February 24, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 804

Crisis between Egypt, U.S. Deepens over American Funding to Civil Society Organizations – Part II: The Islamists Join the Government/SCAF Campaign against the U.S.

February 24, 2012 | By L. Lavi*
Egypt | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 804


Recent months have witnessed an intense campaign by Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), after it accused the U.S. of providing illegal funding to civil society organizations in Egypt. The SCAF has attempted to use the crisis as leverage to win domestic support, attempting to counterbalance its loss of legitimacy among the Egyptian public, which has increasingly called for handing over the rule to civilian hands, especially as Egypt marked the first anniversary of the January 25 revolution.

In addition to its legal measures against American civil society activists in Egypt, the country's authorities are waging an anti-American media campaign, manifest in articles in the Egyptian press inciting against the U.S. and lauding what is being depicted as the SCAF's revolutionary stance against American attempts to interfere with Egypt's domestic affairs.[1]

In February 2012, in response to calls by Egyptian youth organizations to wage a campaign of civil disobedience on February 11 – the anniversary of Mubarak's ouster – the SCAF has ratcheted up its anti-American campaign, leveling the following accusations against the U.S.:

  1. The U.S. administration funded civil society organizations in order to advance political goals, as part of a Zionist-American plan to divide Egypt. The Egyptian authorities announced that in raids on the headquarters of American civil society organizations in Cairo, maps were seized which revealed a plan to divide Egypt into several mini-states. The Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram claimed that this was proof that the U.S. administration had, as early as three decades ago, hatched a plan to divide Egypt into four smaller states and to dismantle the countries of the Middle East in general.[2]
  2. The American University in Cairo is working in the service of U.S. goals and inciting Egyptian youth to undermine the stability of Egypt. An announcement was posted on Facebook in the SCAF's name accusing the university's teaching faculty of choosing a select group of 40 students to work toward eroding Egypt from within, by inciting against the SCAF and calling for civil disobedience and general strikes.[3]

As part of the campaign, the Egyptian authorities also attempted to calm the Egyptian public's fears over losing U.S. aid, by claiming that Egypt did not need it. Numerous articles in the Egyptian press claimed that this aid served U.S. interests at the expense of those of Egypt and the Egyptian citizen, and that the country could do without U.S. aid and without loans from the IMF, which might withhold them due to U.S. pressure.[4]

The Egyptian authorities even played the Iranian card in an attempt to pressure the U.S., announcing that they had not ruled out the option of accepting Iran's proposal to grant Egypt economic aid to replace the U.S. aid.[5] Egypt further indicated the possibility of rapprochement with Iran when, in February 2012, it allowed a number of Syria-bound Iranian warships to pass through the Suez Canal. The Egyptian daily Al-Misriyoun claimed that the warming relations between Egypt and Iran were due to the Saudis' withholding of aid to Egypt, under pressure from the U.S.[6]

In February 2012, the anti-U.S. campaign was joined by Egypt's Islamists. Though they had previously made it a point to avoid any direct dispute with the U.S., as Egypt's conflict with the latter intensified they could no longer remain on the fence. Senior officials in the Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) Freedom and Justice party, for example, warned that any cuts in U.S. aid would be met with a review of Egypt's peace agreement with Israel, as U.S. aid was a condition of the agreement. Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, deputy to MB General Guide Muhammad Badi', claimed that U.S. Ambassador to Cairo Anne Patterson was striving to incite fitna (civil strife) in Egypt, just as she had committed crimes in Pakistan. He added that Egypt had no need for U.S. aid, which he described as tainted and as an impediment to a free Egypt.

