print
memri
December 7, 2018 No.
7796

Against Backdrop Of 'Yellow Vest' Protests In France, Muslim Brotherhood Denies Involvement In Them – But Expresses Support For Protestors, Gloats Over Macron's Troubles

In recent days, against the backdrop of the Yellow Vest civil unrest in France protesting President Emmanuel Macron's announcement of a green tax on fuel effective January 1, 2019, Egyptian media affiliated with the regime of Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi have begun to claim that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is involved in the protests, and is even fanning them. According to articles in the Egyptian press and stories on Egyptian television, covert MB activists have infiltrated the ranks of the French protestors, fanning the protests, violence, looting, and vandalism across the country. This situation, the media are saying, is comparable to the MB's participation in the 2011 protests in Egypt, that ultimately brought down the regime of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

The MB, for its part, has denied all involvement in the protests, and has stated that the Egyptian regime is spreading accusations about it with the aim of damaging its reputation and inciting France and the West against it. It has also stated that the Egyptian regime's negative coverage of the protests – that is, its depiction of them as complete chaos – is motivated by its fear that similar protests could break out in Egypt, and is intended to scare the Egyptian people into avoiding protests. Alongside this, the MB – both its veteran leadership, headed by Mahmoud 'Izzat, and its younger faction[1] – have expressed support for the French protestors, and are gloating over President Macron's situation.

This report will review accusations of MB involvement in the French civil unrest that have appeared in Egyptian media, the MB's denials of involvement, and MB expressions of support for the protestors, from both the veteran and younger factions of the organization.


Yellow Vest protesters clash with riot police on Champs Elysees )Image: aljazeera.com, November 25, 2018)

Egyptian Media: The MB Is Behind The Violent Civil Unrest In France

As noted, in recent days Egyptian media have begun accusing the MB of involvement in the violent civil unrest in France.

Al-Masri Al-Yawm Daily: The Global MB Covert Organization Is Involved In The Unrest, Looting And Vandalism in France

A November 28, 2018 article in the Egyptian Al-Masri Al-Yawm daily, headlined "Experts: The MB's Covert Organization In Europe Is Involved In The Looting And Vandalism In France," presented statements by "experts on Islamist movements" noting that "covert elements belonging to the so-called global organization of the MB are involved in the demonstrations and protests in France" and pointing out the French unrest's similarity to the events of the Arab Spring in a number of Arab countries, particularly Egypt.

The first expert quoted, Dr. Muhammad Habib, identified as a former senior official in the global MB organization's political apparatus, said: "The similarity between the [January 2011] events in Cairo [i.e. the unrest that ultimately brought down the Mubarak regime] and the events in Paris is very marked, and this makes us stop and examine this matter. In general, it can be said that the Islamists are connected, directly or indirectly, to the [events] in France." At the same time, Habib called for an in-depth investigation to find out who is behind the protests  in France, particularly because France has 6 million Muslims, among them MB members. The global MB organization, he added, is alive and well.

Nabil Na'im, identified as a researcher of Islamist movements, expressed stronger views, telling the newspaper that "there is not a shadow of a doubt that the MB is participating in the protests in France" and that "the way the demonstrations are run attests to the fact that this organization is behind them." He added: "Let us not forget that there are Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans belonging to the MB who live in the slums of France, and they are participating in the violence in Paris." In the demonstrations, he said, it is possible to see "the path and ideas" of the MB.

Na'im added that in this activity, the MB was acting on instructions from the U.S., which sought to make things difficult for Macron because he was calling for the creation of a European Union army. He said that the MB "is a puppet that the Americans operate as they wish."

Kamal Habib, also identified as an expert on the subject of Islamist movements, was also quoted in the article as stressing that the protests were started by French elements but that Islamist organizations could be playing a role in them now.[2]


The Al-Masri Al-Yawm article; "Experts: The MB's Covert Organization In Europe Is Involved In The Looting And Vandalism In France."

