Shades of Egypt’s past are coloring the country’s current political scene.
It all started July 3, 2013 when General Sisi and his fellow officers staged a dramatic coup d’etat against elected president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, following record demonstrations against the Islamist leader on the anniversary of his botched year in power.
Few in Tahrir Square, Egypt, seem to mind that the army, led by Sisi, so openly and so swiftly cancelled the ‘democratic process’, arresting and clamping down on Brotherhood leaders and their supporters.
With massive popular backing, on July 3, 2013, the Egyptian army ousted President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who won free and fair presidential elections only a year earlier. The event was broadly reminiscent of events that took place some sixty years earlier, on July 23, 1952, when the Egyptian army ousted King Farouk and took over the reigns of government.
Nasser was one of the founders of the secret Free Officers group that was determined to oust Farouk and set Egypt on a different path. Although the older and better-known Brigadier-General Muhammad Naguib was put forward to the public as the head of the officers’ group, Nasser was in fact the acknowledged leader. He was known for carefully listening to all viewpoints and then making decisions.
On July 22, 1952, the Free Officers overthrew the monarchy in a practically bloodless coup d’état. A Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) was established with Naguib as its head. Nasser and Naguib clashed over whether to keep a parliamentary system or to establish a one-party state with populist support, a course Nasser favored. The majority of the officers favored Nasser, and a single party, the Liberation Rally, was established in 1953.
After a failed assassination attempt on Nasser in 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom Naguib had close ties, was banned, and Naguib was removed from power.
A new constitution was implemented in 1956 and Nasser was elected president by a huge majority of Egyptian voters. He was twice reelected to the position. A highly charismatic figure and a brilliant speaker in colloquial Arabic, Nasser was extremely popular with the majority of Egyptians and among average Arabs everywhere.
Back in 1941, Army Officer Nasser and Amer were posted to Khartoum, Sudan, which was part of Egypt at the time. After briefly returning from Sudan, Nasser returned in September 1942, and then secured a job as an instructor in the Cairo Royal Military Academy in May 1943.
In 1942 the British Ambassador Miles Lampson marched into King Farouk’s palace and ordered him to dismiss Prime Minister Hussein Sirri Pasha for having pro-Axis sympathies. Nasser saw the incident as a blatant violation of Egyptian sovereignty and wrote, “I am ashamed that our army has not reacted against this attack”, and wished for “calamity” to overtake the British.
Nasser was accepted into the General Staff College later that year. He began to form a group of young military officers with strong nationalist sentiments who supported some form of revolution. Nasser stayed in touch with the group’s members primarily through Amer, who continued to discover interested officers within the Egyptian Armed Forces’s various branches and presented Nasser with a full file on each of them.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Marking 60th anniversary of Egypt’s July Revolution, Ahram Online republishes chapter of memoirs by Revolution Command Council member Khaled Mohieldin on origins of relations between Free Officers and the Muslim Brotherhood:
“As we neared the end of 1944, we were anxiously groping for a way for Egypt and for ourselves. One day, Abd El-Munim Abd El-Rauf came to me saying that we should meet with another officer who shared our anxieties and who was seeking answers to the same questions. So he took me to see Gamal Abd El-Nasser. This was the first time I met him.
A little later, Rauf proposed that he introduce me to another officer. He took me to the Tea Island at the Zoological Gardens, where I met Major Mahmud Labib. Later I found out that he was in charge of the Muslim Brotherhood’s military wing.
Usman Fawzi immediately sensed the Muslim Brotherhood overtones in the conversation and on the way back he said, “This is a very dangerous and harmful organisation.” However, I was happy with the meeting and said that the nation needed sacrifice and that the Islamic trend could imbue youth with the spirit of sacrifice.
Usman Fawzi was adamant and never attended any other meetings I had with Mahmud Labib. However, on another occasion he attended a meeting I had with Gamal Abd El-Nasser. It was Abd El-Munim Abd El-Rauf who introduced me to Gamal Abd El-Nasser and then we (Gamal and I) each met separately with Mahmud Labib.
There developed an odd relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and a military group that was formed that comprised a large number of officers. We no longer met in public. We held organised meetings in private homes. We usually met in the home of Magdi Hasanayn and sometimes in that of Officer Ahmed Mazhar (now a well-known film star).
These meetings were often attended by Gamal Abd El-Nasser, Kamal El-Din Husayn, Husayn Hammuda, Husayn El-Shafi, Salah Khalif, Abd El-Latif Bughdadi and Hasan Ibrahim. Relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and this group of officers were highly sensitive: the Brotherhood had unexpectedly discovered a treasure trove of officers who were ready to do anything for the nation.
