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Middle East

Egypt's Muslim Brothers unfazed by court ban

A Cairo court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood. But Egypt's oldest Islamist organization plans to continue its protests against the military-installed government.

The government of Mohammed Morsi has been toppled. Most of the Muslim Brotherhood's leaders have been thrown in jail. And on Monday, a Cairo court dealt the movement another blow Judge Mohammed al-Sayed has imposed a ban on it.

The lawsuit that led to the ban claimed that the Brotherhood represented a "harm to national security." The court also ordered the group's assets seized. The Brotherhood can appeal against the ruling.

Since former President Morsi was ousted by the military on July 3, the Egyptian security forces have arrested more than 2,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nearly the entire leadership of the group now sits behind bars. Many members are in hiding - they hardly dare to leave their homes.

'Revolution is getting bigger'

Among them is a surgeon from a middle class neighborhood in Cairo who asked to remain anonymous. The father of a family, he has been active in the Muslim Brotherhood for years. He accuses the military government of reversing Egypt's progress: "They want to take the country back 50 or 60 years, when the Muslim Brotherhood was a banned organization and was not allowed to operate publicly. We're back in those days again."

But the Islamists are continuing their peaceful demonstrations in Cairo and other major cities in Egypt. The surgeon is convinced that these protests will gain momentum in response to the court-ordered ban.

"We are already considering new methods to put those responsible for the putsch under pressure and to force them to talk with us," he said. "The revolution is getting bigger. The military regime is making new enemies every day."

Jordanians and Palestinians chant slogans and wave Muslim Brotherhood flags during a demonstration in the Jordanian capital Amman against Israel's deadly assault on the Gaza Strip March 2, 2008. More than 5,000 demonstrators marched peacefully from the headquarters of the Islamist-dominated trade unions to the parliament building in the city centre to protest Israel's deadly assault on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. AFP PHOTO/AWAD AWAD (Photo credit should read AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images)

The Muslim Brotherhood has vowed to continue demonstrating despite the ban

Social services shutdown

Some members of the Muslim Brotherhood believe that the ban will further damage the already crippled Egyptian economy, and eventually turn popular opinion against the military-backed government.

In the past, the Muslim Brotherhood's nationwide network of social services helped fill gaps in the public welfare system, providing the poor with soup kitchens, help with finding jobs and free medicine. But since Morsi's ouster, the Brotherhood has had to shut down many of its aid programs. Not all Egyptians are upset about this. Critics have long accused the Brotherhood of using social services to buy support.

"Mohammed Morsi was of no use to me," Mustafa Khaled, a strict Muslim, told DW. "He said good things, but he did nothing. I am a poor and have five kids. The Muslim Brotherhood hasn't done anything for me."

The court-imposed ban is the opening act of a judicial marathon for the Brotherhood. In October, dozens of leading members of the organization will face trial, among them Mohammed Morsi. And in December, a court in Alexandria will decide whether to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Enemy of the state

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser was the first to ban the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954, after the Islamist group fought a bloody power struggle with the army.

Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown in 2011, also threw many Brotherhood members behind bars. But overall, Mubarak granted the Brotherhood greater freedom. Under Mubarak, members were allowed to preach in mosques and run for parliament as independent candidates.

An Egyptian supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood walks holding a poster featuring deposed president Mohamed Morsi during a rally to support him on July 6, 2013 outside Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. Egypt's Islamists vowed further protests today to demand the army restore the country's first democratically elected leader, after a day of clashes which saw 26 people killed across the country. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Morsi will go to trial in October, along with other Brotherhood leaders

After the 2011 revolution, the Brotherhood established a political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. In March of this year, the Brotherhood registered itself as a non-government organization. But the court-imposed ban threatens to turn the Brotherhood's status as a legally permitted organization into a short intermezzo in its 85-year history.

Fears of radicalization

In front of a mosque in the south of Cairo, well known as a favorite meeting point for the Islamists, the ban is being heatedly discussed. A student with a long beard and wearing a white robe says he supports the Muslim Brotherhood. He starts railing against the country's new strongman, army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi: "It's just all a big show, organized by the intelligence agencies. El-Sissi offends our intelligence. Where is the freedom and human dignity in the things that el-Sissi does?"

There is widespread concern in Egypt that factions of the Muslim Brotherhood could go underground and radicalize. In the past few weeks, there have been dozens of bloody attacks against the security forces, with more than 100 police officers left dead.

At the beginning of September, a jihadist group based in the Sinai Peninsula tried to kill Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim with an explosive device. The assassination attempt failed.

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