The issue of reconciliation between the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood is especially important for the members of the group, which is facing rejection by a large segment of the society as a result of the severe violence it committed after the fall of its candidate Mohamed Morsi, in 2013. That prompted them to try to get closer to the state and to return to the political and social life, so we have every now and then initiatives calling for reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, which are being met with the extreme rejection of the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people.
These calls increased after the June 30 revolution, especially after the group began to suffer many problems, which caused division within its ranks and conflicts between the leaders at home and abroad. So, these calls are only a Brotherhood maneuver to return to the political scene, which has not been achieved because since the first moments of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi taking office as head of the public in June 2014, he has vowed not to allow the Brotherhood to exist during his rule.
This prompts us to read the situation through three axes. The first will be through reviewing the initiatives that some MB leaders called for and their reasons while the second tackles reactions on these calls and the third axis will provide an analytical reading of the causes and consequences of these initiatives and their mechanisms.
First: Calls for launching reconciliation initiatives:
1. Internal Invitations:
When we recall the initiatives advocated by many different groups of society, whether internal or external, over the course of more than five years, from 2013 to 2018, we have seen at least 15 initiatives calling for reconciliation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the state. It began with the Salafist preacher Mohamed Hassan in 2013 during the Rabaa al-Adawyia sit-in while the latest of these initiative were the attempts of the former Muslim Brotherhood member Kamal al-Halbawi in April 2018, which were widely rejected by the Egyptian state, and a statement by the Muslim Brotherhood in August 2018. In addition, there are many invitations from close people to the Muslim Brotherhood and others from the state. The most important of these invitations are the following:
The Salafist preacher Mohammed Hassan sought out in 2013, just days before the end of the sit-in of Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda, to reconcile the group with the state. Hassan returned on July 14, 2015 to repeat his initiative. “I am still ready to lead reconciliation, including the achievement of punishment for those who were killed without right, and the concession of both parties for part of their rights in favor of Egypt.”
Prior to the end of 2013, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei called on the state to open channels of dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood and the political Islam movements supporting the ousted Morsi. ElBaradei called again in October 2015 to involve the group in Egypt’s political future and the democratic transition process as well as releasing Morsi and prisoners of the Muslim Brotherhood, in return for the group giving up violence and return again to what he called “the embrace of the people.”
In October 2013, the Islamic thinker, Ahmed Kamal Abu al-Majd, presented an initiative in which he said that he reached an agreement with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including renouncing violence, stopping demonstrations in the streets and fields, and abandoning the return of Morsi, in exchange for the return of the group to political life.
The Political Science Professor at Cairo University, Hassan Nafaa, presented two reconciliation initiatives, the first of which was in February 2014, which was called the “Rescue Map” initiative and provides for the formation of a committee of intellectuals headed by Mohamed Hassanein Heikal to calm the atmosphere between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood. In August of the same year, the National Dialogue included the dismissal of Hazem al-Beblawi’s government, the declaration of renunciation of violence by the state and the Muslim Brotherhood and the establishment of a neutral fact-finding committee to investigate all violence.
In February 2015, justice Tariq al-Bishri launched his reconciliation initiative, in which he called on Saudi Arabia to take care of the dialogue between the two sides. He noted that the Islamists in Egypt have popular organizations that are permeated within society and dialogue between the state and the Brotherhood is important to return the group to political life.
On June 19, 2015, the leader of the Strong Egypt Party, currently imprisoned on charges of belonging to the group, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fattouh, launched a reconciliation initiative with the group, which consisted of forming a government of independent transitional competencies. Abul-Fattouh proposed appointing a new prime minister to be an independent, impartial personality, and then to delegate the President of the Republic in his powers to the Prime Minister. Then, he called for the release of Morsi and the prisoners of the Brotherhood, with the group entering into a national dialogue with the authorities after repudiating all forms of violence.
He also called on the director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, “Saad Eddin Ibrahim,” at various times and over several years; to conduct reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, including an initiative presented in March 2016 and involved the release of all the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, led by the bureau guide Badee.
He returned again in March 2017 to declare that the group was ready for reconciliation. “The atmosphere is now ready for historic national reconciliation and there are signs of a historic reconciliation in Egypt,” he said.
In November 2016, Emad Abdul Ghafour, head of Al-Watan Party and former aide to Morsi, called for a new reconciliation under the name of “national reconciliation” urging the state and the Brotherhood to make some concessions and retreats.
In April 2018, the media provided a call for reconciliation, highlighting the need to integrate the Brotherhood’s youth into society and reconcile with them. It also carried out intellectual reviews of the elements of the group.
One of the most controversial initiatives was the initiative launched by the dissident leader Kamal al-Halbawi on April 25, 2018, calling for the need to seek comprehensive national reconciliation in Egypt through the formation of a council of wise people, including Arab and international personalities like the late Sudanese President Abdulrahman Sawar Al-Zahab, the Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim, former Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, the former Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Amr Moussa and the President of the National Council for Human Rights Mohammad Fayek, with a view to ending the conflict between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The latest initiative, which was released to the public, was a statement issued by the group on the fifth anniversary of the dismantling of the Rabaa al-Adawyia sit-in and the uprising on August 13, 2018. The initiative included the holding of a new presidential election. The statement was entitled “Come to a Common Word, One for One People “, and included 10 items, claiming that its purpose is to remove the homeland from the dark tunnel.
