Talk Peace, Broadcast Violence

Mekameleen TV, a pro-Brotherhood satellite channel broadcast from Turkey
Mekameleen TV, a pro-Brotherhood satellite channel broadcast from Turkey

The Washington Post recently published an excellent article detailing the escalation of violent rhetoric between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian state. Language is shocking on both sides, but the government crackdown on the Brotherhood is well-known and admitted, even as accusations of terrorism in the Sinai remain unproven in the eyes of many.

But the Brotherhood actively presents itself in English as committed to a path of non-violent resistance. Consider then this extended excerpt:

In a broadcast from Istanbul, for example, a slick haired television presenter on the Muslim Brotherhood funded and managed Masr al-An (Egypt Now) channel recently delivered an ominous message, “I say to the wife of every officer…your husband will die, your children will be orphaned…these kids [“revolutionaries”] will kill the officers in Egypt.”

This was not an isolated incident of open incitement on Masr al-An. Three other Turkey-based pro-Brotherhood channels (al-Sharq, Mukammilin and Rabaa) echo similar incendiary rhetoric and cheer on the “popular resistance,” hunkering down for confrontation with the regime.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, there is a similar level of vitriol, with the regime-driven media linking the Muslim Brotherhood with the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis – which refers to itself as the Sinai Province of the Islamic State. The regime has labeled the Brotherhood as an enemy of the Egyptian state, which must be combated, and blames it for various plots against Egyptian interests.

The Islamist and Brotherhood embrace of confrontational rhetoric was evident in a recent “Message to the Ranks of Revolutionaries: ‘and Prepare’” uploaded to an official Web site of the Brotherhood. After a helpful reminder that the group’s logo of two swords and “Prepare” are all “synonyms of strength,” the message continued to remind, “Imam [Hasan] al-Banna [Brotherhood founder] equipped jihad brigades he sent to Palestine to fight the Zionist usurpers. And the second Guide, Hasan al-Hudaybi, restored the ‘secret apparatus’ [paramilitary] formations to attrit the British occupiers.”

It concluded, “We are at the beginning of a new phase where we summon our strength and evoke the meaning of jihad, and prepare ourselves, our wives, our sons and daughters and whoever follows our path for relentless jihad where we ask for martyrdom.” While this controversial essay did not directly call for violence, many Egyptians interpreted it as a departure.

This is exacerbated in that the Brotherhood, in its bid to make its cause a pan-Islamist one, has allowed radical former Brothers and other Islamists to join it on the platform. Inflammatory preachers like Wagdy Ghoneim – who virtually beat everyone else to the punch by deeming Sissi an apostate even before the Rabaa massacre – are hosted on the new pro-Brotherhood channels.

Following Sissi’s January speech on revolutionizing Islam, charges of apostasy are now standard fare on pro-Brotherhood channels. A Brotherhood-tied cleric who served in the Ministry of Religious Endowments under Morsi, Sheikh Salamah Abd al-Qawi, even gave a fatwa that Sissi’s death is permissible and that whoever kills him and dies in the act is a martyr; he received applause from the studio audience.

In another segment, viewers were urged to come out to protest for the “sake of their religion,” a not too surprising refrain after the Brotherhood’s endorsement of the radical call for a “Muslim Youth Intifada” in November 2014. The attempt to make the current conflict one about Islam was casually explained only months following the coup as part of a strategy to rile up quietist Salafis.

Pro-Brotherhood channels also help increase the profile of radical conspiracy theorists like journalist Sabir Mashhur who labels the army as “occupiers” and “crusaders” fighting the “Egyptian Muslims.” He offers such violent advice to the “revolutionaries” that if they hit the first and last tank in the column with rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) the division will melt away. Furthermore, he echoes other increasing calls to follow the path of the Iranian revolution.

Over the past year groups calling themselves “Popular Resistance,” “Execution Movement,” and recently a group called “Revolutionary Punishment,” have carried out everything from drive-by shootings of police officers, sabotage of public utilities and private businesses, to planting small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are increasingly deadlier and more sophisticated.

In the weeks leading up to January 25, the fourth anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, the pro-Brotherhood channels fully embraced these groups and even called on them to execute pro-regime media figures.

The article goes to great lengths to show the context of this escalation, as each side blames the other. It also suggests the Brotherhood is trying to straddle the fence between a long-standing policy of de-emphasizing their violent source material, while giving space to enraged youth bent on revenge for slain colleagues.

Perhaps. But as the excerpt above indicates, the Brotherhood is licensing far more than space for troubled youth. It is filling the space with incitement, at least by proxy. They must clearly condemn, and quickly.