This is probably the most interesting/important article TBE has translated in a long time or possibly ever, about a supposed offer the government made to the Muslim Brotherhood: Either cease and desist your political activities or face the consequences. The translation is a bit choppy in places and a bit long, but it is definitely worth reading the whole thing. For background, please see Marc Lynch’s recent blog post about the campaign of arrests against moderate MB members, which is discussed in the article.
From al-Shorouk’s July 26, 2009 edition:
Government Offers a Contract with the Brotherhood… And the Time Given to Decide Is Weeks
An article in Foreign Policy, a magazine published by Washington Post-Newsweek, considers the arrest of a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Council as an attempt by the government to thwart reformist members of the group and force it to extremism.
In interviews, knowledgeable Egyptian official sources told al-Shorouk that “dealing” with the Muslim Brotherhood is currently considered the main priority of the authorities, in looking to “ensure stability.” In relation to the MB file, an informed source said, “The state is not looking for confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood but it is obliged to undertake it in light of the fact that initiatives undertaken by the group did not reassure us about stability in Egypt.”
The source said that the intensive round of arrests of leaders and cadres of the Muslim Brotherhood witnessed in the past month became a necessity after “numerous warnings” the state gave to the Brotherhood “to refrain from contacts with foreign elements” with respect to the current and future political situation in Egypt. The source added, “We gave warnings and saw no positive results and then we started the arrests.”
According to the sources – who are from the political, not security, realm – the coming stage of “dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood” is the most sensitive. A source said that a leading personality in the [ruling] National Democratic Party “sent a letter to the Muslim Brotherhood via an opposition politician” presenting a non-negotiable offer based on the principle of the state’s reining in the arrest campaign against Brotherhood leaders and freeing some of them in exchange for the Brotherhood’s stopping the activities the government has witnessed, such as political incitement both domestically and outside Egypt. The sources said that the opposition figure told Brotherhood leaders that the offer will not be valid for an extended period and that the leaders must present their response quickly, “within weeks and not months.” The same source added that the letter was clear: Either agreement or descent into a confrontation until the end, including a continuation of the arrests and political and material repression.
According to the same sources, the fate of the People’s Assembly and if it will be dissolved early or not is tied to a number of matters relating to the position of the Muslim Brotherhood regarding the government’s offer. The Brotherhood holds around 20% of a total of 454 seats in the assembly. An informed source said, “Until now the president of the republic has not decided about the early dissolution of parliament and he is not inclined to it.” The source added that increasing “stability” is the primary objective.
In an article in Foreign Policy magazine US writer Marc Lynch pointed out… (TBE: The next several paragraphs recap Lynch’s argument, linked above, which is well worth reading if you haven’t already) …
From their side, Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mahdi ‘Akef disclosed that the Brotherhood had notified the state via a high-level personality that it had agreed to the demand placed upon it that it not run in coming legislative elections – currently scheduled for 2010 – in exchange for the release of a group of its cadres and leaders imprisoned under decisions issued by the Military Courts.
However, ‘Akef said the Brotherhood’s response to the government’s letter has not been met by a positive response from the government until now, pointing out that the offer had been extended to the Brotherhood months ago and not in the present period.
The guide also said the arrests launched by the security apparatus continued despite the Brotherhood’s acceptance of the offer.
About the Brotherhood’s position with regards to the training scenario, ‘Akef said, “We refuse this scenario,” pointing out that the group’s position on the issue is non-negotiable. (TBE is not sure what this paragraph refers to. We translated سيناريو التدريب as “training scenario” but have no idea whether it somehow refers to succession (unlikely), the martial arts expo MB youths put on a few years back or something else.)
On the authorities’ accusation that the Brotherhood uses the Palestinian issue to turn domestic opinion against the state, ‘Akef said, “We did not incite against the authorities and our position on the Palestinian issue flows from our appreciation of Egypt’s historical role.”
Brotherhood leader Dr. ‘Essam al-‘Erian sees a comparison between the consequences after the assassination of Sayyid Qutb and the appearance of violent Islamic groups and the arrest of Abu al-Fattouh and other members, saying, “Everything that closed the doors to reform is what opened the door to violence.” However, he emphasized that the Brotherhood settled on a peaceful course decades ago.
Al-‘Erian continued, “The true reason for the latest arrests has to do with the Palestinian issue, and not with thwarting reformist members of the Brotherhood and pushing it toward extremism, as the Foreign Policy article mentioned. The evidence is that the arrests encompassed all the ideological currents within the Brotherhood.”