Finding A Place For The Muslim Brotherhood

Anti Morsi Protest in Down Town Cairo

Daniel Levy warns of the consequences that will follow if Egypt does not give room to the Islamist voice of the Muslim Brotherhood within Egyptian democracy:

But perhaps the greatest set back this coup has delivered is to the democratic Islamist project itself, without which, stable, open, inclusive and rule based governance is unlikely to take root. A democracy for everyone except Islamists will be handicapped and ultimately fail in a country like Egypt with a large community of religious believers and in which the Brotherhood is a popular and socially-embedded movement. President Morsi and large segments of the Brotherhood, after long periods of harsh persecution and after difficult internal debates, ultimately endorsed the democratic electoral process. That decision just had sand kicked in its face, and by the bucketful, undermining the movement’s more democratic wing and empowering its more radical wing.

I’ve always felt like this was a no-win scenario for Egypt since Islamic fanatics loath the very idea of a democracy to begin with, and are beset with finding ways to subvert and coerce it. But Levy raises an important point: the Muslim Brotherhood still enjoys a heck of a lot of support in Egypt, and will not simply go away because they’ve been uprooted from the leadership.

Larison echoes Levy:

The coup will give many Islamists in other countries a clear lesson that they may as well not participate in any political process. Even if Egyptian Islamists don’t resort to violence in opposition to the coup and the next government, potentially creating yet another cause for jihadist recruitment, some Islamists in other countries may conclude that taking up arms is the only way left available to them.

Yes but would Egyptian Islamists ever acquiesce to a secular constitution that stressed tolerance, open-mindedness, and pluralism? I don’t see it. The first thing Morsi and the MB did when they came into power was to imbed Salafist sentiment in their soon-to-be revoked constitution.

But that’s where the no-win scenario becomes a serious dilemma: if the Muslim Brotherhood are involved in the democratic process, they may very well try to hijack it again, and if they are excluded, it will almost certainly lead to a civil war where tens of thousands will die, and where Egypt will be destabilized for years. And if the bloody last couple of days are any indication of things to come, it’s going to be a tumultuous year for Egyptians.

(photo by Gigi Ibrahim)

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