Could coronavirus reconcile the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood?

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Over the past seven years the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian regime have always been on opposite sides, not agreeing on any issue. But after the spread of the novel coronavirus it seems that the Brotherhood and the regime might unite against the global pandemic. The Muslim Brotherhood presented its vision of how to participate in facing the corona pandemic inside Egypt during a press conference held on Sunday afternoon via video conference technology, under the title “Cooperation and participation is obligatory.” During the conference, the participants discussed the necessary priorities from the Brotherhood’s point of view to confront the epidemic, in the medical, legal and economic fields.

At the conference, the Brotherhood announced the formation of a committee of specialists including medical professors, economists, Sharia scholars, and media professionals, to prepare expert content. Muslim Brothers stressed, in the words of the conference presenter, that despite the blockade, prosecutions, and restrictions that have imposed on it, it will still provide what it can for Egypt considering that this is a “duty and obligation for every Egyptian who is sincere.” Muslim Brothers announced during the conference that the priority is to confront this epidemic, through solidarity and mutual support among all Egyptian people. The group called on the media to be accurate in conveying facts, enhancing the national interest, and ensuring complete transparency and continuous disclosure as a way to avoid rumours or misplaced interpretations. It also called for the release of detainees and prisoners as one of the measures to resist this epidemic. The statement includes a clear change of tone compared to previous statements. They did not describe the Egyptian regime as a bloody military coup, and the statement did not stress the need to overthrow General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The Brotherhood did not attack the regime’s decisions to counter the coronavirus, for example the Brotherhood did not criticise the imposition of curfews or the closure of mosques.

Over the past seven years the Muslim Brotherhood has criticised almost all of the Egyptian regime’s actions, but since the spread of the virus this has stopped, which observers considered an indication of the possibility of a rapprochement with the Egyptian regime. However, media figures close to the Egyptian regime attacked the Muslim Brotherhood, and considered them more dangerous than the coronavirus, after estimates by Western researchers that the true numbers of people infected with coronavirus in Egypt were in the thousands. Media men loyal to the Egyptian regime have said that members of the Muslim Brotherhood are responsible for promoting that information, and that they are scaring the Egyptian people. But officially, the Muslim Brotherhood has not released any such statements.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s statement has been met with complete silence by the Egyptian regime. When he was a candidate for the Egyptian presidency, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that voting for him means eliminating the Muslim Brotherhood. When the Egyptian journalist Ibrahim Issa asked him about this in a television interview, al-Sisi asserted decisively that the Brotherhood would cease to exist. Throughout his mandate, al-Sisi has shown no sign of accepting the release of leaders and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has consistently ignored all initiatives calling for political reconciliation in the country.