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.
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