in Cairo leaves one with a strange feeling.
Following a coup against the elected president, Mohammed Morsi, the current military-backed government and the security services have committed gross human rights outrages against Brotherhood members. Hugely disproportional force has been used killing hundreds at demonstrations and encampments; neutral eyewitness reports indicate that, while some Brotherhood members may have had arms, the overwhelming preponderance of force came from security forces.
Brotherhood leaders haven’t been allowed to see lawyers. Children of brotherhood members have been arrested at school. The state-controlled media steadily regularly demonizes the Brotherhood, imputing to them terrorist links that are disputed by knowledgeable experts, and attributing Egypt’s long-standing economic problems solely to one year of Morsi’s rule..
And yet they get little sympathy in Egypt. Liberals feared Islamization, much of the public blames Morsi for being inept, and the ouster of an elected president is viewed as a part of a continuing revolution, even though it means that the military has returned as the predominant power in Egypt.
Watching hardline Islamists gain traction in Syria, the Brotherhood – for all its faults – seems tame in comparison. Even though one would wish better for Egypt than Brotherhood rule, it’s disturbing to watch how the military and media can airbrush them out of existence, despite their core support in poor rural areas.
Probably, at some point, the military will make a deal with the Brotherhood to let them back into the political arena in a diminished fashion. But for now urban Egyptians prefer to pretend that Morsi was a bad dream that simply faded away.