The most prominent of these items are the celebration of the January 2011 revolution, the assertion that the group is a national faction, the highlight of peaceful means of organizing change and preserving state institutions, and the fact that the people are the sole source of legitimacy and rejection of polarization.
The group announced that the best way out of this dark tunnel is the return of “Morsi” to the rule of government at the head of a coalition government agreed by the national forces for a limited and sufficient period. During this period, the country would prepare free and fair elections supervised by an independent judiciary, calling for a comprehensive national community dialogue in a healthy atmosphere. That dialogue should allow the achievement of the previous items, so that the national unity can be restored and the move towards a single homeland for one people.
2. External Calls:
In January 2017, Rashid al-Ghanoushi, the head of the Al-Nahda movement, the Tunisian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, announced that he had presented an initiative for reconciliation between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood. He asked Saudi Arabia to mediate with Egypt in order to reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood, considering that this group is an ancient component of the Egyptian people. He pointed this out during a meeting between Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, where he was asked to mediate to calm the atmosphere.
In July 2017, the head of the Sudanese Umma Party, Sadiq al-Mahdi, announced that he had proposed to Sisi to conclude a reconciliation with the Brotherhood through the release of the Brotherhood’s leaders by the Egyptian authorities, in exchange for the Brotherhood conducting intellectual reviews within the organization to compromise and change their ideas.
On November 30, 2016, the late Sudanese President Abdulrahman Sowar Al-Zahab announced that Sudan could mediate between the Egyptian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood to achieve what it called “national reconciliation”.
In May 2017, when Hamas announced its secession from the group, the Palestinian Hamas movement demanded that the Brotherhood’s leadership at home and abroad take steps to open the way for the possibility of reconciliation and the return of the group in Egypt to the political scene.
The idea of reconciliation was promoted many times by the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim Munir, the fugitive abroad and the spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. The most recent was in August 2018, when he appeared through one of the Brotherhood websites to announce the details of an initiative for reconciliation. The group followed the efforts of national figures to reconcile with the state, and therefore does not reject any initiative of any solutions or perceptions. On the contrary, the group is completely open to any initiatives or visions provided they are fair and restore rights.
This was not the first time that Mounir spoke about reconciliation. In April 2018, Mounir went out of the way again, after indirectly confirming that the group had given up its hardline demands it had adopted during the past periods. In an interview with the channel “Al-Jazeera”, he directly announced acceptance of his group to enter into direct negotiations with the state, the release of the prisoners of the Muslim Brotherhood, provided that it is with officials and not mediators. In November 2016, Mounir came out to talk about what they described as “wise people” and to draw a clear picture of reconciliation between the Egyptian authorities and the group.
In July 2018, Mounir announced the group’s acceptance of reconciliation with the state. He called on several wise men in the Muslim world to intervene to save the group.
After Mounir’s latest release, a report was published in the British newspaper Economist in August 2018. Commenting on this, he said that the group was seeking reconciliation with the state, to save what could be saved, after the group was in a very bad position, suffering from fragmentation and persecution in every country that goes to it. It also faces internal division and conflict among its leaders, threatening to break it down forever.
Second: Reactions to reconciliation initiatives
1. Egyptian rejection
The reactions of Egypt on the initiatives of the Muslim Brotherhood calling for reconciliation with the current Egyptian regime have varied. There are reactions from the Presidency of the Republic and from the Egyptian Government represented by the Ministers, in addition to the reactions of the leaders of a number of political parties in Egypt, as follows:
– The Egyptian Presidency and Government:
The first response from the Egyptian presidency to the reconciliation initiatives is through the transitional president in Egypt, Adli Mansour (who assumed the post of interim president after Morsi was deposed) in February 2014, who ruled out reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. “If you are talking about reconciliation with the Brotherhood after the Egyptian people regained their political consciousness, can any decision be taken without their consent? I doubt.”
On November 4, 2015, during an interview with the BBC, he pointed out that the Brotherhood was part of Egypt, and the Egyptian people alone are the ones to decide whether to give them another role in the future of the country.
In an interview with the Associated Press, he confirmed in September 2015 that the Brotherhood’s crisis with the Egyptian people, not with the regime or the government.
During the World Youth Forum in November 2016 in Sharm el-Sheikh, the president commented on the possibility of reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. “I can not make a decision on my own, it is a state decision. I was the one who gave them an opportunity on July 3. The statement was very balanced, I am not asking anyone to change their ideas, but I ask them to practice their ideas in a way that does not destroy the country.”
The most recent statement by al-Sisi on reconciliation initiatives was in October 2018 during an interview published by the Kuwaiti daily Al-Shuhad. “The Brotherhood will not have a role in the Egyptian scene during this time. The people of Egypt will not accept their return because the Brotherhood’s thought is not viable. The group has led the chaos in many Arab countries such as Yemen and Libya.”
The deputy of the Foreign Relations Committee at the House of Deputies, Ghada Ajami, said that any call for reconciliation with the group is totally rejected. She asks: “How can we not take advantage of the lessons of the former Egyptian presidents, especially as they tried to integrate the group into the society peacefully? It joins an international organization that is destructive and does not care about Egypt or the Egyptians.”
The deputy of the National Defense and Security Committee at the House of Deputies, Yahya Kedwani said that talk about reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood are nothing but allegations and dichotomy propagated by supporters of the terrorist group through their suspicious initiatives carried out with supporters of the group.