Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Muslim Brotherhood in Denial (not just a river in Egypt)

There's a lot to say about what's going on in Egypt, and a lot of great analysis out there. So I will simply re-post here a status I had on Facebook which I think sums up on the high-level the situation:

Today in #Egypt there are uncountable millions on the streets demonstrating in rebellion (#tamarod) against a President that the people democratically elected. And the military under their reconstituted form (i.e. SCAF) have backed their play and essentially called for a 'roadmap' towards an orderly transition. This is just 30 months after #Tahrir Square came to the world's attention when the then dictator for 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was forced to step-down from power. So it is a little confusing. Adding to the confusion..The party in power is the Freedom and Justice Party, or Muslim Brotherhood. The people in Tahrir? Most of them Muslims, many devout, and still opposed to their so-called Brothers. Somewhat allies of the youth-driven, secular (not same as atheist) political opposition are the Salafists (Al Nour Party) or more conservative Muslims, who find themselves also calling for the President to step down. What should we make of all this? Some people may take this to mean that this is a strike against the role of Islam in government in the Arab world. Perhaps, but likely we won't see the same movement - yet - in Tunisia or Yemen and we now have a long ways to go in whatever Syria ends up (thanks to Assad & his enablers from all sides). Essentially, this ended up being a transaction between people and those in power. The Brotherhood in Egypt didn't fail because it started to ban alcohol or force women to wear Niqabs; no they failed because they failed to govern effectively. They failed to protect women in the streets from sexual assault. They failed to protect logically Egypt's interests with foreign countries like Ethiopia. They failed to stabilize an economy with any plan whatsoever. They failed to realize that appointing a member of a foreign terrorist organization that killed tourists in the 1990s to the position of Governor in a province that depends on tourism was a bad idea. The Brotherhood failed in Egypt not because they were Muslim - for their opponents are also Muslim - but because they failed to improve the lives of the very people that elected them. But here's the rub...and it's three-fold. First, removing them from power through the military's might could set back the country for decades to come. Only a negotiated democratic roadmap should be accepted. Second, the end of President Morsi's tenure, does not and should not mean the end of the Brotherhood. They are still Egyptian, will still be Egyptian, and will still have the support of many people. They are part of the political fabric of the country. And finally, the fact that the Brotherhood fails does not mean that the patchwork National Salvation Front - i.e. the Opposition - will succeed. Thus far their alliance is based on opposition to something rather than a coherent ideology. Moreover, their ideas for economic development and governance are no more clear, practical, or informed than the Brotherhood's. And so we end up with one takeaway, and this is applicable to all 'transition' countries. There will always be backsliding and regression in post-revolution environments. The key is to self-correct and aim to go two steps forward and one step backwards, rather than the other way around. Good luck to all our friends in #Egypt. They'll need it.

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