Those officers, however, did not all maintain the same level of loyalty to the Brotherhood. Salah Khalif and Husyn Hammuda, for example, were committed body and soul to the Muslim Brotherhood. The others, however, were just seeking a direction.
We were not against the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, we supported them – but without total commitment. Nasser, for example, believed that the Muslim Brotherhood only wished to exploit officers as tools to achieve political status and influence within the army and that they would never offer anything to the national cause.
At the meetings, Gamal was persistent in his question: if you have half a million members and four thousand cells, why should we not be calling strikes against occupation, and mass movements and demonstrations?
At our meetings, I continuously asked Mahmud Labib: What is the programme of the Brotherhood? He would answer: Sharia (Islamic law). Then I would say: We are all Muslims and we all believe in Sharia, but exactly what shall we do to liberate the nation – will we wage armed struggle or shall we accept negotiations? What shall we offer the people in the areas of education, housing, and agriculture, as well as the various other social issues?
Mahmud Labib was very elusive in his answers, but I persisted in my questions. Finally, he brought to us Mr. Hasan El-Banna, grandmaster of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Truthfully, Hasan El-Banna had an exceptional ability to convince his listeners and infiltrate their hearts. His arguments were solid and he was widely read. At our first meeting, Abd El-Nasser and I expressed our views. When we spoke, he shrewdly and calmly made us understand that the Brotherhood had granted preferential treatment and did not require of us the complete loyalty it demanded of ordinary members.
He said, “We, the Brotherhood, are like an immense hall that can be entered by any Muslim from any door to partake of whatsoever he wishes. Should he seek Sufism, he shall find us ready. Should he seek sports and scouting, it is there. Should he seek battle and armed struggle, he shall find us. You have come to us with the issue of the nation. So, I welcome you.
We debated matters with him and he was very patient. I emphasised the necessity of announcing a programme, saying, “We cannot win the people without having a clear programme that offers practical solutions to their problems.” He said, “If I were to draw up a programme, I would please some and anger others. I would win some people and lose others, and I do not want that to happen.”
We had several other meetings with Hasan El-Banna. Though he had numerous strong arguments, they remained neither sufficient nor convincing to most of us. Nasser was firm in his suspicions that the Brotherhood only wanted to exploit the officers for its own interests.
In a final effort, Hasan El-Banna sought to link us with the Brotherhood via a strong bond. He decided that Nasser and I should join the Brotherhood’s Secret Division. Perhaps it was because we were the most active and effective in our group and, consequently, winning us over completely would mean ultimately winning over the whole group.
Or perhaps it was because we talked much about the nation and nationalism and therefore he believed that by having us join the Secret Division, which was concerned with weaponry and armed action, he would be satisfying our patriotic enthusiasm and ensuring closer ties with the Brotherhood.
Anyway, we were contacted by Salah Khalifa, who took the two of us to a house in Darb Al-Ahmar toward Sayyida Zaynab. There we met Abd El-Rahman El-Sanadi, head of the Brotherhood’s Secret Division at the time.
We were taken into a totally darkened room where we heard a voice (I think it was that of Saleh Ashmawi) and, placing our hands on the Quran and a gun and repeating after the voice, we took an oath of obedience and total allegiance, for better or worse, to the Grandmaster, swearing by the Book of God and the Sunna (traditions) of the Prophet. Although these rites were meant to stir the emotions, they had very little impact on Nasser and myself.
In any case, we began to work in the Secret Division and we were taken for training at a place near Helwan. Since we were officers, it was only natural that we were more knowledgeable about weapons than our training instructors. Nasser was not too happy with the situation and we felt alienated from the Brotherhood.
By 1947, my and Nasser’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood had faded altogether, although I still maintain close ties with Usman Fawzi, who, from time to time, continued to supply me with books. By then, Usman Fawzi had definitely become a member of the communist organisation Iskra (Russian for “spark”).
(Memories of a Revolution: Egypt 1952, Khaled Mohieldin, member of the Revolution Command Council, Cairo: AUC Press, 1995. 259pp. The above chapter was re-published courtesy of Khaled Mohieldin’s daughter and with the consent of the publisher at
The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood was a Freemason, Hassan al Banna, born in 1906, who developed from the influence of the three Salafi reformers, Afghani, Abduh and Rida. Banna’s father was as student of Abduh, and himself was greatly influenced by Rashid Rida. By age twenty-one, Banna was introduced to the leadership of Al-Manar, founded by Rida, and, beginning in the early 1920s, would often meet and discuss with Rida. Through Rida, Banna developed his opposition to Western influence in Egypt, in favor of “pure Islam”, meaning to the pernicious version of Wahhabism.