Headline in Egyptian government weekly: "The Revolutionaries Reject the American Democracy's Money"[7]

Likewise, Egypt's Salafi circles could no longer remain neutral on the issue. Salafi Sheikh Muhammad Hassan, formerly close to Mubarak and currently to the SCAF, launched an initiative to raise donations for the purpose of helping support Egypt's economy so that it would not have to rely on U.S. aid. The initiative won avid support among the Egyptian public; Egyptian businesses, both large and small; Egyptian businessmen and workers, who contributed portions of their salary; Egyptian banks, which paid their taxes early; and even prisoners.[8] The initiative was even taken up by the sheikh of Al-Azhar.[9]

Frequent diplomatic contact between Egypt and the U.S., including visits to Cairo by senior U.S. military officials, have as yet failed to rein in the crisis, and the case against American civil society activists is expected to move forward on February 26, 2012.

Following are examples of articles published as part of Egypt's anti-American campaign, taken from the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram and from statements by the MB and the Salafis.

Al-Ahram: U.S. State Department Funded Training of Political Parties in Egypt

The Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram published the findings of the investigation into foreign funding of civil society organizations, which are expected to serve as the basis for the trial against the American civil society activists. According to these findings, following the revolution the U.S. funneled upwards of $100 million toward funding civil society organizations that operated unregistered in Egypt, with an aim to instigate fitna, sectarian strife, and racism; to undermine the faith of Egypt's citizens; and to incite them against the state and its institutions. The daily claimed that according to testimony by senior figures in the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), both of which were active in Egypt until recently, these organizations had monitored Copts and Nubians and had encouraged Egyptian citizens to demand that the country be divided. It also claimed that the organizations had urged Egyptian youth to participate in protests and demonstrations, to attack security forces, and to undermine security in the country.[10]

The newspaper further stated that the organizations had used funding from the U.S. State Department to train 49 Egyptian political parties and 68 movements and organizations in running election campaigns and working with the media, even though such organizations are prohibited from engaging in political activity. Additionally, it said that these funds had been used to send Egyptian activists abroad for similar training in Serbia, Poland, South Africa, and Switzerland. Also according to the findings, the German Konrad Adenauer Stiftung political foundation was operated from its Tel Aviv branch, which the paper said dictated the organization's activities in Egypt – also without government supervision.[11]

"Egypt" cuts the strings on U.S. "civil society organizations," "bullying," and "espionage"[12]

Al-Ahram: We Will Not Give In To Satan; Egypt Must Strengthen Its Ties With Iran

In another article in Al-Ahram, titled "We Will Never Give In To Satan," columnist Ahmad Mas'oud wrote: "From time to time, Egypt faces schemes, crimes, bullying, collective killing, and massacres, and... has no control over all these. It would seem that there are those who want to tell the U.S. that anarchy will reign over us, and that the hands of Satan will continue to abuse [us] and to devise schemes and cause disasters for the homeland...

"What would the American administration or judicial system's position be if the trials of the [civil society] organizations were held in America, with Egyptian involvement? Would they release those implicated and award them for distinction?... The hints [that U.S. aid will be cut], and American policy [in general], legitimize, every day, the inclination toward strengthening diplomatic [ties] with the countries from which we have drifted apart for America's [sake]. We must strengthen our ties with Tehran, China, Russia, and the Asian giant [i.e. Japan]. We have taken enough humiliation from America and its ilk..."[13]

Al-Ahram: Egypt's Enemies Want to Spark Anarchy in the Country Under the Guise of Education for Democracy

Another Al-Ahram columnist, Muhammad Al-Sa'dani, wrote: "Sixty years have passed, but America's policy and mentality [of] forcing [its] influence and control on the world, and of regarding Washington as the center of the universe, have not changed. In its handling of two Egyptian revolutions – the first of which was staged by the youth of the military, with all sectors of the [Egyptian] people behind them, and the second of which was sparked by the youth, with the military protecting it – the American administration failed to grasp the reasons for the uprising and the fervor. America failed when it did not renounce the mentality and path of a shepherd aspiring to forcefully control anything he considers his own domain, which, in America's case, is the entire world...

"Now, after the January Revolution, Egypt is facing a heavy attack and the fiercest possible invasion, namely an invasion by some of its own people who, in their great naivety, fell into trap of Egypt's traditional enemies, whom they believed were teaching them how to live an honorable, democratic life – when, in fact, they were using them to spearhead the spread of anarchy, to destroy the homeland, and to revive old plans to divide [Egypt], which would realize these enemies' aspirations to singlehandedly control the fate of this strategic place.

