CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood believes Western governments fully supported the military overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi, a decision it says will fuel hatred towards the United States and Europe and ultimately backfire on them.
Mohamed El-Beltagi, a senior Brotherhood politician, said everyone would lose, including the West, from violence that could result from the removal of Mursi - Egypt’s first freely elected head of state who served just one year in office.
“We feel, with great regret, that the international community is somehow intervening in recognition and support of the military coup,” Beltagi told Reuters in an interview.
“This restores the state of hatred towards those European and American nations whose states always stand with despotic regimes against nations looking for freedom,” he added.
His remarks point to Islamist anger at Western states over their failure to punish the military for toppling Mursi in a move spurred on by mass protests against his rule.
Beltagi also flagged concerns that Mursi’s removal would trigger violence by Islamists who would see no point in democratic processes that the mainstream Brotherhood had worked hard to bring them into.
To the Islamists, the West’s policy towards Mursi’s removal marks a return to the double standards of the Hosni Mubarak era. During his 30 years in power, Egypt received billions of dollars of aid from Europe and the United States, but made little or no progress towards democracy.
Both the United States and the European Union have refrained from calling the army’s removal of Mursi a coup - a label that would likely result in sanctions against a country of vital strategic importance, sitting at the crossroads of three continents and bordering Israel.
The United States, which donates $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year, expressed “deep concern”.
And the European Union, Egypt’s biggest civilian donor, called for a speedy return to democratic process.
But neither condemned the takeover. The army says it was responding to the popular will - a view echoed by liberal and leftist groups.
Beltagi said Europe and America had shown themselves to be “supporters of despotism, and supporters of oppression”. Accepting the legitimacy of the army takeover was tantamount to accepting the “law of the jungle”, he said.
He was speaking at a Muslim Brotherhood protest camp outside a mosque in northeast Cairo. The group has said it will stay in the street until Mursi returns to the presidency. The alternative, it says, is passive resistance until death.
“Our bare chests are stronger than bullets,” said Beltagi.
Several of the group’s top leaders have been arrested since Mursi was toppled and detained by the army.
Beltagi said he had narrowly avoided arrest two days ago when around a dozen men in plain clothes had tried to snatch him from the protest. They were stopped by Brotherhood supporters.
“I am here, I will not leave,” he said.
After Mubarak was swept from power in 2011, Western states engaged the Brotherhood - a banned movement under Mubarak - and recognized Mursi as a democratically elected leader.
U.S. policy towards the Brotherhood angered its liberal opponents, who accused Washington of cozying up to the group.
Now, it is the other way around: the Islamists are accusing Washington of siding with the liberals. Some even go as far as claiming the United States had a role in what happened.
Responding to such claims, President Barack Obama said on Saturday the United States was not taking sides.
While the Brotherhood “has not and will not resort to violence”, Beltagi has warned that Mursi’s ouster risks pushing other Islamists to use force, echoing concern that it will radicalize youths angered by the failure of democracy.
He said: “When they see that the democratic experience has been quashed within one year ... and that constitutions have no value ... it could push others to despair and then violence in which I think everyone will lose, including the Western powers.”
Editing by Mike Collett-White