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What Egyptians Think About Reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood?

It would be a mistake to ignore the opinion of the Egyptian people in the endless debate about whether the Egyptian state should or should not accept the Muslim Brotherhood’s proposal for reconciliation.

The Egyptian state is organizing a rare national dialogue that is open for all political factions from all political, social, and even religious backgrounds. The only bloc that is excluded from the prospected dialogue is the Muslim Brotherhood, according to official statements by the dialogue’s coordination committee. Yet, that has not prevented the Muslim Brotherhood leaders, either those based in Istanbul or those based in London, from renewing the group’s proposal for reconciliation with the Egyptian state, particularly the head of the state, president El-Sisi.

The Muslim Brotherhood has good reasons to insist on this proposal. Reconciliation with the Egyptian state represents a lifeline that the group urgently needs to redeem the falling structure of the group under the pressure of internal divisions and external withdrawals of the group’s sponsor states. That includes Qatar and Turkey, which recently withdrew from funding or hosting the group’s media activities against the Egyptian state.

Muslim Brotherhood’s reconciliation with the Egyptian state is meant to remove the ban imposed on the group since Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), declared it a terrorist organization, in December 2013. That would, consequently, allow Muslim Brotherhood leaders to return to working from Egypt, and regain their lost legacy.

Likewise, the Egyptian state has valid reasons to refuse to shake the extending hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. The popularity of the state’s leader, himself, is mostly based on his central role in overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood regime from power, eight years ago. Moreover, the organizational weakness of the Muslim Brotherhood and its dimensioning influence on the grassroots citizens make the idea of reconciliation unappealing, or at least untempting, for the Egyptian state.

Still, one important observation to consider, in that regard, is that President El-Sisi has never made a clear rejection to the Muslim Brotherhood’s repeated calls for reconciliation. He has always kept the door half-open half-closed by throwing the ball in the court of the people. In more than one occasion, since he took power in 2014, he reiterated that the decision to reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood is not his decision to make, but “it is, solely, in the hands of the Egyptian people.”

Therefore, it is important to wonder about the opinion of the Egyptian people, the crowd that matters the most, in this unceasing debate about whether the state leadership should or should not reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood, and when and how should this happen.

People’s changing political perspectives and tendencies, as they grew politically mature over time, have always been the decisive factor that set the political course in Egypt, for most of the past decade. It is the Egyptian people who brought the Muslim Brotherhood in power, in 2012, when they believed they deserved a chance. One year later, the same people decided to punish the Muslim Brotherhood for wasting this precious chance, by removing them from power and allowing the military to take over.

A survey conducted by the Liberal Democracy Institute, in 2016, showed that an overwhelming majority of Egyptians (%80) disapproved state reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. The main reason behind that score is that the memory of the group’s involvement in practicing vengeful acts of violence, after their fall from power, against Coptic Christians, police personnel, and state facilities, was still alive in the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people.

Nevertheless, if the same survey is conducted today, I doubt that a tangible change in this score may appear. In other words, the majority of the Egyptian people are still disapproving of reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. The reason for that is, perhaps, because the Muslim Brotherhood has not exerted any effort, over the past eight years, to change the public memory about their failure one year of ruling and the horrific aftermath of their removal from power. As long as it is the case, the Muslim Brotherhood chances of reconciling with the Egyptian state is close to zero.

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