The Muslim Brotherhood has called for mass protests following Friday prayers and this may provide a window into which direction the wind is blowing. Radical Salafi supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi have indicated that violence and terrorism will be their response.
Mohammad Zawahiri, the Egyptian-based brother of al-Qaida leader Ayman Zawahiri, called for the organization to wage a jihad to save Morsi and his Islamist agenda for Egypt, according to a report by Raymond Ibrahim at the Gatestone Institute.
Ibrahim cites another Arab report quoting Mohammad Zawahiri as stating, “If matters reach a confrontation, then to be sure, that is in our favor – for we have nothing to lose. And at all times and places where chaos reigns, it’s often to the jihad’s advantage.”
Zawahiri has reportedly fled to Sinai, which is not under the full control of the Egyptian government.
Ibrahim, a Shillman fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, the author of a new book titled Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians – which documents the suffering of Christians in the region – said that “one of the consequences of Morsi’s overthrow is ‘retribution’ against the nation’s Christian Copts, whom Islamists always, and absurdly, portray as leading any anti-Islamist campaign, such as the June 30 protests.”
He told The Jerusalem Post that before the coup, pro-Morsi forces threatened the Copts not to participate in the protests, or “their homes and churches would be burned down, and their children targeted.”
The St. George Coptic Christian Church in a village in al-Minya “was just set on fire, July 3 – right when Morsi was being ousted,” he said. The fire was put out, but reports indicate that the Islamists are still adamantly trying to destroy the church – and this is just for starters.
Ibrahim said the conditions for the Copts should improve now that the Brotherhood is out of power, as under its rule an unprecedented number of Christians were arrested on accusations of blasphemy.
“Such ‘legal’ attacks will likely lessen,” he said, “but in return, lawless attacks on Copts, such as this most recent church attack, will likely increase.”
This pattern of attacking Christian minorities as a form of “retribution” is common across the Islamic world, said Ibrahim, noting that it has “centuries of continuity.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, however, has given out mixed messages on how it will proceed.
Some leaders have called on their supporters to protest peacefully while others have called for martyrdom.
Perhaps the shocked leadership has still not decided on how to proceed with many of its leaders either arrested, hiding, or on the run. Some analysts believe the organization is likely to hunker down and try to win future elections.
Others analysts are claiming that the failure of the Brotherhood in Egypt signals the end of the movement as its brand has become badly damaged.
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), told the Post that he does not think the coup against the Brotherhood signals the end of political Islam in the region as it still “is a strong force everywhere in the Middle East.
“If there will be elections in a month, there is a chance that the Brotherhood would win again,” Inbar says.
In any case, he sees the continued “power of the people” as an important player in regional politics.
Prof. Meir Litvak of the department of Middle Eastern history and the director for the Alliance Center of Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, told the Post that the setback for the Brotherhood is a serious one, but it “may not be the end of such a broad and deeply rooted movement.”
Asked if the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups will suffer as well from this setback, Litvak responded that the crisis of one Islamic movement does not mean the others are in crisis.
“The Islamist movements in each of the Arab countries have their own distinct features, and each operates under different circumstances,” he said.
Litvak argued that it is likely the Muslim Brotherhood in other countries may learn from the mistakes of the Egyptian movement and “be more cautious or prudent in their conduct.
But it is far too early to insist that they are finished.”
As for the Muslim brothers in Egypt, Litvak said that they “did not resort to terrorism under worse circumstances in the past” and are “more likely to seek to reorganize their ranks and infrastructure and run in the next elections.”
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explained that Islamists throughout the region see the coup and are nervous about its repercussions.
The Brotherhood-dominated opposition in Jordan could suffer as a result of the coup as well, he said.
Schanzer believes the Brotherhood will have to re-invent itself to stay relevant as its reputation for clean government has been tarnished. He noted that it will be interesting to see how Morsi’s strongholds respond, particularly those in northern Egypt.
Islamists are already complaining, he said, that “the West does not respect the ballot box.”