"These Egyptian youth should be ashamed for being dragged after the nation's enemies in spreading anarchy and dividing the country. They should be ashamed for falling into the trap, despite their foreknowledge of the strategy of 'creative chaos.' [But] the greatest shame of all falls on America, the greatest country in the world, whose policy does not befit its size and its importance..."[14]

Egyptian asks Uncle Sam: "Why are you sticking your nose in our affairs?"[15]

MB: We Are Not Afraid of America's Threats to Cut Aid

Recently, the MB also joined the anti-U.S. campaign. The deputy leader of the MB's Freedom and Justice Party, Dr. 'Issam Al-'Arian, said that since U.S. aid to Egypt was part of the Camp David Accords with Israel, any reduction in it would merely present Egypt with an opportunity to review its peace agreement with Israel.[16] Party leader Dr. Muhammad Mursi expressed a similar stance.[17] Dr. Muhammad 'Imad Al-Din, the MB's representative in Egypt's People's Council, called for boycotting U.S. aid and praised the SCAF for recalling Egypt's military delegation from the U.S. after, according to 'Imad Al-Din, it had been received coldly in Washington.[18]

In an article on the MB's official website, Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, deputy to MB General Guide Muhammad Badi', wrote: "As the first signs of freedom appeared in the Arab and Muslim societies, schemes were hatched, and [U.S.] Ambassador [to Egypt Anne Patterson], whose wretched past includes the crimes she committed in Pakistan, was appointed [to oversee these schemes] bent on bringing the fitna in Egypt to completion... Funds were funneled to several associations wrongly called human rights and civil society organizations – until the truth was exposed, along with the abominable intent to spark the fire of fitna. It yet remains to expose what is behind these millions spent on dubious activities...

"America's threats to cut the cumbersome and tainted aid that [only] limits our freedoms do not frighten us. We hope that the people as a whole will reject this humiliating gift, and will rally around a will not to rely on it, but to meet its own needs..."[19]

In another article on the website, Ahmad Zahran wrote: "The U.S. treats us with injurious arrogance and repulsive conceit, as if it had the last word, and as if Egypt were obligated to obey it... They speak as though it is America that feeds us and gives us drink, clothes, and a roof over our heads, [America] that cares for and protects us. It is astounding that some are naïve [enough] to believe this talk, which they reiterate on their satellite [TV] channels, claiming that without America we would be lost, [and] thus spreading fear among [our] public...

"We will not demand any account of America, as Allah is above it. We will not fear America, as Allah is stronger than it. And we will have no need for America, as Allah has enabled us not to need it... America, which is doing us a favor with its aid, pressures the Arab states not to give Egypt what it needs, in order to prevent it from regaining its [former] strength and leadership status in the Arab region as a whole, and to [force it] to live with fitna and counterrevolution, which will lead to the flight of foreign capital on the pretext of instability. Thus, the economic crisis will deepen, and Egypt will long continue to bow under the yoke of poverty, destitution, and need..."[20]

Salafis Launch Initiative to Strengthen Egypt's Economy from Within, Eliminate Reliance on U.S. Aid

The spokesmen for the Salafi Al-Nour party said that the American civil society organizations in Egypt had played a dubious role since the revolution, and that they had hindered the revolution from completing its goals. He said that Washington's threats to cut economic aid to Egypt constituted unacceptable arrogance, and added that the Egyptian people had never benefited from this aid, which had gone to line the pockets of the corrupt and to funding American companies.[21] Dr. Khaled Sa'id, secretary-general of the Salafi Front, went even further, saying of the Americans: "Let them go to hell, them and their aid. We do not expect mercy from Washington. We must strive to rid ourselves of this aid..."[22] The Islamist organization Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya condemned the U.S. for stipulating that it would renew aid only if Egypt released the American civil society activists set to stand trial, and called on the Egyptian authorities to stand fast.[23]

