August 22, 2012
by Avi Melamed
It seems as if Egypt is practicing a somewhat schizophrenic policy in the domestic and foreign arena.
On the one hand, senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt officially express a hard line which reflects the movement’s intolerant ideology regarding various social and political issues including: the rights of minorities, women’s rights, liberalism, civil rights, relations with Israel, etc.
On the other hand, Muhammad Morsi, the President of Egypt, who ran for president as the candidate of the “Freedom and Justice Party” – the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt – advocates for a moderate and tolerant policy on the exact same topics.
So, the Muslim brotherhood plays “Bad Cop” through demagogy and actions that nurture populist sentiment among the masses. By doing that, the movement demonstrates loyalty to its ideology thus ensuring the support of its constituency.
At the same time, Morsi plays the “Good Cop,” hoping to overcome feelings of resentment and suspicion inside Egypt and to gain more legitimacy in the West. Perhaps that tactic explains why Morsi did not renew his membership in the Muslim Brotherhood movement following his presidential victory.
A good example of this “Good Cop, Bad Cop” tactic is the incident of the Rafah terror attack which resulted in the killing of sixteen Egyptian soldiers: President Morsi rushed to ensure the international community that he is determined to put an end to the terrorist entities that have developed in The Sinai Peninsula under Egypt’s authority – and to that end the Egyptian army has launched a military campaign against Islamic militant strongholds in the Sinai Peninsula. And at the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood movement formally announced that Israeli Mossad agents were involved in the attack. This announcement was not born in a vacuum – many people in the Arab world, and of course in Egypt – argue that the Rafah terror attack was an Israeli conspiracy.
Another example is the wave of protests in The Arab world following the broadcasting on YouTube of the movie Innocence of Muslims“. The Muslim Brotherhood announced it would organize mass demonstrations in front of each and every major mosque in Egypt. However, the next day, the Muslim Brotherhood announced the abolishment of the planned protests. The reason for the change in the movement’s position was the attack on the US Embassy in Cairo which caused a sort of diplomatic crisis between Egypt and the US. It is very likely to assume that Egypt’s President urged the Muslim Brotherhood movement to take a moderate approach in order to calm things down. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood movement know that Egypt needs the support of the US.
Some may argue that the different and sometimes opposing positions, taken by Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood movement regarding the same topics is a reflection of a real split which could lead to an open collision between Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, as of now, it seems more likely that this “bilingual” policy tactic reflects a well-calculated and coordinated strategy.