CAIRO: There was a time when an Egyptian would open Facebook or Instagram and most of the content he saw was related to the Muslim Brotherhood. Today, however, is far from the truth.
Since their fall in 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to dominate the narrative online despite their repeated calls for protest. A decade after the Arab Spring which saw social networks act as mobilization mechanisms, why are social media in general, and Facebook in particular, no longer a potential trigger for revolution in Egypt today?
Although about half of Egyptians are active on social media, they lean towards trends far from those of the Muslim Brotherhood and in contrast to what dominated social media in 2011.
Since then, Muslim Brotherhood worshipers have gone to great lengths to take advantage of the massive use of social media by Egyptians. They take advantage of any local crisis and use it as a Trojan horse for their claims, and as has been seen repeatedly in the fake videos released by Al Jazeera and other pro-Muslim Brotherhood prejudices as recent as September 2020.
At the outset, we can say that the Muslim Brotherhood has suffered its deepest crisis since its creation in 1928 due to their fall in June 2013.
This crisis is embodied in the popular political fall of the brotherhood, Tunisia and Egypt having thwarted their efforts to have a political or social role in the future. Popular opinion and secular forces showed them little sympathy.
The Egyptian case was similar to that of Tunisia. Despite their huge media machine, sleeper cells, and media platforms and media working in support of their agenda, the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to regain its presence or maintain its influence in Egyptian society. In addition, they lost their power to mobilize the masses or stir up uprisings as they once did during the height of the Arab Spring.
According to political expert and former consul general of Egypt in Riyadh, Fawzi Ashmawy, the main space for action and expression of Egyptians, namely social media, has widened. It notes that this is due to the decline in the mobility and performance of parties and politicians on the one hand and the partial lifting of restrictions on civil society and other laws as part of the official national human rights strategy. man of the country launched earlier this month.
In January 2021, Egypt’s population stood at around 103.3 million, an increase of 1.9 million from January last year. The number of Internet users, however, reached 59.9 million with an increase of 4.9 million more than in January 2020 – an increase that exceeded the increase in population, according to several official sources.
Of these internet users, 49 million are regular social media consumers as of January 2021, an increase of 7 million from 2020, or 17% from the previous year, highlighting how much the increase in the number of Social media users quickly outnumber Internet users. population.
Social media is a real, albeit virtual, avenue where Egyptian public opinion is growing. It is a major platform that allows people to express critical views, pains and interactions not only locally but also on regional and international events that affect them directly and indirectly.
For the first time in history, the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in free elections in 2012 through Mohammed Morsi, the group’s first president, who dominated the country’s parliament and civil unions.
Instead of implementing their so-called 100-day program – known as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Nahda presidential program – which tackled daily issues of fuel, food, security and traffic, the group usurped all authorities to strengthen his grip on power in Egypt, which led him to be late in forming a cabinet.
This discredited the group’s principles and fueled public resentment against it. The Muslim Brotherhood’s rhetoric and its two-sided strategy to respond to citizens’ demands have led to a rise in public fury against them. Here are the reasons why the Muslim Brotherhood has lost its power on social media:
First: Egypt’s national stability
Egyptians’ positions on social media are balanced between supporting and criticizing their government, especially when it comes to the cost of living through basic services such as groceries, fuel and electricity. However, the Egyptians are quick to praise and support what they see as positive steps to create and attract investment.
According to a Reuters survey, the Egyptian economy is expected to grow 5% in the fiscal year ending June of next year, unchanged from analyst expectations in a similar poll six months ago and slightly below the government’s target of 5.4%. On top of that, the gross domestic product of the most populous country in the Arab world grew 5.5% in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023.
Second: a distinction between Islam and Islamists
While Egyptians are widely known for their religious and conservative nature which includes reservations about any online confrontation with what they consider sacred or religious, they primarily differentiate between Islam and Islamists as well as between religion and extremism.
Although a myriad of Islamist groups try to implement any call to renew religious discourse and bias any criticism of religious history in their favor, they have failed to achieve their goals due to the reluctance of the Egyptians. to repeat their previous experience during the reign of Morsi.
Such an experience intimidated daily civil peace and destabilized the well-established Egyptian identity, an identity that finds no difference between religion and race. It is the same identity that is opposed to relegating the homeland “Egypt” and promoting the concept of an Islamic nation or Islamic caliphate over it. This is clear every year in September, when the Muslim Brotherhood’s media platforms call for protests and demonstrations but still fail to attract large audiences.
In addition to this, the cons and the critical discourse against the ideology, arguments and founding notions of Islamist groups have been active, passionate and alive, thanks to the information revolution and digital opportunities. Egyptians are now able to read and become aware of the criticism of fundamentalism and the differentiation between Islam, Islamists and Islamic history.
Third: The stagnation and hostility of speech
By continually classifying the Egyptian state as takfiri (apostate) and maintaining a discriminatory tone against Christian minorities and secular civil society groups, the Brotherhood narrative has become latent and stagnant in communication with the changes. current events occurring in the evolving Egyptian society.
The clearest example is that of Wagdy Ghoneim, a Muslim Brotherhood preacher who was banned from entering Tunisia in 2019 after calling former Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi an “apostate” who was fought against God and Islam.
In the understanding of many Egyptians, the experience under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 remains the main reason for citizens’ fear of their return, or of responding again to their call for mobilization and demonstrations.
Fourth: The Weight of Experience: Egypt from a Pan-Arab Perspective
Security, order and stability are the three fundamental demands of Egyptians and are at the heart of their conversations on social media platforms. Critical voices speak through the framework of the state that maintains order and security, and the Egyptians seriously consider neighboring models of failed states as well as the rise of Islamist groups in neighboring countries or countries. other countries in the region.
Egypt’s diplomatic role in the region also plays an important role, as citizens praise their government for its active regional role in the conflict between Palestine and Israel, in Iraq and towards Libya, in its close ties with Gulf countries and in their strategy efforts to end any chance of extremists returning to the country. This would not have been possible thanks to a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood or through an online narrative dominated by the group.