Through Facebook and Twitter, the Muslim Brotherhood had called for a pro-Morsi demonstration in front of the presidential palace, and using chain text messages, they ordered their supporters to the Cairo district of Heliopolis to teach the "enemies of democracy" a lesson. The thousands of men like Sharif who heeded the call are cogs in the wheel of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is currently summoning up as many of its supporters as possible to ensure that it doesn't lose its newly acquired power.
It wouldn't be the first time that the Muslim Brotherhood had sent its gangs of thugs into the streets. In its early years, it controlled a militia that committed political assassinations and attacked leftists. "The Muslim Brotherhood feels that it has reached its goal of finally being able to implement the ideals of its founder, Hassan al-Banna. They've been preparing for this for 84 years," says Cairo political scientist Siad Akl. "That's why they won't give up power that quickly."
For many Egyptians, the rioting of the last few weeks is proof that it isn't the president but the Brotherhood that is pulling the strings -- and that it has no scruples about pushing the country to the brink of civil war, if necessary.
In late November, the US newsmagazine Time named President Morsi the most important politician in the Middle East. But very few people believe that the ponderous engineer is actually the most powerful man in the country. There are likely two other men who make the decisions: Mohammed Badie, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Khairat El-Shater, its first candidate, who was excluded from the election for formal reasons and is in charge of organization and financial affairs for the Brotherhood.
At the moment, state-owned television is probably the best place to see who is in charge in Egypt. Almost every week, it broadcasts encounters between the president and important dignitaries. Morsi often meets with Badie, greeting him by kissing his hand. It's a gesture meant to express obedience, and it shows that the oath of allegiance Morsi, like all members of the Brotherhood, once swore to the movement and its leader still applies.
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El-Shater, meanwhile, is the chief strategist of the Muslim Brotherhood, meaning he is nominally responsible for all political maneuvers the Brotherhood has employed to control the revolution since Mubarak's overthrow. They include the deal with the former military leadership that enabled both sides to save face, depriving the top military officials of some of their power while simultaneously preserving all of their privileges.
And his relationship with Morsi? El-Shater was once Morsi's direct superior. "Internally, the current president was seen as nothing but his errand boy," says a former member of the Brotherhood. "Morsi can't make any decisions on his own," confirms Amr al-Laithi, one of nine presidential advisors who resigned in recent weeks in protest against Morsi's dictatorial behavior. According to al-Laithi, everything -- every word, every proposal -- has to be approved by the Brotherhood's second-in-command. It isn't El-Shater who calls the president, says al-Laithi, but the president who calls El-Shater. The experts who are supposed to advise the president on key issues are all members of the Brotherhood, says al-Laithi, adding that he resigned when he realized that he had no say whatsoever.
Directly from the Politburo
There are more examples that prove that Morsi isn't the only one in charge. When the president was supposed to appoint new governors a few months ago, Egyptian journalists discovered after the fact that the list of candidates had come directly from the Brotherhood's politburo. Neither cabinet members nor the president's advisors were consulted in advance. When top officials in the government media were replaced, the incoming management was likewise chosen by the Brotherhood.
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