When Hitler came to power in the 1930’s, he and Nazi intelligence made contact with al Banna to see if they could work together. Banna was also a devout admirer of Hitler. Banna’s letters to Hitler were so supportive that he and other members of the Brotherhood, were recruited by Nazi Military Intelligence to provide information on the British and work covertly to undermine British control in Egypt. Banna himself said that he had “considerable admiration for the Nazi Brownshirts” and organized his own forces along fascist lines. Banna’s Brotherhood also collaborated with the overtly fascist Young Egypt” movement, founded in October 1933, by lawyer Ahmed Hussein, and modeled directly on the Hitler party, complete with paramilitary Green Shirts, aping the Nazi Brown Shirts, Nazi salute and literal translations of Nazi slogans.
Gamal Abdel Nasser, on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt:
“The parties have been dissolved and we clashed with Muslim brotherhood party. During 1953 and 1954, Party of the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to influence the course of the Revolution and submit their guardianship. We were not in agreement. Then, they have declared war on us and tried to assassinate me in Alexandria, October 26, 1954. The battle has begun and we imprisoned the terrorist members of the party.
In the year 1954, while we were negotiating withdrawal terms with the English occupation forces from Egypt, the ‘brothers’ held their secret meetings with staff members of the British Embassy. They told the British: ‘we can take over power; we will do this and that… ‘. That was taking place, during our negotiations with British British Empire, meanwhile the Party of the Muslim Brotherhood in no way acted as patriot Egyptians.
To the question: ‘what is your position on the Canal.’ (i.e. The Suez Canal) for which we were fighting, there Morshid (i.e. The Guide) answered the question, It’s you who are interested in Egypt to fight for the canal; we have a consideration to fight elsewhere. This is the message of the Muslim brothers; they are misleading the masses and trading in religion.
In 1953, we sincerely considered to work with them and to make sure they are on the right way. I myself met the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood who has put conditions to us:
Their Morshid demanded of us, In the first place, you should impose Hijab (veil) on Egypt’s women, he stated. He told me, as a leader, this is your responsibility.
I told him, Morshid guide, you have a daughter enrolled in the Faculty of medicine, who does not wear a veil. So why don’t you make her wear it? If you are unable to impose the veil on a single girl, in this case your daughter, you want that of me alone, to throw the veil on ten million women in this country.
The Morshid guide added women must not work. I said, by allowing women to work, we protect women from misery. We know all the stories of poor women, sick or healthy, who have had to survive… The work is a protection for women. Prevent them from work goes against society interest. We are working on empowering women so that men and women can mutually support each other.
His conditions and demands do not stop there! He demanded of us to close cinemas, theatres… to immerse Egypt in darkness!
Obviously, we couldn’t give in to their demands. They fought us. In 1954, they have embarked on their assassination attempts and their ‘deception’ using religion; eventually some of them ended up convicted by the tribunal of the Revolution.” – Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of the Egyptian Arab Republic (from 1952 to 1970)
(Translated by Saeb Shaath at
Gamal Abd al-Nasser was speaking to a large crowd in Alexandria on October 26, 1954 when eight gun shots rang out. Nasser heard the bullets whizzing past his ears. Happily for him, the gunman, Mahmoud Abd al-Latif, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a bad shot even at close range. Those seated on the dais heard popping sounds as the bullets struck an electric light above. Nasser didn’t flinch. Interrupting his prepared speech, he cried out, “‘Let them kill Nasser. What is Nasser but one among many? My fellow countrymen, stay where you are. I am not dead, I am alive, and even if I die all of you is Gamal Abd al-Nasser.'” – Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, The Cairo Documents, Doubleday, New York, 1973, 25. See also Peter Mansfield, Nasser, Methuen Educational Limited, London, 1969, 88.
The crowd roared in approval and Arab audiences was electrified. The assassination attempt backfired, quickly playing into Nasser’s hands. Upon returning to Cairo, he ordered one of the largest political crackdowns in the modern history of Egypt, with the arrests of thousands of dissenters, mostly members of the Brotherhood, but also communists, and the dismissal of 140 officers loyal to General Naguib. Eight Brotherhood leaders were sentenced to death, although the sentence of its chief ideologue, Sayyed Qutb, was commuted to a 15-year imprisonment. President Naguib was removed from the presidency and put under house arrest, but was never tried or sentenced, and no one in the army rose to defend him. With his rivals neutralized, Nasser became the undisputed leader of Egypt.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
If the event had been staged, it had been well staged; perhaps, the assassin himself might have said, too well. Later that year on December 9, 1954, he and five leaders of the Brotherhood were hanged – See Joel Gordon, Nasser’s Blessed Movement: Egypt’s Free Officers and the July Revolution, Oxford University Press, New York, 1992, 4.
