Friday, December 13, 2013
The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
In this Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 photo, Egyptians walk in front of Al-Omraniyah hospital, run by the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamic Medical Association, in Cairo, Egypt. An Egyptian court ordered a ban of the Muslim Brotherhood and confiscation of its assets Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, opening the door for authorities to dramatically accelerate a widescale crackdown. Egypt’s military-backed leaders have gone beyond arresting the group’s leaders to try to strike a more longterm blow, targeting its extensive network of schools, hospitals, mosques and other social institutions that made it the country’s strongest political power. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
In this July 1, 2013, photo, an Egyptian protester ransacks the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in the Muqatam district in Cairo.
One leading Brotherhood member, Ibrahim Moneir, called the verdict "totalitarian." The Brotherhood "will remain — with God's help, not by the orders by the judiciary of (military chief Abdel-Fattah) el-Sissi," he told Qatari-based Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr TV.
The ruling means any member risks arrest, a return to Mubarak's days when the typical charge for arresting Brothers was "belonging to a banned group."
Already some 2,000 senior and mid-ranking Brotherhood figures have been arrested. Morsi, the Brotherhood's top leader Mohammed Badie and two of Badie's deputies face trials on charges of inciting deadly violence. Officials and sympathetic media accuse the group of fomenting violence in retaliation for the coup.
Over the past weeks, security forces stormed at least 10 Brotherhood-linked schools and eight hospitals, confiscating equipment and arresting directors, often on allegations the sites were hiding weapons. The Education Ministry says the Brotherhood is believed to run 40-60 schools nationwide.
The schools are under various Brotherhood-run associations, each with a board of directors headed by the group's top administrative official in each province, part of the pyramid hierarchy of the group.
In southern Assiut province, security forces raided the six schools of the Dar el-Haraa chain, headed by former Brotherhood lawmaker Wafaa Mashhour, daughter of the group's former top leader Mustafa Mashhour. The police seized computers and arrested teachers and even cleaning workers.
"I told the police that this will backfire," Mashhour told the Associated Press, referring to the schools' role with the public.
The schools take "burden off the state's shoulders with low prices and high educational standards," she said. The six schools have some 5,000 students, she said, adding that she also mediates parents' conflicts with children and organizes workshops for women on parenting and marriage.
Hospitals are another window into the Brotherhood's empire. One Brotherhood-linked network, the Islamic Medical Association, owns some 30 hospitals across Egypt treating 2 million patients at low costs and employing 2,000 doctors and 3,000 other staff, according to its official website.
"We get close to God by medical work," the association's slogan proclaims.
The interim government is also tightening its grip over mosques, another key resource for the Brotherhood. One former member, Sameh Eid, said the group collected alms from mosques in absence of state oversight, on top of the 8 percent of their incomes that members pay.
Last week, the Religious Endowments Ministry cancelled licenses for thousands of preachers and ordered the closure of thousands of small mosques.
At the same time, businesses believed — rightly or wrongly — to be Brotherhood-linked have faced boycotts encouraged by youth movements and anti-Islamist TV stations. That has led a string of businessmen to publicly deny links to the group. Last month, Egypt's leading dairy company Juhayna ran ads in state papers demanding a stop to boycott campaigns against it.
One of the country's biggest department stores — Tawheed wa Nour, or "Monotheism and Light" — has been hard hit, because it is owned by an ultraconservative sheik seen as an Islamist supporter, though it is not Brotherhood-linked. The stores are popular among middle-class and poor Egyptians, selling everything from clothes to soccer balls and school supplies for low prices. But many branches are empty of customers, even with school now beginning.
Many staffers have shaved off their conservative beards — which they said they were required to grow for the job — to avoid harassment.
"These people will not see the seat of power once again in Egypt," said el-Moghazi el-Hadi, who has been selling papers for decades in front of one Tawheed wa Nour branch. "Morsi for Egypt was like a driver who doesn't know how to drive ... the minute he turns the engine and turns the wheel, he slams his car by the wall."