Egyptian Gov't Declares Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is certainly not having a very merry Christmas: the country's interim government declared the group a terrorist organization today, dealing the final blow to the organization's short-lived foray into the democratic process. Under the new decree, all of the groups activities — including membership and financing — have been criminalized, the most severe attack on the organization since the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president, Mohammed Morsi, was unseated in a July 3 coup.

The decision came after a suicide bombing in the Nile Delta near a police headquarters killed 16 people and wounded more than 100, according to Deputy Prime Minister Hossam Eissa. "Egypt was horrified from north to south by the hideous crime committed by the Muslim Brotherhood group," said Eissa. "This was in context of dangerous escalation to violence against Egypt and Egyptians and a clear declaration by the Muslim Brotherhood group that it still knows nothing but violence. It's not possible for Egypt the state nor Egypt the people to submit to the Muslim Brotherhood terrorism."

The Brotherhood has never been popular with more secular-oriented Egyptian forces. It was rarely allowed to partake in the electoral process, and after a time the Brotherhood reinvented itself as a social services organization, not a political party. More than just a political force, the Brotherhood became a social movement. As the saying goes, you draw more flies with honey, and the Brotherhood was fairly successful with its offerings to the Egyptian public. When it came to elections after the Arab Spring, their victory was perhaps even unsurprising given the historical context.

But at the same time, any time the group was actively persecuted, its members radicalized. The difference is clear between the generations of its leadership: Hassan al-Banna's more moderate rhetoric against Sayyid Qutb's more violent screed. It's not clear what effect Wednesday's ruling will have on the Brotherhood, but the military-backed leadership — which gained power in what the United States refuses to officially label a coup — has been cracking down on the Brotherhood for months. Previously, the government had banned the group — a step that today's decree took even further.

For its part, the Brotherhood took to Twitter to spread its message on Wednesday: