The Four Fingers Holding Up the Muslim Brotherhood
By Rachel Ehrenfeld, Laura Thompson, James M. Dorsey
Saturday, October 26th, 2013 @ 3:59AM
The Muslim Brotherhood reign over Egypt was abruptly ended on July 3. While the streets of Cairo are quieter now, the four-finger sign, known as the “R4bia” salute, is used by the Brotherhhod supporters in Egypt and beyond. Moreover the Brothers declared the Sinai Peninsula as its principal battleground against the Egyptian military: “Sinai will be the graveyard of those who carried out the coup.”
Brotherhood support for Hamas and the jihadis streaming from all over into the peninsula is putting substantial pressure on Al-Sisi’s military. This, however, didn’t stop the ObamaAdministration from cutting its substantial military aid to Egypt. General al-Sisi’s control is further threatened by a strong political force in Egypt, the soccer clubs known as Ultras. Their growing unrest might, as it did previously, set the stage for a Brotherhood comeback.
The Brotherhood government in Tunisia, while under fire from the opposition, holds on and has made the country a principal outside supplier of jihadis to the opposition in Syria. Pressured to dissolve Ansar al-Sharia and to pretend to prevent jihadis from going off to Syria to fight, the government is hardly scrupulous in practice about such things. The far northern city of Bizerte has become the capitalof “mujahedeen in Syria”
Al-Monitor says that “Throughout the first Ennahda government, led by Hamadi al-Jabali from December 2011 until February 2013, jihad in Syria resembled more closely a national sport played by young men from Salafist mosques right under the noses of Ennahda. Turkish Airlines flights from Tunis to Istanbul transported Salafists embarking on jihad in the same way it might with a sports team. During the flights, they sang their anthems and gave sermons. Mohammed al-Jalassi, who took a flight to Istanbul during that period, said that jihadists refrained during the flight from proudly sharing the story of their trip. This trend did not stop with the inauguration of the second Ennahda-led government under Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh, who had been the interior minister in Jabali’s government.”
The Moroccan Muslim Brotherhood government hangs on despite ruining the country’s economy in much the same way Morsi did in Egypt. Morocco’s cities often see protests similar to the October 6 demonstration in Rabat where thousands protested, demanding work and lower prices of food and fuel.
Perhaps most worrisome of all is the relationship between the Brotherhood and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who appears to be after the leadership of the global Brotherhood movement. Apparently, he sees the Brotherhood as a means to his end of extending Turkish leadership in the entire region. Al-Arabiya claims that Turkey aspires to be the hub of the Brotherhood internationally, and that
“Although the Turkish leadership still considers that the alliance with the Brotherhood isn’t as harmful, at the national level, as ties with any other sort of Egyptian government, it still sees the rise to power of (Sunni) Islamic movements as an opportunity for the Justice and Development party to rise as a leader of modern Turkey and the post-revolutionary Arab region. This would allow Turkey to play a dominant role in regional politics by hosting the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organization as long as the Justice and Development party, under the leadership of Erdogan, remains in power.”
Please find below two articles showing that the Muslim Brotherhood’s ubiquity and influence are on an uptick, in Egypt and in other Muslim countries, including Ghana. Beware the four-fingered salute!
By Laura Thompson
TUNIS – At a recent Ghana vs. Egypt World Cup qualifying match, Ghanaian soccer fans wore yellow t-shirts and held signs featuring a dark black hand holding up four fingers. The clear attempt to taunt the Egyptian fans is the latest appearance of what has become an increasingly important symbol of the sharp divisions in Egypt – and broader regional fault lines between Islamist and secular forces.
Backers of the Brotherhood inside Egypt and abroad have been displaying the four-fingered hand to commemorate the Egyptian security forces’ August massacre of more than 600 supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.
The four-finger sign, also know as the “R4bia” salute, is a reference to the name of the Cairo mosque that held the largest pro-Morsi sit-in protest: Rabaa Al-Adawiya, as the word rabaa means “fourth” in Arabic. More and more images of the four-fingered hand are appearing, and have been accompanied on social media by hashtags like “#anti-coup,” and have popped up elsewhere among those supporting the Brotherhood, from Turkey to Tunisia.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the four-fingered gesture to greet crowds during public speeches in August, while Turkey’s official news agency reported that following the August massacre in Cairo, more than 300 Turkish babies were given the name Rabaa in a gesture of solidarity.
Across the Mediterranean, Tunisians anxious about the future of their own Brotherhood-branded Islamist party, Ennahda, have made the four-fingered hand their Facebook profile picture and have brandished the image at demonstrations.
Rabaa Al-Adawiya, the namesake of the Cairo mosque, was an 8th century Sufi mystic and poet, both radically different from and curiously similar to those who hid within her mosque’s now destroyed walls:
A slave in Egypt who came from a poor Iraqi family, Rabaa Al-Adawiya was set free by her wealthy master who was moved by her resolute religious faith and patient devotion to prayer.
History aside, opponents of the Islamists have not taken kindly to the spreading symbol. When a photo circulated of an unidentified Tunisian school teacher and her students holding up four fingers for a class picture, an anti-Islamist Tunisian news site singled out the one young boy who appeared to be defying his teacher: “Let us salute the child to the left of the teacher who kept his hands in his pockets and who seems to refuse to participate in this masquerade.”
