Fears rise that Muslim Brotherhood crackdown may backfire

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
October 28, 2013

Muslim Brotherhood dismantling could accelerate Islamist violence in Egypt, Spain bristles over U.S. spying allegations, and South Korea considers nuclear energy alternatives. Today is Monday, October 28, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

A student sets fire to sticks during clashes with riot police in front of the main offices of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, October 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Brotherhood breakdown. As Egypt’s military-backed government cracks down on the Muslim Brotherhood and prevents its small, local groups called usras from meeting, analysts fear unmoored Brothers will turn to violence:

Some outside experts fear the severity of the crackdown could backfire. “The weekly usra meeting is a very important tool in shaping the mindset and behavior of Brotherhood members. The alternative might be an extreme path,” said Khalil al-Anani, senior fellow at The Middle East Institute in Washington. “This might replicate the 1950s and 1960s when the state cut links between the leadership and grassroots, leading in the end to the deviation of youth and creation of groups that started insurgencies.” While Reuters found no evidence of Brotherhood members joining extremist groups, the authorities are now portraying most Islamists as one broad group of terrorists.

Usras serve as a key organizational tactic for the Muslim Brotherhood.  The groups, traditionally made up of seven people, typically meet once a week for three hours and are used to indoctrinate Muslim Brotherhood members. Egypt’s government does not distinguish between the Brotherhood and Islamist militants who have increased attacks on military and police since former president Mohamed Mursi’s miliary ouster in July, despite the Brotherhood’s non-violent credo. Some all Qaeda-affiliated Islamists have operated out of the lawless Sinai region. Today, three Egyptian policemen were killed by an unidentified group of men in the Nile Delta region, where pro-Mursi supporters protested on Friday as part of a multi-city rally. See more scenes from unrest in Egypt below, and click through for more.

Al-Azhar University students, who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans against the military and Interior Ministry as army soldiers stop them from marching towards the Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo, October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans against the military and interior ministry while gesturing with four fingers during a march around the Church of Virgin Mary at El-Omrania near Giza square, south of Cairo, October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

U.S. spying scandal hits Spain. Spain is the latest country to summon a U.S. ambassador over spying allegations, in response to today’s report from El Mundo alleging that the NSA monitored more than 60 million Spanish phone calls from December 2012 to January 2013:

A man holds a banner outside the foreign ministry during a meeting of U.S. ambassador in Spain, James Costos, with Spain’s European Secretary of State in Madrid, October 28, 2013.  REUTERS/Juan Medina

Last week, France called the U.S. ambassador following a similar allegation published in Le Monde, and a weekend report accusing the U.S. of bugging German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone for more than a decade has prompted outrage in that country. On Sunday, a German paper reported that President Obama had been aware of the eavesdropping on Merkel since 2010, contradicting earlier reports. The accusations stem from documents revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Nuclear safety scandal. South Korea is reconsidering its reliance on nuclear power following the indictment of 100 people for corruption over fake plant safety certificates. A handful of South Korea’s 23 nuclear reactors are offline, some due to safety concerns and others for routine maintenance. At a congressional hearing on Monday, politicians said that the scandal has cost nuclear operator KHNP close to $2.8 billion. It would be expensive for South Korea to move away from nuclear energy, possibly costing the country tens of billions of dollars to import liquefied natural gas, oil, or coal.

Nota Bene: Observers say Georgia’s presidential election shows democracy in the country is maturing.

Standouts:

Art bust - China’s booming art market is being stymied by forgery fears. (New York Times)

Myanmar motors - Classic car drivers hit the road in Myanmar. (BBC)

Civil war stimulant - The amphetamine trade could be funding Syria’s civil war. (Time)

Holy sleep - Ghana church leader says all-night prayer services are hurting economic productivity. (The Guardian)

Drive for your rights - Saudi Arabian women take part in a “drive-in” protest. (Al Jazeera)

From the File:

  • Car plows into crowd at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing five.
  • Israel shoots down Gaza rocket, prepares prisoner release.
  • India’s opposition party urges tighter safety for top candidate after blasts.
  • Indonesian politician bans monkey business.
  • Turkish police fire tear gas and water cannon to break up protest.
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