Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Gets a Facelift

The Movement's Young Leaders Turn Revolutionary to Stay Relevant

Supporters o the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi hold up a Koran while making "Rabaa" gestures, in reference to the police clearing of Rabaa Adawiya protest camp on August 14, 2013. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

Amr Farrag is a prominent Muslim Brotherhood youth cadre. The 28-year-old Cairene is a widely followed exponent of the organization’s ideology on social media and manages the popular pro-Brotherhood news portal Rassd. But these days, he no longer operates in Cairo. On July 5, 2013—two days after the Egyptian military responded to mass protests by removing Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi—the organization’s leaders urged Farrag to relocate to Istanbul, so that he could evade the Egyptian government’s anti-Brotherhood crackdown and reestablish the organization’s media operations in exile. Meanwhile, as many more Muslim Brothers fled to Turkey during the chaotic weeks that followed Morsi’s ouster, the Brotherhood formed a committee in Istanbul to resettle them, hoping to preserve the organization until it could return to power in Egypt, which it promised its members would happen very soon.

But as the months wore on, and Egypt’s repression of the Muslim Brotherhood grew more severe (at least 2,500 people were killed and 16,000 imprisoned, and Morsi has just been sentenced to death), impatience with the rate of progress divided the organization’s younger members from its older ones. Farrag and other exiled Brotherhood youths rebelled against the group’s older leaders, blaming them for “misanalyzing” the political situation leading up to Morsi’s overthrow and then mismanaging the post-Morsi period. They further rejected their leaders’ calls for a patient, long-term struggle against Egypt’s military-backed government. They advocated instead for revolutionary—and violent—tactics to destabilize the government sooner rather than later.

Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi reacts behind bars at a court in the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, May 16, 2015. He recently received the death penalty, along with over 100 other Muslim Brotherhood members, in connection with a mass jail break in 2011. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

The Brotherhood’s leaders also lost control over its younger members within Egypt, who launched a low-profile insurgency to undermine Egypt’s economy and topple the current regime.  “There are things we’re not allowed

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