Video: True or Not, Rumors of a Brotherhood-SCAF Bargain Spark Outrage Across Egypt’s Political Spectrum


Whether or not an explicit “deal” has been negotiated between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), what matters is that a significant number of Egyptians are convinced of its existence. Statements by the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party expressing support for the military’s proposed transitional timeline – ending with a transfer of power to an elected civilian president in June – and rejecting initiatives for an earlier presidential election, have fueled suspicions that the Brotherhood and military have already worked out a power-sharing agreement to divvy up the political spoils of the revolution.

In meetings in Cairo this week, individuals from across the political spectrum have voiced concern that the Brotherhood has agreed to help shield the armed forces from legal accountability and prosecution – or at least facilitate a dignified “safe exit” for the military – while tolerating the perpetuation of a special political status for the armed forces in the new constitution. In exchange for ceding the portfolios of foreign affairs and national security to the military, the Brotherhood will harness its parliamentary majority to shape domestic, economic and social policies. Whether or not such a deal exists, it is clear that the interests of the Brotherhood and SCAF are momentarily aligned. As the two uncontested power-brokers in the current transitional period, both the SCAF and the Brotherhood are winning the political game and they want to keep it that way – by shaping the rules and foundation for the future democratic system.

But playing nice with a military leadership that has made many enemies in the street is starting to take a toll on the Brotherhood’s reputation and legitimacy. On both ends of the ideological spectrum, secularists and conservative Salafis – emerging as a formidable new rival courting the Brotherhood’s Islamist power base – political forces that have been fighting amongst themselves for the past year are now finding common ground over their shared outrage with an alleged bargain between the Brotherhood and military. Tarek Radwan, a visiting fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, astutely pointed out that rumors of a plot have given liberal forces fresh ammunition to spray at the Brotherhood. But liberals – who were already nervous about the Islamist majority in parliament – aren’t the only ones accusing the Brotherhood of selling out the revolution for a dirty deal with the SCAF. Salafi Islamists – already accustomed to competing with the Brotherhood for votes – are seizing the opportunity to capitalize on the Brothers’ deteriorating public image by denouncing them as protectors of the military and apologists for its violent treatment of peaceful protesters.

Mohamed Tolba, a Salafi IT consultant and founder of the group Salafayo Costa – a group that also includes non-Salafi Muslims and Christians seeking to promote dialogue and understanding between Egypt’s diverse political and ideological forces – was outraged by the behavior of FJP and Brotherhood members in Tahrir Square who were flamboyantly celebrating the revolution’s success in the presence of mourners and family members demanding justice for protesters killed during and since the uprising. Tolba and other Salafis with whom I spoke this week honed in on the Brotherhood’s alleged complicity in a deal granting the SCAF a “safe exit,” pointing out that any attempt to shield the military from prosecution would contravene the fundamental Islamic principle of justice.

In this excerpt of a video interview with Salafayo Costa members (left to right, Hani Kamal, Mohamed Tolba, Ahmed Samir, and Asser Mosalhi), Tolba and Asser Mosalhi (who identified himself as a Muslim but not a Salafi) harshly criticized the FJP’s celebrations in Tahrir Square as “arrogant and very inappropriate,” saying that festive songs and colorful balloons were an insult to the mourners around them. Ahmed Samir (third from the left) was silent for most of the meeting and politely apologized for texting continuously with friends in Tahrir, who alerted us to news of protesters demanding that the FJP abandon its stage and vacate the square. Some protesters even took of their shoes and waved the soles at the FJP stage, an insulting gesture in the Arab world.

As Tolba pointed out, the power benefiting the most from fallout between the Brotherhood and revolutionary forces is the SCAF: “They should put aside their own conflicts for the sake of this country,” he said. This divide-and-conquer strategy is well-illustrated by the cartoon above. Tolba was frustrated that disagreements and resentment between rival political forces are distracting attention from their core demand: justice for the victims of the revolution and legal accountability for the perpetrators of violence and manslaughter. As Tolba analogized, "In the United States you say, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch,’ and now it’s time for the SCAF to pay the price."

Later that night (January 28) I met with Moaz Abdelrahman, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood who left the group last May over a rift between the old guard leadership and younger members who accused them of monopolizing the Brotherhood’s internal decision-making process. After leaving the Brotherhood, Abdelrahman joined the High Council of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, one of the leading organizers of continued anti-military demonstrations in Tahrir Square. On January 28, Abdelrahman was actively coordinating a series of parallel marches and vigils converging on Tahrir Square. During our meeting, his cell phone was buzzing with text messages and he apologized for answering calls from other organizers coordinating logistics for the series of “actions,” as Abdelrahman called them. 

In the preparations leading up to planned celebrations marking the anniversary of the revolution on January 25, Abdelrahman and other activists organized a meeting among political forces and movements to present “a united front against the military.” They had proposed having a single stage in Tahrir Square, rather than different platforms for individual groups. Although FJP representatives were invited to the planning meeting, they left the session early, insisting on setting up a separate stage for the party and confident that they could maintain security in the square without the help of the revolutionary and youth movements.

The Revolutionary Youth Coalition and other groups were determined to frame the January 25 anniversary as a somber tribute to the victims of the revolution, so when the FJP and Brotherhood tried to turn the day into a victory celebration, the backlash was swift and fierce. In a stern tone that startled the waiter beside our table, Abdelrahman hit the Brotherhood and FJP where it hurts most – questioning their religious and moral credentials.  In defending the military’s transitional timeline and allegedly shielding its leaders from prosecution for their crimes, the Brotherhood was acting “against Islam,” he said. “Allah says in the Quran that you must punish those who commit wrong,” Abdelrahman said. When I asked how he felt about rumors of a negotiated “safe exit” or legal immunity for the SCAF, he fired back, “Would you sell the blood of your brother and sister for free?”  In the excerpt of our interview below, he demanded that the SCAF leave power now and submit to popular demands for justice.

 Mara Revkin is the assistant director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and editor of EgyptSource. She can be reached at

Cartoon Credit: Themelian

Image: pol_cartoon.jpg