Egypt Considers Banning the Muslim Brotherhood

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 17 2013 4:37 PM

Egypt Considers Banning the Muslim Brotherhood as Security Forces Clear Cairo Mosque

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An army officer tries to control the crowd as he escorts an Islamist man out of Cairo's Al-Fath mosque

Photo by MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images

Violence continued across Cairo's streets Saturday as security forces worked to clear a mosque packed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters after several gunmen were seen shooting from a minaret onto the street, reports the Associated Press. Officials said they wanted to clear out the place of worship out of fear that it would become the site of a new sit-in by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Brotherhood.

A day after at least 230 people were killed across the country it seemed security forces were trying ot avoid violence and attempted to negotiate safe passage for those willing to leave the mosque. Still, their task was made nearly impossible by “hundreds of civilian opponents of the Islamists who surrounded the mosque and beat Mr. Morsi’s supporters as they emerged,” reports the New York Times. By the end of the day it was unclear whether anyone was killed or arrested during the mosque standoff. Around 800 people have been killed in Egypt over the past week, according to the Guardian. Among the victims Friday was the son of Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, reports the Washington Post.

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Egypt’s government says it is beginning discussions on whether to place an outright ban the Brotherhood. That would automatically push the group underground and make any gathering of supporters illegal. The move would also effectively be a return to the past. The Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928, had been officially banned by Egypt’s military rulers in 1954 but it rose to power last year following the ouster of autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak, notes Reuters.

Some in the military want the Brotherhood to be labeled a terrorist organization. A presidential adviser said during a news conference Saturday that Egypt was fighting a war against extremists. "We are facing a war launched by extremist forces escalating every day to a terrorist war," Mostafa Hegazy said, according to Al Jazeera. “Forces of extremism intend to cripple our journey toward pure bright future, aiming and willing to bring to the whole state into total failure."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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