“That was before the adoption of the Constitution, when we decided to pardon them and released them from the prisons. We have even enacted a law enabling them to go back to work, claim their salaries, work promotions and guaranteed their rights in all areas.
That is what we did in 1964. But in 1965, we discovered their secret organizations plotting a new conspiracy, they carried out attacks on the country’s infrastructure and I was a target as well. A plot with a rather amazing ruthlessness: the Egyptian people would be apostate. They are Muslims brotherhood; therefore they have to take power to guarantee that God governs in the country, not man.
Ok! But how could God govern without Prophet? We know all that at the beginning of Islam there was a prophet! They said, we refuse the Sunni representation. We reject the parliamentary representation. We want the Government of God.
But who could therefore ensure that Government of God? They can. Their Morshid guide is therefore the Prophet of God and we are all apostates. All Arab countries, even those that receive and supports them today, including rulers and citizens are apostates. This is what they told us: they are the only Muslims.
Naturally, they were arrested. It was certainly not a trivial operation to try to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser. But for one Gamal Abdel Nasser murdered arise thousand more! It is not possible to murder a whole nation. Whatever the circumstances, we cannot tolerate their destructive operations, nor their fascist behavior and ideology seeking to govern on behalf of God, while they are actually motivated by hatred.
We have therefore commenced to investigate the history of each of them who were involved or collaborated with the secret organizations. We will do the same with the heads and dangerous members of their secret organizations, who were released from prison in 1964… The rest will be released and they shall be entitled to a second chance.
Enough is enough! We will not allow them to endanger our national achievements of the past nineteen years, which were attained through hardship and suffering. We cannot rely on the henchmen of the colonizers and the reactionaries, regardless of their names, and even if the name is that of so-called Muslim Brotherhood. We all know that, in this case, their Islam is a hoax intended to entrap more people in joining them. They are just a dark force full of hatred. Their leaders have worked with those of the Baghdad Pact and those of the colonial countries. They have collaborated with our enemies. They have clearly shown that the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing other than a tool used to serve the colonial powers and its reactionary puppets.
Our principles forbid us from leaving these collaborators of colonialism and feudalism causing more harm to our country. We shall protect Egypt’s future and ensure the nation’s achievements. In 1954, they tried to kill the Revolution while serving the interests of colonialism. We succeeded to reach an agreement with the English colonial power, who was occupying us on the date, forcing the occupation to agree to the withdrawal from Egypt within a maximum of 20 months. This is the time they chose to launch their deadly operations and tried to assassinate me in Alexandria.
We knocked them out and we were able to halt them. Today, the people of Egypt do despise the Muslim brotherhood since they know who they are. We did give them a second chance; they did not want it to work.
As I already told you, the four years preceding the Battle of Port Said, the enemy forces of the Revolution have tried by all means to weaken us and tried to limit the scope of the revolution. They have failed! The Egyptian people have not weakened or surrendered. The attack was a bloody aggression, but it failed! The result forced our firm and unwavering commitment to achieve our real and total independence.
We say that it is only after this failure, the century of freedom began, to which we as well as our parents aspired, and for which our grandparents fought before us. Yes… that is after the failure of the assault, our Revolution began!” – Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of the Egyptian Arab Republic (from 1952 to 1970)
(Translated by Saeb Shaath at
Back in 1954, Egyptian President Gamal Abddul Nasser’s nationalist policies in Egypt come to be viewed as completely unacceptable by Britain and the US. MI6 and the CIA jointly hatch plans for his assassination. According to Miles Copeland, a CIA operative based in Egypt, the opposition to Nasser is driven by the commercial community—the oil companies and the banks. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood’s resentment of Nasser’s secular government also comes to a head. In one incident, Islamist militants attack pro-Nasser students at Cairo University. Following an attempt on his own life by the Brotherhood, Nasser responds immediately by outlawing the group, which he denounces as a tool of Britain. The following years see a long and complex struggle pitting Nasser against the Muslim Brotherhood, the US, and Britain. The CIA funnels support to the Muslim Brotherhood because of “the Brotherhood’s commendable capability to overthrow Nasser.” (BAER, 2003, PP. 99; DREYFUSS, 2005, PP. 101-108) The Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia becomes an ally of the United States in the conflict with Nasser. They offer financial backing and sanctuary to Muslim Brotherhood militants during Nasser’s crackdown. Nasser dies of natural causes in 1970. (DREYFUSS, 2005, PP. 90-91, 126-131, 150)

2 thoughts on “SHADES OF EGYPT’S PAST

  1. Dear editor,
    With due respect the name of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s speech translator is: ‘ Saeb Shaath’, its not saath it must be a typo, he is an international authority on the Middle East affairs, he have some very interesting views on MB you can find it on the same source, he considers them as USA’s tools .
    M Madson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s