Egypt's government crosses a red line
It was a red line that even the Mubarak regime would not cross - the arrest of the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. The organisation itself was outlawed and tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members were imprisoned in the Mubarak years - but the detention of the General Guide himself was apparently never contemplated as it was regarded as too incendiary an act.
The General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood is far more than the most senior of administrative positions within the organisation - he is also regarded as a role model for members, a man of unimpeachable integrity, strong moral code, and above all, the deepest religious faith. The General Guide is supposed to embody the social and religious values that drive the Muslim Brotherhood not just in Egypt but around the world.
Mohamed Badie has held the position of General Guide since 2011 - and in his public pronouncements at least has advanced the idea of a tolerant and moderate organisation. Even in the heated atmosphere of a mass rally held to protest the military takeover of government at the beginning of July he had this to say - “Our revolution is peaceful, and will remain peaceful, and God willing our peacefulness is stronger than their bullets”.
During the period the government of Mohamed Morsi was in power Badie gave the appearance of being more politically moderate than the president who had once been one of his followers in the Muslim Brotherhood. Voting during the referendum on a controversial new constitution he told reporters: “We should have dialogue by speaking kindly to each other. There can be no dialogue through the throwing of stones, or with bullets, or by using guns”.
Yet this is the man who now stands accused of inciting violence leading to the deaths of hundreds of people, including his own son, Ammar, who was shot by police while demonstrating at Ramses Square in Cairo a few days ago.
The message being sent out by the interim government and its military backers in this arrest is very clear and final - there will be no dialogue.
Along with his Deputy General Guide, Khairat el-Shater, and other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders Badie will appear in a Cairo court on August 25. He is being held in the same prison as the man that his organisation helped bring down in the revolution two and half years ago - Hosni Mubarak.