Barely two months after taking power, the Muslim Brotherhood has wasted no time in swiftly taking Egypt down the road to a totalitarian state. Its latest target is Al-Dustour, a Christian-owned newspaper, which had condemned President Morsi’s ties to Hamas as a threat to Egyptian national security. Al-Dustour was accused of sedition and stirring up sectarian discord—the latter is code for insulting Islam. Most dangerously, Al-Dustour implied that the Rafah attack had been backed by Morsi’s own Hamas allies to enable him to crack down on the domestic opposition.
Al-Dustour is not the first newspaper to be targeted by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has already used its parliamentary position to name dozens of new editors for Egypt’s major state-owned newspapers, including Al-Ahram. Akhbar Al-Youm, the second-largest newspaper in Egypt, will be run by a descendant of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Bana.
In response to the Islamist hijacking of the Egyptian press, many reporters have spoken out against the move and some have even gone on strike. But the Muslim Brotherhood’s assault on Al-Dustour is a warning that the days of independent newspapers opposed to the regime are numbered. Both Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood have suggested Islamist Turkey as the model for the new Egypt. Now the Muslim Brotherhood is imitating Erdogan’s crackdown on the military as well as his totalitarian control over the Turkish press.
In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood’s assault on the press, one television network, Al Fareen, has already been taken off the air. More are certain to follow. Khaled Salah, the editor of the Youm7 newspaper, was assaulted by Muslim Brotherhood protesters demanding the closure of AlFareen and the arrest of anyone who criticizes Morsi and the Brotherhood.
The Rafah attack by Islamist terrorists plotting to invade Israel that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers has been exploited by the Brotherhood to launch a domestic crackdown on the opposition. The Brotherhood has issued a statement blaming Israel for the attack. But in reality Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been the true beneficiaries of the violence.
Morsi has used the attack to sack top Egyptian military leaders including Egypt’s Defense Minister, its Chief of Staff, its head of the General Intelligence Service, its chief of the Presidential Guard and its head of the Republican Guard. The purge had little to do with making Egypt safer and a great deal to do with Morsi and the Brotherhood seizing the opportunity to displace their only real rivals in the country’s tangled power structure.
The Brotherhood has crowned itself with the “revolutionary” label, describing any attack on its power as an attack on the January 25 Revolution and its martyrs. That familiar use of language emphasizes that Egypt is a revolutionary state and is constantly struggling against seditious and subversive forces. And revolutionary states suppress dissent against revolutionary power through state terror.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s statement cynically conflated the Rafah attack with outcries and protests by the domestic opposition and exploited the deaths of Egyptian soldiers at the hands of Morsi’s allies to call for a crackdown on domestic opposition to the Brotherhood. It demanded harsh action against “the instigators of vandalism and subversion throughout the land and against their collaborators and agents involved in causing this deliberate confusion, chaos and mayhem across Egypt under the pretext of exercising freedom.” And it urged Egyptians to report any “subversion” to the authorities.
Another Muslim Brotherhood statement accused the Mossad of being behind the attack and followed that with a call for Egyptian military control of Sinai. Egypt trashing the Camp David Accords and rolling back whatever security there was in the Sinai for a hostile border between the two countries is not in Israel’s interests—but it is part and parcel of the Brotherhood’s war agenda.
The Rafah attack bears some similarities to Nazi Germany’s Operation Himmler which used attacks by Nazi agents pretending to be Polish insurgents as a pretext for an invasion of Poland. But the Rafah attack also bears some similarities to the way that the Reichstag fire was used by the Nazis as a pretext for suppressing the opposition.
These historical analogies are not accidental. Nazi Germany had a great deal of influence on the Muslim Brotherhood. Matthias Kuntzel has described how the Brotherhood borrowed slogans, tactics and methods from Nazi Germany. The Brotherhood not only took Nazi money, it also absorbed Nazi ideas and its constant talk of revolution echoes both Nazi and Communist doctrine. Morsi is following in Hitler’s footsteps by terrorizing Christian Copts and using the Rafah attack as a Reichstag assault on Egypt’s political opposition and a pretext for tearing up the Camp David Accords.
Prominent Muslim Brotherhood figures are constantly issuing calls for arresting and detaining the opposition, accusing them of reactionary activities that subvert the revolution. Meanwhile Egypt hurriedly arrested and tried a number of Islamist terrorists through military tribunals; including one man they dubbed the “Bin Laden of Sinai.” But prominent newspapers, including Al-Hayat, have stated that the Rafah attackers came out of Gaza and made their move through Hamas tunnels. And Egyptian Major-General Gamal Mazloum has accused Hamas of funding the Sinai terrorists.
The alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas arm in Gaza and its Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt has allowed the organization to play off the military against the terrorists. Sinai terrorism leads to repression in Cairo and border tensions with Israel fulfilling the Brotherhood’s twin goals of suppressing domestic secularism and waging war against neighboring infidels. Both external threats are calculated to distract Egyptians from their dire economic situation.
The Rafah attack has given Morsi a much-needed external threat that is not economic in nature. It has allowed him to consolidate control over the military, the only independent threat to his rule, and to hijack the drafting of Egypt’s new constitution. Morsi has scrapped the June 17thDeclaration and is set to implement a new process for drafting Egypt’s new constitution. A constitution that is doomed to be more Islamist than ever.
Three years ago Obama arrived in Cairo to open the door for the Muslim Brotherhood in the name of democracy and freedom. Now the Muslim Brotherhood is firmly shutting the door on democracy and freedom, while remilitarizing the Sinai and inching closer to dismantling the Camp David Accords. As Egypt slumps into tyranny under the Muslim Brotherhood, the death of the hopes that stirred in Tahrir Square mark the final dying throes of Obama’s failed Middle East policy.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.