They showed a military-style precision, writes AP’s Sarah El Deeb: Crowds of bearded Islamists proclaiming allegiance to Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi and chanting “God is great” as they descended on tents set up by anti-Morsi protesters outside the presidential palace, swinging clubs and firing rifles. They set up a detention facility, interrogating and beating captured protesters….,.
Opponents of Morsi accuse his Muslim Brotherhood supporters of unleashing highly trained cadres — fired up with religious slogans — to crush their political rivals. They fear last week’s violence was a signal that the Brotherhood will use force to push its agenda and defend its political gains in the face of a persistent protest movement demanding that Morsi withdraw a draft constitution largely written by his Islamist allies…..Testimonies and videos that have emerged from the nearly 15 hours of street clashes show an organized group of disciplined Islamists, working in units and carrying out military-type exercises as they broke up the tent sit-in at the palace.
When the Brotherhood was taken aback by the scale of the opposition protests, “they had no hesitation in hastening to implement their ideas and resorting to violence,” said Tharwat el-Kherbawy, a former Brotherhood member. “If their empowerment project is facing resistance, this resistance must be quelled.”
“The Brotherhood’s central organizational doctrine — calling on members to ‘hear and obey’ their leaders — gives it a military-like structure,” he said.
Morsi’s rule is acquiring an increasingly sectarian tint as he has failed to honor a commitment to adopt an inclusive approach to governing.
“For better or worse the Brotherhood has become more intertwined with Morsi. In his more autonomous months as president, Mr Morsi said he was independent of the Brotherhood. But now is a time to close ranks,” said Shadi Hamid, of the Brookings Doha Centre:
The impression that Mr Morsi is listening almost exclusively to his Islamist political base was reinforced by his surprise decision on Sunday to announce the imposition of new taxes on everything from mobile phone calls and beer to fertiliser, only to rescind the decision 12 hours later following public criticism by the Freedom and Justice party.
Critics of the Brotherhood point out that under Mr Mubarak, the Brotherhood exhibited a high degree of pragmatism in order to survive as an organisation, and say that staying in power remains Mr Morsi’s preoccupation.
“Morsi has pushed himself increasingly to rely solely on Islamists…and if this referendum takes places he will have only them to rely on for the rest of his administration,” says Issandr El Amrani aka The Arabist:
Moreover, he and his party last Wednesday incited people to go out into the street and “defend the presidency” — an unjustifiable action with predictable consequences (and an unnecessary one, after all he has the Republican Guards). Muslim Brothers went out there and held (and allegedly tortured) protestors for 12 hours, on presidency grounds, to extract confessions of a conspiracy.
Conspiracy? By whom?
Khairat al-Shater, the Brotherhood’s deputy leader “suggested that the latest turmoil was the result of a foreign and local conspiracy to derail Islamist rule,” Heba Saleh reports. “In a bid to the delegitimize opposition to Mr Morsi he hinted that Mossad, the Israeli secret service, might be involved.”