CAIRO – Almost three months after Egypt’s military interfered to oust former President Mohamed Morsi from power, a once dominating Muslim Brotherhood group is returning to the shadows, amid increasing arrests and security crackdown on the 85-year-old group.
“There is a lot of fear right now,” an official at the allegedly Brotherhood-affiliated school, called Dawa al-Islamiya, told the Washington Post.
“Anything with the Islamic name is under suspicion.”
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Egypt has been thrown into turmoil after defense minister General Abdel Fattah El Sisi deposed President Mohamed Morsi in July 3 after mass protests.
Today, the turmoil has widened in Egypt after security forces killed hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood backers, arrested thousands more — including the group’s top leaders.
The attacks were carried along with a propaganda campaign waged by official and private media to demonize Brotherhood members as terrorists.
Following an intensive media campaign, a Cairo court recently ordered a ban on the group, showing that authorities were willing to go even further than former president Hosni Mubarak did to crush the group.
The ruling, issued on Monday, September 23, by the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters bans the Brotherhood itself, the NGO, as well as "any institution derived from or belonging to the Brotherhood" or "receiving financial support from it".
The verdict was written broadly and appears to apply not only to the Brotherhood’s political and religious work, but also to the empire of hospitals, schools and charities that has been the basis of its support among millions of poor Egyptians for decades.
The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed for most of its 85 year existence before becoming legalized in 2011 and then in March 2013 registering as a non-governmental organization.
Over the next ten years, the Brotherhood made repeated calls for a more democratic political system, despite facing security forces crackdown deeming it a banned group during Mubarak era.
Despite 2013 ban, the Brotherhood, thought to number between 300,000 and 1 million members, remains highly unpopular among much of the rest of Egypt's population of 85 million.
The recent ban was expected to widely affect the brotherhood’s charitable activities, hitting its empire of hospitals, schools and charities hard.
“This is our social capital,” said a worried local official with the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party in Beni Suif.
“We are afraid they will remove our people from these charities and bring others instead,” he said.
“The situation is very sensitive.”
Only a year ago, he was part of the Brotherhood network swept into power as voters in Beni Suif, an agricultural governorate, elected Morsi’s Islamist allies to 14 out of 18 parliamentary seats.
They also gave Morsi two-thirds of their votes in the first presidential election after the 2011 ousting of Mubarak.
Now the official sleeps in a different place nearly every night to avoid local security forces that have arrested dozens of local Brotherhood members.
The security crackdown on the Brotherhood has hit its members from different walks of life.
Among those arrested were wealthy individuals who funded charities, doctors who helped treat the poor and teachers who instructed kids in the Qur’an
Engineers who repaired houses, power lines and sewer systems in the poorest neighborhoods and villages were not excluded either.
The Brotherhood, meanwhile, preemptively shuttered its most visible projects, including a program to deliver school supplies.
Such projects have been the basis of its support among millions of poor Egyptians for decades.
“The people here need a lot of help,” said the official.
Close to Beni Suif city, people in scruffy Maymonia village pointed to a closed office of a former Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian, Mohamed Shaker el-Deeb.
Mohamed Saad, a businessman from a wealthy local family, said that Deeb had been widely respected but that the Brotherhood’s reputation as a whole has suffered.
“They used to work very well here, but after they reached the chair,” he said, referring to the presidency, “they lost it.”Asked who might take up their work, Saad pointed to an elderly man sweeping the street with a short broom. “We will,” he said.
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