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Abdullah Al-Arian: Egypt's Democratic Outlaws

Abdullah Al-Arian is an Assistant Professor of History at Wayne State University, where he specialises in the modern Middle East.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been here before.

In the fall of 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood put its faith in the revolutionary transition in place after the 1952 military coup, backing the wrong horse in General Muhammad Naguib, and was ultimately outmaneuvered by Nasser. In one fell swoop, the organisation was outlawed, its offices burned down by angry mobs, its newspapers shut down, and its leaders imprisoned, executed, or exiled....

But if Mohamed Morsi’s rise to the presidency was a remarkable achievement for a once outlawed opposition movement, his sudden fall at the hands of a military coup backed by a mass revolt in some ways signifies an unprecedented low point in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only does it face the prospect of enduring banishment at the hands of a cold and calculating military regime yet again, it will do so to the thunderous applause of millions of Egyptians.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are undoubtedly responsible for much of the unpopularity they generated over the course of the post-Mubarak transition. There is something to be said, however, of the ways in which large swaths of the Egyptian public seem to have internalised decades of demonisation of the group by the former regime and its propaganda arms, which continued to operate unabated throughout Morsi’s term in office....

Perhaps one of the many tragedies of these latest events is that we have lost, possibly forever, the opportunity to witness the Muslim Brotherhood humbled through its preferred method of political contestation. In sharp contrast to the present scenario, that development would have come with numerous advantages, not the least of which is the continued affirmation of democracy as the governing principle among all of Egypt’s political factions, and the continued semblance of unity, however fractious, in the face of relentless efforts to subvert the nation’s transition from authoritarianism....

Read entire article at Al Jazeera