|Egyptian President Gamal Abd al-Nasser|
Gamal Abd al-Nasser was speaking to a large crowd in Alexandria on October 26, 1954 when eight gun shots rang out. Nasser heard the bullets whizzing past his ears. Happily for him, the gunman, Mahmoud Abd al-Latif, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a bad shot even at close range. Those seated on the dais heard popping sounds as the bullets struck an electric light above. Nasser didn't flinch. Interrupting his prepared speech, he cried out, "'Let them kill Nasser. What is Nasser but one among many? My fellow countrymen, stay where you are. I am not dead, I am alive, and even if I die all of you is Gamal Abd al-Nasser.'" (Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, The Cairo Documents, Doubleday, New York, 1973, 25. See also Peter Mansfield, Nasser, Methuen Educational Limited, London, 1969, 88.)
Nasser had begun rounding up Communists in droves in 1954. By the end of the year two hundred were behind bars. After the attempt on his life, he went to work on the Muslim Brotherhood, and within a couple of weeks five hundred Brothers were also in jail. (See Anthony Nutting, Nasser, Dutton, New York, 1972, 73; also Keith Kyle, Suez, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1991, 53.)
In addition to viewing Nasser as a secularist, the Brothers had a more specific grievance. On October 1, 1954, he had signed a new agreement with Great Britain extending the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 for five years. The terms stipulated that if Turkey was attacked, Great Britain had the right to re-enter Egypt. The Muslim Brothers denounced Nasser for selling Egypt out to the West yet again just as leaders before him had done. This was the context for the assassination attempt on October 26.
Some regarded Nasser's reaction to the bullets whizzing around him on October 26 as a bit too cool, and his remark about all of Egypt being Nasser as too conveniently in line with state propaganda: they suspected him of staging the assassination attempt. "How could the gunman have fired so many shots at such close range and missed?," some asked, "How could Nasser have kept his cool and continued his flow of rhetoric without interruption?"
If the event had been staged, it had been well staged; perhaps, the assassin himself might have said, too well. Later that year on December 9, he and five leaders of the Brotherhood were hanged. (See Joel Gordon, Nasser's Blessed Movement: Egypt's Free Officers and the July Revolution, Oxford University Press, New York, 1992, 4.)