Time for introspection

The sudden under custody death of Egypt’s first democratically elected president after the Egyptian uprising came to a shock to the world. Muhammad Morsi emerged as a leader of Egypt after the popular uprising against the Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Morsi was a comrade of Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan al-Muslmeen, who ascended through successive ranks of the organisation. It is his deep association with the organisation that equipped Morsi with a strong and established support. Though, the Brotherhood was not immensely popular or only mainstream political party in the country. Nevertheless, the success of the Brotherhood after the Arab uprising was more because of its centralised leadership in Cairo and deeply committed membership with a closely knit mobilising structure for the promotion of its ideas. The ideas of the Brotherhood is known for the Islamist distribution of social services, organising protests and informing voting behaviour with such insights of the organisation.

Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic organisation established by Hassan al-Banna in 1928 in Egypt as an Islamist religious, Political and Social movement. Al-Banna introduced organised politics in the Muslim world, and the main ideas of the movement were to resist Western imperialism and Islamisation, primarily, of Egypt. The movement was against Arab nationalism and regarded all Muslims as members of one single community. Gradual reformism was preferred over the revolutionary change and a complete rejection of the Western ideas. The Brotherhood showed solidarity and proximity to the Palestinians and also fought Jihad alongside the Arab army in one or more wars. The Brotherhood has been highly influential for the emergence of what they call Political Islam. The Pan-Islamic appeal based on rationalism interlocked Shia-Sunni sectarian difference too. Ayatollah Muhammad Bakir al-Sadr of Iraq founded Islamic Dawa Party in Najaf and fashioned it in the Brotherhood, and the membership included from the Sunni cadres as well. The Muslim Brotherhood affiliated parties in Iraq were joined by Shias also till the Baathist crackdown of Sadam Hussain.

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran has translated Syed Qutub’s works to Farsi and the belief in the eradication of oppression or confronting Israel and liberation of Palestine was an important common ground between the Brotherhood and other Shi’i parties in the region. There are much more programs and objectives that are common to both, and that always brought them in proximity with each other or made them natural allies. It was also evident in support of the Brotherhood to the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic received delegations of Muslim Brothers from many Muslim countries to congratulate Ayatollah Syed Ruhullah Khomeini on the success of the revolution.  Later, The International Organisation of Muslim Brotherhood coordinated with Islamic Unity Forum of Iran to organise Shia-Sunni interfaith dialogue on several occasions and soon. The Ayatollahs also issued fatwas to refrain fuelling sectarian tension between the two communities. Therefore, not only the Islamic Republic but other Shi’i ulemas also saw the Muslim Brotherhood as a bridge to the Sunni world.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, it was 2011 in Egypt when Political Islam was seen making its way to power. The Brotherhood linked Freedom and Justice Party won the election under Muhammad Morsi in 2012 and the new administration started to improve ties with Iran. President Morsi handed over Non-aligned Movement presidency to Tehran and became first Egyptian President to visit Tehran in thirty years. President Muhammad Ahmadinejad also reciprocated by attending Islamic Summit in Cairo in 2013. The bilateral relations were established economically and otherwise, too. However, the Saudi Arabia angle and the emerging Saudi inclined Islamist factions in the country, along with the Egyptian hard power bend towards the United States became a massive hurdle in the bilateral relations.

The millennium decade proved to be dangerous for the region as the international politics of West Asia was drastically being changed in the favour of Israel. Under the patronage of the thesis of the clash of civilisations, the war on terror and US Invasion of Iraq was designed. The Lebanese war of 2006 with Israel Defence Force further annoyed the lobby.  Therefore, the sectarian tension was fired in the region, that spread to South Asia and other parts too. Many argue that Shia-Sunni Schism has always remained there but calling it a handiwork of the US and allies is unfair. My argument to counter this is that the schism has remained there theologically, but it was toxified and used for political and strategic advantage in this period to reduce the influence of rationalist Islamists and marginal Islamist political voice forever.

The 1953 Coup D’état in Iran, failed 2016 Coup D’état in Turkey and many such other attempts indicate what we saw is someway similar to the Military Coup in Egypt in 2014 that ousted President Morsi for not being able to bring  national consensus and was tried till the day he died in the courtroom in Cairo.  The neo-liberal and Zionist elements are scripting policies for the region and are chocking the native and popular movements to deny stability to the region for their own vested interests. The regional powers are also well part of the agenda, and the sectarian tensions are just a facade to decline rights of the oppressed. The introspection is needed to counter this kind of conspiracies. No one is denied the rights but some kind of sense must prevail.

(Khairunnisa Aga is Doctoral Candidate, Centre for West Asia Studies School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University)