Why Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood isn't the Islamic bogeyman
Western fears of Islamist takeover in post-Mubarak Egypt are unfounded. During recent protests, the Muslim Brotherhood has demonstrated a commitment to peaceful political participation. The US now has an opportunity to support a truly democratic Egypt, including the Brotherhood.
Chicago and Geneva, New York
Before Egyptians had the chance to properly celebrate their tremendous victory and wake up to the first morning of a new Egypt, they were met with predictable concerns that Egypt is on the brink of an Islamist takeover. Western (particularly American) policymakers and pundits remain worried that Egypt’s largest Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, will hijack the inspirational revolution that brought an end to Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year tyranny, and will lead Egypt down the path of Iran-style theocracy.Skip to next paragraph
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By now, careful observers will know that these fears are unfounded on multiple levels. The protests were not led by the Muslim Brotherhood, which only joined them after they had been going on for days. The Brotherhood itself is not the bloodthirsty threat to liberty its enemies would have us believe. And the process of engaging in collective action may actually have deepened some of the internal fissures within the party’s leadership, making it unlikely to “dominate” Egypt’s future in any single, clear direction.
The Brotherhood is an organization whose leadership’s main aim is to retain the ability to influence the shape of Egyptian society. This means that it will need to work with the military, along with Egyptians of all political backgrounds, to navigate a period of martial law before anticipated reforms take effect. Throughout this period, we should expect the Brotherhood to do what it has so often done: to work with, not against, the people whom it represents.
Over the past few weeks, those people have unequivocally told the Brotherhood, as they have told Mr. Mubarak, the Americans, and anyone who will listen, that they are finished with authoritarianism. On the barricades, they also rejected the logic of sectarianism. Brotherhood activists were among the many Muslims who protected Christians – and were protected by them – during the prayers in Tahrir Square and elsewhere that so eloquently and persistently spoke for freedom.
Some members of the Brotherhood participated in negotiations with Vice President Suleiman, and pledged their support for Mohamed ElBaradei as a part of the National Association for Change, while others remained in the streets and in Tahrir, demanding no negotiation before Mubarak was gone. In other words, it is an organization that is responsive to its constituents’ demands, but tactically divided in its pursuit of them.