Al-Masri Al-Yawm: What We Are Seeing In France Looks Like What The MB Did In Egypt In The Arab Spring

An article the same day in the Al-Masri Al-Yawm website stressed the similarity between the protests in Paris and the Arab Spring protests in Arab countries, particularly in Egypt. The article, which included video footage of the French protests alongside the same from Arab Spring demonstrations in Egypt and other countries, stated: "The ongoing protests in the heart of the [French] capital, young people in black masks wreaking destruction and attacking police, calls for regime change... Many [of these] sights are identical to what [we saw] during the Arab Spring revolts. These sights are also like some of the operations and actions of the terrorist MB organization and its activists, who slipped in among the protestors and carried out attacks... in order to benefit from the activity of the young people who took to the streets to peaceably express their rage ..."[3]

Egyptian Television Host: The Union Of Islamic Organizations Of France, That Is Involved In The Protests, Is MB-Linked

Similarly, Egyptian television presenter Mohamed Al-Baz said on his 90 Minutes program on Al-Mehwar TV that the international MB's fingerprints were clearly all over the protests in France, and compared those protests to the Arab Spring events in Egypt. The Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF, now known as Musulmans de France, MF), which he said is being reported by media worldwide as participating in the protests, is actually an MB organization that is largely funded by Qatar. This organization, he added, was founded in France in the early 1980s by supporters of top Tunisia MB official Rashed Al-Ghannoushi and by supporters of cleric Faisal Mawlawi, a leading official of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiyya in Lebanon, and over the years it had grown and become stronger, to the point where France, in 2003, saw it as a partner for dialogue about the situation of the Muslims in that country. Al-Baz added that France had now realized the danger of supporting the MB and of allowing it to officially represent the Muslims in France, and also that the MB's ideas were incompatible with the values of the French state.[4]

Egyptian News Website: The MB Has Turned The Champs Elysees Into Rabi'a Square

In a November 28, 2018 tweet, the Egyptian news website Sada Elbalad accused the MB of involvement in the France protests: "#FranceProtests – Look for the MB behind all the blood that has been spilled." The tweet included an excerpt from a video of the protests and rioting in Paris whose caption stated that the MB was fanning the flames of the protests in Paris and that it had "turned the Champs Elysees into Rabi'a Square" – referring to the violent events of August 2013.[5] 


The Sada Elbalad tweet (Twitter.com/ElBaladOfficial, November 28, 2018)

The MB Rejects The Accusations, But Expresses Support For Protesters, Gloats Over Macron's Troubles  

The MB categorically denied the claims of the Egyptian media that it was in any way involved in the unrest in France. At the same time, the movement – both its old guard and its younger faction – expressed support for the protestors and hostility towards Macron.

MB Party Website: The Al-Masri Al-Yawm Article Is A Tissue Of Lies And Fabrications Invented By The Egyptian Intelligence Service

In a November 29, 2018 article on its website, the MB's Freedom and Justice Party, which is affiliated with the movement's veteran leadership, rejected the claims of Al-Masri Al-Yawm regarding MB involvement in the France protests. The article expressed sorrow that a "respected paper" like Al-Masri Al-Yawm, which is known for its professionalism even outside Egypt, resorts to "tactics of fabrication and deception" and engages in the kind of "unprofessional" and "cheap" reporting that characterizes the media subordinate to the Al-Sisi regime. The Al-Masri Al-Yawm article, stated the website, was riddled with lies and relied on the opinion of "experts" who loathe the MB, while failing to present any evidence to support their claims. The website speculated that the article had been written at the behest of Egypt's intelligence services, who feared that the French protests would inspire similar protests in Egypt – especially in light of the upcoming anniversary of the 2011 revolution and the Egyptian regime's intention to raise the price of gas soon. The website also suggested that the regime meant for the article to be quoted in France, thereby fanning the fear of the MB in France and the West and encouraging the U.S. to add it to its terror lists.[6]

Another article on the website stated that the Egyptian media's negative and alarmist coverage of the unrest in France was motivated by the Egyptian president's fears: "'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi, the commander of the military coup, lives in constant fear that [similar] protests will break out against the austerity measures he has taken against the people." Therefore, said the article, Al-Sisi is trying to frighten the people in order to stamp out in advance any idea of protest.[7] 

MB Official: Al-Sisi Is Using Scare Tactics Because He Fears The Outbreak Of Protests; The Egyptians Are No Less Capable Of Protesting Than The French

In an article he posted on the same website, MB official Qutb Al-Arabi wrote, in a similar vein, that the regime's coverage of the Paris protests was aimed at scaring the Egyptian citizens into refraining from similar protests, and encouraged them not to be intimidated. He wrote: "The protests in Paris have alarmed the dictatorial regimes, especially the Al-Sisi regime, and that is why it employed its media apparatuses... to scare the people [and discourage them] from protesting... The picture that the regime media made sure to portray and market to the people is one of anarchy, security chaos, extensive destruction and a collapse of the state, which may ensue [in Egyptian too, if the people take to the streets] to protect their livelihood. These media apparatuses did not suffice with describing the Paris unrest in alarming terms. They [also] described the protesters as violent thugs who do not love their homeland, etc. They even began to openly accuse the MB of fueling and exacerbating the protests and of participating in them... The Egyptian media is associating the MB with the Paris protests in order to blacken the movement's reputation, incite the French authorities against it and cause them to support the Al-Sisi regime. [But in practice] they have done the MB a favor, for free, by presenting it as the protector of the peoples' rights and as having [so much] international influence...

