Repression vs. reconciliation
Once demonstrators and the military had deposed Mohammed Morsi, the first democratically elected president in Egypt's history, a witch hunt began five months ago against members of political Islam's most powerful umbrella organization. The Muslim Brotherhood has now been officially banned in Egypt, and almost all of its leaders in the country have been put behind bars.
With the help of the mass media they steer, military leaders had previously sought to portray the Islamists as a creeping danger to Egypt and did all they could to delegitimize the Muslim Brotherhood's role in the January 2011 revolution against the Mubarak regime.
Claims have circulated that the Muslim Brothers pursued the revolution with help from Hamas, their Palestinian offshoot organization. Criminal charges have also been leveled at the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership, including inciting riots and ordering murders.
Repression as cure-all
It should be obvious that the majority of these accusations are trumped up and politically motivated. The response of a number of judges to such cases confirms that. The first judges tasked with handling the trial against the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, stepped down from the trial in late October, calling it simply too "embarrassing."
Harsh verdicts against underage female supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood also provide evidence of the narrow-mindedness and brutality of the selectively operating justice system in post-Morsi Egypt.
Five months after Morsi was removed from office, Egypt's legal situation is changing. A new draft of the constitution, worked out by a 50-member commission, has now been completed and is intended to pave the way for another process of transition.
Paradoxically, the new constitution still draws heavily on Islam because Sharia law serves as its primary source. More importantly, the constitution provides questionable privileges to the army, cementing the military's role as the true source of power in the Arab world's largest country.
No democracy without national reconciliation
But the greatest obstacle on Egypt's path to sustainable democratization remains a lack of national reconciliation. If the army's leadership under General el-Sisi believes it can simply repress away a social and religious movement like the Muslim Brotherhood that has been anchored in Egyptian society for 80 years, then they're committing an error of historic dimensions. The powerful pan-Arab leader Gamal Abdel Nasser also failed miserably when he tried a half-century ago to wipe out the organization.
The one-sided fixation on pursuing and demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood is blocking the necessary reconciliation and inclusion of all powers on the Nile. In fact, that approach risks "Pakistanizing" Egypt - particularly since nothing has changed when it comes to the socio-economic causes that may provoke new revolts.