In Egypti, anti-Morsi journalist and blogger Amr Ezzat shared an ironic Facebook update about a scheduled protest that vowed to shatter the coup by “adding two new fingers to the image of four.”
In the meantime, pro-Morsi demonstrations – led by the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy and Reject the Coup – continue. On Friday, following the major Muslim religious holiday of Eid Al-Adha, Egyptian security forces closed off the space around what remains of the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque.
By James M. Dorsey*
Militant, street battle-hardened soccer fans played a key role in toppling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and resisting the military rulers who succeeded him. Almost three years later and four months after the military removed from office Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the stage appears to be set for renewed confrontations with the fans, one of the country’s largest civic groups.
The potential for confrontation is compounded by Egypt’s 6:1 loss earlier this month of a crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier against Ghana. Opposition forces and supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, blame Egypt’s defeat on military strongman General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. “You jinxed us, el-Sisi,” saidMohammed Dardeer on Facebook, describing the general as “religiously defiled” in a comment reminiscent of perceptions in Iran that blamed the Islamic republic’s soccer failures on the intense interest in the game displayed by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ghana defeated Egypt at a time that the country is deeply divided between supporters and opponents of the military that deposed President Mohamed Morsi and brutally cracked down on his Brotherhood. The coup prompted many of the military’s opponents to view the national team as representing the regime rather than the country much as militant soccer fans did under Mubarak. That earned them charges of being traitors by those who see the Brotherhood rather than the military as the greatest obstacle to resolving Egypt’s political crisis.
“When a large number of Egyptians, too many to be ignored, felt happy after our national team lost to Ghana, didn’t the coup organizers ask themselves why they felt this way towards their national team? They most likely will not bother themselves to think about it, but will claim naively, ‘It is out of spite so that no victories, not even in football, will be attributed to General Al-Sisi… Al-Sisi’s Egypt is no longer the Egypt of love that celebrates victories, as tyranny and injustice cannot win; they are defeated in every aspect, whether militarily, as in 1967 (Israel’s defeat of Egypt), or on the sports field. It is ironic that one of the coup leaders called the football result a catastrophe, which was what the 1967 defeat was called.” quipped Amira Abo el-Fetouh in the Middle East Monitor.
Ghana’s stunning thrashing of Egypt did persuade the military to allow some 30,000 fans to attend the return match in an out-of-the-way Cairo stadium scheduled for November 19 despite a ban on spectators in stadia designed to avert political protests. The symbolism of Egypt’s performance – victory or defeat – in the return match weighs heavy on the game given the regime’s need to project itself more positively internationally and to counter the analogy of defeats on the military and the soccer battlefields. The symbolism is all the greater with General Al-Sisi also celebrating his birthday on November 19.
The government’s decision to open the World Cup qualifier to spectators prompted Mohammed Yussef, the manager of storied Cairo club Al Ahli SC, to demand that fans also be allowed to attend the team’s African Championship match in Cairo on November 9 against South Africa’s Orlando Pirates. Al Ahli fans are among Egypt’s most militant and have been in the frontlines of the country’s major protests in recent years. “We need fans to attend this very important match. Ahli is battling for the reputation of Egyptian football,” Mr. Yussef said in a reference to the Ghanaian humiliation of the Egyptian national team.
But even without politics intruding on Egypt’s struggle to qualify for next year’s Cup in Brazil, potential flashpoints for confrontations with militant soccer fans are emerging. A court in the Suez Canal city of Port Said this week postponed until December the retrial of 11 militant supporters of Al Masri SC sentenced for premeditated murder to jail terms ranging from 15 years to life for their role in last year’s politically loaded brawl in which 74 members of Al Ahli were killed. Last year’s sentencing to death of 21 of their colleagues sparked an uprising in Port Said and other Suez Canal cities. If the sentences against the 11 are upheld, renewed protests are likely. By the same token, a reversal could spark protests in Cairo by Al Ahli supporters.
Police last week used to tear gas to disperse hundreds of Al Ahli supporters wearing their signature red T-shirts inscribed with the words: “Ultras are not criminals.” The fans were protesting the arrest of 25 of their colleagues who allegedly had tried to storm a Cairo airport terminal as the club’s handball team returned from Morocco. A member of the Ultras White Knights, the militant support group of Al Ahli Cairo rival Al Zamalek SC, was killed by security forces earlier this month, when the group tried to storm the club’s headquarters demanding the resignation of its president.
Youth groups and soccer fans have warned that a draft protest law approved by the military-backed government that is currently being reviewed by interim president Adly Mansour paves the way for the return of the police state they had sought to destroy with the overthrow of Mr. Mubarak. The law gives security forces rather than the judiciary the right to cancel or postpone a planned protest or change its location. It obliges organizers to provide authorities in advance details of the planned protest, including the identity of the organizers and their demand. It further bans protests in within a 100 meter radius of government buildings.
In a statement, the April 6 youth movement warned: “Time will not go back to the era of rulers issuing laws to silence their opponents.”
*James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog as well as a forthcoming book with the same title.