Egypt Independent

Osama Dorra: The voice of an angry former Brother



“We, Muslim Brotherhood youth, were banned and chained. And we weren't better off within the group. They [group leaders] always perceived the youth as less wise and less capable. They couldn't entrust us with the group matters. They always thought we were fragile and could be easily manipulated…. But now, after what happened in Tahrir Square, everyone saw that these enthusiastic youth could do what the elderly couldn’t.”

With these poignant words, Osama Dorra, a young Muslim Brotherhood member who recently resigned from the group, depicts in his recent book, the generational tension that the success of Egypt’s 18-day uprising has unleashed within the nation’s largest political organization.

After almost ten years as a devout Brother, the 27-year-old accountant declares unequivocally his disillusionment with Egypt’s oldest Islamist organization in From the Muslim Brotherhood to Tahrir Square. In dozens of vignettes, the author reflects on this transformative experience, which unleashed his cohorts and allowed young Brothers to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

Meanwhile, Dorra directs his anger at the group’s old guard, accusing the older, entrenched leadership of dogmatism and inflexibility. In one of his clips, Dorra seeks to downplay the role of the group’s leaders during the revolution by intimating that the Brotherhood youth had acted on their own when they took to the streets on 25 January – the first day of the revolution. With this claim, the author indirectly confirms earlier reports saying that Islamist youth acted against the will of their leaders who were reluctant to back up the protests for fear of regime retaliation. Then, the leadership had to catch up with the younger members who proved capable of changing facts on the ground, says Dorra in his book.

Although the book is harshly critical of the older Brothers, the author gives them credit for acting “wisely” during the rest of the revolution’s 18 days by sending assurances to society and the West that they had no intention to hijack the uprising. However, after Mubarak stepped down, the group reverted to the same old pattern of mixing religion with politics, according to Dorra.

Dorra’s book was first released in April, at a remarkably critical juncture for the Brotherhood. While the old brothers won the recognition of the military for the group after decades of persecution and an official ban, they couldn’t silence rising voices of discontent within their ranks.

For the first time, young Brothers echoed, in public, resilient demands for internal reforms that would ensure better representation of their generation in the group’s decision-making bodies and the development of a more sophisticated political outlook. Most of these young cadres refused to join the group’s newly approved Freedom and Justice Party insisting that the party should have been totally independent form the Brotherhood’s proselytizing bodies.

The group’s stalwarts turned a deaf ear to these demands, accusing the youth of acting against the organization's will. Despite this reaction, most of the angry youth still refuse to resign from the group and remain apologetic for their leaders.

Dorra decided to be more confrontational. In May, he resigned from the group, citing his dissatisfaction with the organization's insistence on keeping its religious and political activities interwoven.

“I declared my stance clearly when I disagreed with the group’s leadership,” Dorra told Al-Masry Al-Youm, blaming other young Brothers for their ambivalent positions.

“There are members who deal with the group as if it was their family or tribe despite their disagreement with its leaders. No matter what, they don’t want to leave… Those, who feel that the group doesn’t realize their ambitions should leave.”

Dorra was born and raised in the Delta province of Damietta. He was first introduced to the Brotherhood ideology in high school through one of his classmates.

“I was pious even before I came in contact with the Brotherhood. But I realized that my belonging to the group would help me remain religious. I learned a lot from the Muslim Brotherhood and I feel indebted to my teachers inside the group. However, now I find the group too tight to contain me,” Dorra said.

From the Muslim Brotherhood to Tahrir Square is Dorra’s second work criticizing the 83-year-old organization. Last year, he compiled many of his Facebook notes in a book titled I speak from within the Muslim Brotherhood. These notes drew  a lot of attention as a unique insider’s testimony of the group’s flaws.

With an exceptionally poetic style, Dorra reflects on a set of sensitive issues including the position of youth within the organization and the strained relations between the Brotherhood and the rest of society. He criticizes the group’s self-victimizing discourse and argues that the Brothers were causing more harm than benefit to Islam by claiming that they were the sole representatives of true faith.

In the same book, Dorra seeks to challenge stereotypes of Brotherhood members. While the Brothers are commonly perceived as strictly conservative males, Dorra’s book draws a more realistic and humane portrait. By sharing some of his romantic memoirs and reflections with the reader, Dorra presents the Brother as an ordinary man who can fall in love, desire women and commit sins.

“I was aware that people didn’t know the Brotherhood youth well enough,” Dorra writes. “They perceive us as a bunch of religious youth with light beards on their faces… They don’t know how these youth live, think, make mistakes, love, desire…I only wanted people to see us as we are and learn that we are human beings made of blood and flesh…”

Although his first book was no less critical of the group, the context was different. While his recent work comes at a juncture where the author is burning bridges, Dorra’s first book stood as a self-critique manifesto that aimed at self-improvement. In the preface, the author dedicates the book to “the Muslim Brotherhood, my group which I adore and to which I address a friendly reproach.”

Now as Dorra has officially broken with the Brotherhood, he is monitoring emerging political parties hoping to find one that he relates to and could eventually join.