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Blood game
File - Masked Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood students parade inside their al-Azhar university campus in Cairo, Egypt. Arabic on the masks read "We're holding on,"Dec. 10, 2006.(AP Photo)
File - Masked Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood students parade inside their al-Azhar university campus in Cairo, Egypt. Arabic on the masks read "We're holding on,"Dec. 10, 2006.(AP Photo)
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The increasing frequency and ferocity of Islamist attacks in Egypt is threatening to take the country down an Iraqi path of self-destruction. But at the same time, the labeling of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization is an inflammatory and dangerous move which will only further enflame the situation.

With their supporters constituting about one-third of the entire population, the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys solid support. But now their members face up to five years in prison for simply possessing their literature or attending one of their demonstrations.

While it is evident that the Muslim Brotherhood, and affiliated groups, have been involved in some of the recent acts of violence, simply labeling the group a terrorist organization is completely unsatisfactory.

It does not address the reasons why the Brotherhood is so attractive to such a large segment of the Egyptian population – the services it can provide to a people often suffering from entrenched poverty, who have been sidelined and neglected by the state for decades. For many, membership in the group is a result of the oppression and injustices they have experienced on a daily basis for decades. Such feelings will not simply evaporate now that the Brotherhood is blacklisted; rather, for many it will emphasize these sentiments. These people’s needs must be addressed.

But while banning the group threatens to further exacerbate existing divisions in the country, the Brotherhood’s campaign of violence is similarly dangerous, and will result in nothing but bloodshed and anger. Its opponents will feel further justified in cracking down on a group which claims to want to be seen as simply a political party.

Hamas’ collusion with the Brotherhood must also be withdrawn. As if the Gaza-based group didn’t have enough of its own problems to deal with at home: the constant threat of Israel, a people living in an overcrowded enclosure, dwindling financial channels, the war in Syria.

For 85 years, the Brotherhood was forced to operate clandestinely. But with their first legitimate election win, they very soon revealed their disregard for democracy and their lust for more power. They failed to realize before it was too late that the people of Egypt did not just want someone who wasn’t Hosni Mubarak, they wanted someone who was completely different.

With a glimpse of the chance of a new future, the people of Egypt were never going to be satisfied by another president apparently concerned with his own circle and holding on to power. Instead of blaming the military for everything, the Brotherhood needs to take a hard look at itself, and what happened in the months leading up to Mohammad Morsi’s ouster on July 3.

Unless the Brotherhood is able to reflect on its own mistakes and give up violence, the situation in Egypt will only continue to get worse.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 27, 2013, on page 7.
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