The Egyptian government could not be expected to take lightly what appears to be a terror attack on one of its police headquarters. But even before the guilty could be nabbed and tried, the government has taken a sort of step that has ceased to surprise — declared the Muslim Brotherhood a ‘terrorist organization’. The move follows the ban on the organization and its political front, the Freedom and Justice Party, that was imposed soon after President Mohamed Mursi was arrested in July. Since then, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliate organizations have had to face State repression that has taken the form of police firing on protesters, freezing of bank accounts, arrests and disappearances. The Muslim Brotherhood, which participated in Egypt’s first democratic elections and gave the country its first democratically elected president, has been painted as the prime enemy of Egypt’s democracy. The Egyptian army is responsible for this, having bagged for itself the role of supreme protector of democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood’s hurry to implement its version of political Islam, which alienated sizeable sections of society, has made the army’s job easy. Taking advantage of the insecurity and confusion created by the Muslim Brotherhood’s style of politics, the army is now not only back on the political saddle, but is also making full use of the opportunity to tear apart an organization that was, and has always been, the only force capable of opposing its authoritarianism.
For the Muslim Brotherhood, which has faced a ban for a considerable part of its eight-decade-old existence, the action of the military regime is nothing new. It is too enmeshed in Egyptian society through its social work (and now political presence) to make its complete eradication possible. But, for the future of Egypt’s democracy, the army’s attempt to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood makes for more ominous news because it represents a return to a pattern of politics that the Arab Spring revolution had tried to overturn. The military regime in Egypt is trying to obliterate the Opposition, and in doing so, throttling all individual freedoms, be it of the freedom of expression or political choice. Given that Egypt is about to pass a Constitution designed to place the military above civilian oversight, the persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood portends a dangerous trend.