Well, here’s another dismal “unity” pact for you.
The Muslim Brotherhood has announced an electoral coalition with a host of Salafi groups in Egypt, under the banner of seeking an Islamic state. “It was the recent attacks on the Islamic groups that brought us together,” the Brotherhood’s lawyer Sobhi Saleh explained to an Egyptian newspaper on Tuesday.
Saleh’s newfound siege mentality is at odds with the confidence he displayed on Newsnight a few months back. A woman or a Christian, the Islamist attorney told Tim Whewell, could never be president of a post-Mubarak Egypt because Muslims constitute “95 per cent of the population” (not true) and this is the “same policy as in Greece, Spain and in England” (what’s the Arabic for “Iron Lady”?).
Among the Brotherhood’s new parliamentary partners is Jama”a al-Islamiyya, a Salafi group that played a role in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and recently advocated the formation of a Saudi-style “modesty police” for Egypt.
But these are peccadilloes compared with Jama”a’s other claims to notoriety which include:
– Being cited by Ayman al-Zawhiri in 2006 as an affiliate member of al-Qaeda, a courtesy just reciprocated by one Gama”a official who proclaimed that “the assassination [of Osama bin Laden] will open the gates of Hell and set it face to face with the Muslims” vengeance”;
– Having its spiritual leader Omar Abdel-Rahman (a.k.a. the “Blind Sheikh”) sentenced for life in the United States for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. (The Egyptian caretaker government and the Grand Mufti of Al Azhar are currently soliciting the Yanks for Abdel-Rahman’s release from prison.)
– Killing 18 Greek tourists (14 of whom were women) outside a hotel in Cairo in 1996 because Jama”a militants mistook the travellers for Israelis;
– Killing 9 tourists and injuring 35 more on a bus in Cairo in September 1997;
– Killing another 71 tourists in November 1997 in Luxor.
Jama”a is said to have forsworn violence since the 1990s, but there is a plausible reason why the Muslim Brotherhood would seek an alliance with it now. The movement founded by Hasan al-Banna 83 years ago has lately exhibited signs of ideological schizophrenia, with hardliners overplaying their hand and clawing for absolute control (and media attention) whilst “reformists” break ranks and try to build a base of their own….