"If the economic situation in France has provoked such protests, then the situation in Egypt should provoke an even more [extreme reaction]. It justifies an all-out revolution to topple the Al-Sisi regime, restore the people's freedom and honor and provide it with a dignified existence. If the French managed to impose [compliance with] their demands and forced the government to reverse its decisions that harmed their welfare; if several months ago the Jordanians, too, managed to force their government to reverse its decision to raise taxes and the price of gas a little,[8] and if the Tunisians recently organized a general strike in demand of higher wages, then the Egyptian people [can do] no less than all these peoples, because the conditions in which it lives are no less dire. That is why the oppressive [Egyptian] regime, and its media and security apparatuses, are so scared. They are afraid that the Egyptian people will take action..."[9]

MB Party Website: Macron Is Paying For Defending Al-Sisi's Crimes

Another article on the MB party website gloated over Macron's situation, saying that the protests broke out because he had supported Al-Sisi's "crimes." "The Egyptians will never forget the statements of French President Emanuel Macron, who stood with Al-Sisi at the Elysee [in October 2017] and said, in response to the crimes the Al-Sisi regime is perpetrating in Egypt's prisons and jails: 'I will never lecture others on civil liberties; every country knows best its own security circumstances'" [sic].[10] Claiming that the French president had "turned a blind eye to the crimes of the coup regime [in Egypt]" in return for a contract to sell Egypt French-made Rafale fighter jets and Mistral-class helicopter carriers, the article accused him of opportunism and of "preferring interests and billion-dollar [deals] over human rights and freedoms," which France purports to defend. Macron, it concluded, is now paying the price of this policy.[11]      

The MB Young Faction: "The Yellow Vests Are Protesting The Dictatorial Character Of The French Regime"

Support for the protesters was also expressed by the MB's younger faction, which is considered more militant. In a post on his Facebook page in both Arabic and English, the faction's spokesman, 'Abbas Qabari, likened the protests in France to the Arab Spring revolutions, writing: "Demands for social justice have moved from the southern Mediterranean to the north, and the words used to describe recent protests in France are almost the same words that were used to describe Arab Spring revolutions. While [the] Yellow Vests are facing the tyranny of power in France, counter-revolutions in our countries are spilling more blood. However, [the] peoples will definitely end up victorious sooner or later."[12]


'Abbas Qabari's post

 

[1] The Muslim Brotherhood is split into two main branches – the veteran leadership, headed by Mahmoud 'Izzat, who  is affiliated with MB Deputy General Guide Ibrahim Munir, and the younger faction, considered more militant, that disagrees with with 'Izzat's followers.

[2] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), November 28, 2018.

[3] Al-Masri Al-YAwm (Egypt), November 28, 2018.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 28, 2018.

[5] In August 2013, Egyptian security forces forcibly dispersed a six-week-long sit-down strike by supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, near the Rabi'a Al-Adawiyya mosque, killing over 800 protestors. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5407, Pro-MB Columnist On The Dispersal Of Pro-Mursi Sit-Ins In Cairo: The Coup Regime Is Following The Path Of Hitler's Final Solution; Anti-MB Columnist: The MB 'Wants To Subject The Homeland And The People To The Law Of The Jungle And The Rule Of Terror', August 14, 2013.

[5] https://twitter.com/ElBaladOfficial , 28.11.2018

[6] Fj-p.net, November 29, 2018.

[7] Fj-p.net, December 5, 2018.

[9] Fj-p.net, December 6, 2018.

[10] Macron's words, as reported in the media, were: "I believe in the sovereignty of states, and therefore, just as I don’t accept being lectured on how to govern my country, I don’t lecture others... My deeply held conviction is that it’s in President Al-Sisi's interest to accompany the defense and consolidation of human rights by the Egyptian state, in the context that only he can be the judge of.” the French president said." Reuters.com, October 24, 2017.

[11] Fj-p.net, December 3, 2018.

[12] Facebook.com/M.B.SPOKESMAN1, December 4, 2018.