Sign: "For Egyptians only. We won't accept foreign aid."[24]

Salafi Sheikh Muhammad Hassan, who said that Egypt would not back down from its stance over $1.3 billion in U.S. aid, launched an initiative called "Egyptian Aid to Eliminate Reliance on American Aid." Its aim, as its name suggests, is to raise tens of thousands of Egyptian pounds, in a short space of time and from within Egypt, to be injected into the Egyptian economy so as to enable a total renouncement of U.S. aid. The initiative met with favorable reactions among the Egyptian public, with Egyptian businessmen and companies, the MB, and private citizens stepping up to contribute.[25]

The initiative was also adopted by the sheikh of Al-Azhar, who announced the establishment of a special fund that he himself would oversee that would support the national economy so that it could break free of reliance on U.S. aid, which he said gave the U.S. unacceptable leverage over Egypt.[26] A senior official at Egypt's central bank reported that within two days, the sheikh's fund had raised 60 million Egyptian pounds – one and a half times as much as the accrued amount in the donation fund opened by the Egyptian Ministry of Finance at the outbreak of the revolution, over a year ago.[27]

Headline in government weekly: "[Sheikh Muhammad] Hassan Declares War on Cursed Aid"[28]

*L. Lavi is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.795, "Crisis between Egypt, U.S. Deepens over American Funding to Civil Society Organizations," February 8, 2012, Crisis between Egypt, U.S. Deepens over American Funding to Civil Society Organizations. An investigative report in the Egyptian daily Al-Wafd claimed that the U.S. Navy medical research unit NAMRU-3, based in Cairo, was conducting experiments on Egyptian children, and may even be responsible for the rising incidence of sterility, mental retardation, and disability among Egyptians. The article claimed that the dangerous chemicals kept in NAMRU's facilities, which it said included biological weapons, could reach enemy hands and be used to annihilate all of Egypt. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No.4460, "Article in Egyptian Al-Wafd Daily: The American Naval Medical Research Unit Three (NAMRU-3) Is a Devil Controlling and Undermining the Egyptians' Health," January 30, 2012, Article in Egyptian Al-Wafd Daily: The American Naval Medical Research Unit Three (NAMRU-3) Is a Devil Controlling and Undermining the Egyptians' Health.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No.4506, "Egyptian Government Daily: U.S. Striving to Divide Egypt into Four Countries," February 17, 2012, Egyptian Government Daily: U.S. Striving to Divide Egypt into Four Countries.

[3] Although the Facebook page on which the announcement appeared is not officially affiliated with the SCAF, its content, including the announcement, has been cited by Egyptian government dailies, and its messages are in line with those delivered by the authorities via other media channels. By using this unofficial page to publish such announcements, the SCAF leaves itself the option of renouncing them should it consider this to its advantage. The page can be accessed here:

[4] Roz Al-Yousef (Egypt), February 13, 2012.

[5] Egyptian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Faiza Abu Al-Naga said of the Iranian proposal: "All countries have trump cards. Egypt will spare no means to protect its affairs." Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 2, 2012.

[6] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), February 19, 2012.

[7] October (Egypt), February 12, 2012.

[8] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 13, 2012.

[9] Al-Ahram; Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 17, 2012.

[10] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 16, 2012.

[11] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 18-19, 2012.

[12] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 13, 2012.

[13] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 12, 2012.

[14] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 12, 2012.

[15] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 13, 2012.

[16] Al-Hayat (London), February 12, 2012.

[17], February 16, 2012.

[18] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 12, 2012.

[19], February 15, 2012.

[20], February 14, 2012.

[21] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 10, 2012.

[22] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), February 14, 2012.

[23] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 15, 2012.

[24] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 16, 2012.

[25] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 13, 2012.

[26] Al-Ahram; Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 17, 2012.

[27] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 17, 2012.

[28] October (Egypt), February 19, 2012.

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