As President Mohamed Morsy was reassuring the world of Egypt’s commitment to peace, the Muslim Brotherhood published an inflammatory article in Arabic calling this commitment into question.
In both his presidential campaign and inaugural addresses, Morsy, who has now resigned from the MB, said: ‘We will preserve all international treaties and charters. We come in peace.’
Yet, the group’s top leader, General Guide Mohamed Badie, stunned close observers with jihadi rhetoric of the most virulent kind in an article in Arabic on the official MB website, Ikhwan Online:
‘How happy would Muslims be if the leaders of the Muslims … would make recovery of al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] their central issue – to cleanse it from the filth of the Zionists and impose Islamic sovereignty over all quarters of Palestine,’ wrote General Guide Mohamed Badie, in Arabic translated by Lapido.
Badie referenced a fatwa given by ‘Muslim scholars’ without further designation: ‘Jihad with life and money for the recovery of al-Aqsa Mosque is an individual duty incumbent on every Muslim.’
Though Israel was not mentioned by name, the inference was obvious.
The international community is watching closely to see whether rhetoric matches action. Morsy’s assurances are understood as necessary guarantees sought by the Egyptian military as well as the United States not to stand in the way of a Brotherhood presidency.
Worryingly for US-MB delegations in continual contact with Morsy, Badie’s article sanctioning jihad betrays little intention to honour a peace treaty.
Which words should be believed?
According to Sheikh Osama al-Qusi, an Egyptian Salafi scholar with no love for the Brotherhood, the word jihad does not necessarily imply fighting. ‘The term with life designates that one must be ready to give his life for the cause of Islam. It may include engaging in battle, but this is not demanded.’
Even so, al-Qusi links ‘jihad with life and money’ to its Qur’anic source, where God instructs the Muslims, ‘Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed.’
Speaking with Lapido Media, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan makes a different distinction. ‘As a citizen I am different from the state or the presidency,’ he says.
‘Just because we have gained the presidency should we give up on our principles concerning Palestine, including what Jerusalem is for us?’
Ghozlan reiterated Morsy’s assurances that Egypt would respect all international treaties. Indeed, the rest of Badie’s article references non-violent methods to expose Israeli occupation of Palestine, such as the ‘Miles of Smiles’ aid convoys from March 2012 to break the blockade of Gaza.
Dr Nadia Mostafa, professor of international relations at Cairo University, agrees with this non-violent interpretation. ‘We can make jihad,’ she told Lapido Media, ‘in a different way.
‘It does not mean to make a suicide bomb. Jihad with life means we must offer everything in our life for the just cause, even to the last extent in which I die.’
Badie’s article, indeed, does not call specifically for jihad. It urges patience on the Palestinian people and a focus on reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Yet it also urges persistence, that they should make their ‘motto and starting point the confrontation of the Zionists’. That is to say, perhaps, that it is a Palestinian struggle but with the moral support of the Muslim world: ‘Every sincere Muslim mujahid in every nation of the world stands with you’.
For Mostafa, Palestine is the issue which will decide the presidency of Morsy. But it must not be allowed to distract from critical domestic issues, including overcoming the secular-Islamist divide. She expects, however, a firm rejection of the Gaza blockade.
‘The Brotherhood will say what they have to say, but we must separate between them and the presidency, and I believe Morsy understands this well.’
Mohamed Morsy formally ended his membership in the Muslim Brotherhood following his official declaration as president.
As president, however, he is not expected to have much love for Israel, no matter his international obligations. Political analyst Sameh Fawzy expects a zero-tolerance strategy towards Israel.
‘Egyptians have had a very limited margin of normalization with Israel over the last decades,’ Fawzy told Lapido Media. ‘This margin is expected to be even narrower than before.’
While the Muslim Brotherhood may well continue its strident rhetoric, Fawzy believes the Israel file will remain in the hands of the foreign ministry and security apparatus, which are so far out of the direct control of the President.
While these cabinet positions are still being negotiated, many analysts believe these ministries will remain firmly under military supervision, if not direct control.
This combination is not predisposed to result in war, but the consequence may well be a continuation of the status quo. For Fawzy, the bilateral outlook is bleak.
‘Cold peace is the expected option.’