Egyptian Military Coup Angers Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt is divided after Wednesday's military coup forced out President Mohamed Morsi. Cairo-based journalist Ashraf Khalil, an Egyptian-American and a contributor to Time magazine, tells Renee Montagne that the Muslim Brotherhood party has threatened violence and that the threat is very real.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood said today, that they will not take up arms in response to the coup that ended their political rule of Egypt. Still, the anger on the street may not be entirely under their control. Earlier, we reached Ashraf Khalil in Cairo. He's an Egyptian-American journalist and contributor to Time magazine. Good morning.

ASHRAF KHALIL: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, we just heard, in Leila Fadel's piece, about the deep anger among Egyptian Islamists over the ouster of Morsi and also the Muslim Brotherhood from power. How real is their threat of violence?

KHALIL: I think it's very real. I spent some time at the pro-Morsi rally yesterday afternoon, about an hour before the deadline passed and a few hours before the military made its move and people were telling me that we are willing to die. They are willing to fight for this president, for the legitimacy that he represents to them. One man told me, very persuasively, that there will be blood on the streets and it will be on the defense minister's hands. It's not on us anymore. They feel very sincere that they tried, they voted and that they were sold some sort of fraudulent vision of democracy. The way the Brotherhood is going to react in the next day or so is the most pressing question in Egypt right now.

MONTAGNE: Well, looking to the other side of things, what is - if there is one - the political future of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt right now?

KHALIL: There are people that are trying to kind of, like, bring the brothers off the ledge and coax them back into the national family, so to speak. But there's also an equal contingent that wants to see them just wiped off the political map. And they're being cracked down on right now.

MONTAGNE: Give us a couple of concrete examples of what Morsi did that brought these huge crowds of protestors out against him and the Muslim Brotherhood.

KHALIL: A tremendous amount of it goes back to the way that the constitution was handled - the drafting of the constitution, the ratification of the constitution - opposition people complained bitterly that the policies have been isolationist, that the Brotherhood has been playing a zero-sum game, that rather than try to reform elements like the state media, elements like the interior ministry, they just wanted to co-opt the existing Hosni Mubarak-era levers of power. I was very personally struck by the number of people I've interviewed in the past year, who when you talked to them a year ago - we're talking about moderate activists - who are the ones saying no, no, give him a chance. Let's try to work with him. And I've watched so many of these people transition over the past year, from let's give him a chance to, well, I'm really disappointed with how he's handling things to this man has to go immediately.

MONTAGNE: With Morsi, was there among the protestors a serious concern that if he stayed in power he would become what they had just gotten rid of in Mubarak, and that is a dictator of sorts?

KHALIL: Absolutely. And perhaps most dangerous. And that's one of the reasons why there was this push to get him out now, rather than wait for elections. And the way he was going, they thought he would just get better at rigging the game that they couldn't wait any longer.

MONTAGNE: Looking around you there in Cairo, how divided is Egypt at this moment in time?

KHALIL: Very divided, and along a couple of different lines. You have this primary Brotherhood versus secularists - not even Islamists versus secularists because some of the Islamists are now with the secularists - against the Brotherhood. So, you have this primary divide. But then among the anti-Morsi forces, there's a lot of people that wanted to see Morsi go, but are completely horrified at the way the anti-Morsi forces embraced the military maneuvers. There's - I know a lot of people who wanted to see Morsi go but wanted to see it done by a completely civilian people-power push, similar to how the original revolution started and that really did not want this kind of partnership between the military and the secular activists.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us again.

KHALIL: My pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Speaking to us from Cairo, Ashraf Khalil. He's author of the book "Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation."

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