Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/12

22

Re: 72% of Egypt’s parliament is Islamist

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Inspired by Razib’s earlier post, I put this up on the Corner:

Via the New York Times:

CAIRO — Egyptian authorities confirmed Saturday that a political coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the 84-year-old group that virtually invented political Islam, had won about 47 percent of the seats in the first Parliament elected since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. An alliance of ultraconservative Islamists won the next largest share of seats, about 25 percent.

The tally, with the two groups of Islamists together winning about 70 percent of the seats, indicates the deep cultural conservatism of the Egyptian public, which is expressing its will through free and fair elections for the first time in more than six decades.

This result only goes to underline the mistake made by Mubarak (an American ally now on trial for his life, a fate that must send an interesting message to other leaders in the region still prepared to work alongside the US) in ceding so much of Egypt’s cultural space to the men in the mosque. Turkey’s Ataturk knew better.

Over at Secular Right Razib Khan has an acid response to this news:

Nevertheless I do recall back in the heady days of the Arab Spring some commenters infected by revolutionary fervor would scoff that the purported Islamist sympathies of the people. What this goes to show is that enthusiasm and hope does not translate into reality. If secular liberals in Egypt bow before the principle of popularity, then they accept that it is right and proper that their present their throats to their new overlords. I don’t view this as an apocalypse. It is what it is. But it was predictable.

The Times notes:

A coalition of parties founded by the young leaders of the revolt that unseated Mr. Mubarak won only a few percent of the seats…

Predictable indeed: revolutions have been devouring their children for a long time.

If there is any glimmer of hope, however faint, it lies in the divisions between Muslim Brotherhood and the ultras.

The two groups have described very different visions and appear to be rivals rather than collaborators. The Brotherhood has said it intends to respect personal liberties and will focus on economic and social issues, gradually nudging the culture toward its conservative values. By contrast, the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, put a higher priority on legislation on Islamic moral issues, like the consumption of alcohol, women’s dress and the contents of popular culture.

Even if we accept the Muslim Brotherhood’s reassurances at face value (a stretch, to put it mildly), something (not least their own history) tells me that it will see the greater threat to its position as coming from the Salafists, and will thus tack strongly in their direction.

I hope I’m wrong.

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5 comments

  • John · January 22, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Mubarak wasn’t going to live forever, and our previous policy of trying to keep friendly strongmen in power in the Middle East was unsustainable. As much as we don’t like the Muslim Brotherhood, this is a necessary step in Egypt’s political development. They will do some harm, and make some mistakes, but at least they are learning how to govern themselves. If England had become a full democracy in the year 1200, it wouldn’t have been a pretty picture, either.

    As long as they don’t build nukes or sponsor terrorism, I’m willing to let them be.

  • Conrad · January 22, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    OK, you don’t like the outcome of the post-revolutionary democratic process. What’s your point? That Egyptians therefore are incapable of managing their own affairs?

    I too admired Ataturk’s attitude towards the Ulema. But no one lives forever, and unless the secularist inclination takes root in a society, it can wither away after the death of it’s great proponent. The association of Mubarak with the secular impulse has discredited it in Egypt, at least for now. And thus the election results. Even in Turkey there is evidence of a drift back to public piety. Such things don’t happen in America?

  • D · January 23, 2012 at 2:43 am

    I’m no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood, but I believe an Iranian style, death-to-America jihadist government is unlikely. Mubarak was not nearly as identified with the west as the Shah, and fundamentally the biggest issue in Egypt is the economy.

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 23, 2012 at 2:50 am

    iran gets its $ from oil. egypt gets it from the USA. that is a huge difference. as a point of fact i think one can argue that the muslim brotherhood is more social conservatism than the iranian shia regime. but less radical and revolutionary in its politics.

  • H · January 23, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I think the point is that western journalists and academics have done a terrible job in covering the Arab uprisings – they’re constantly surprised whenever the predictable happens and voters chose Muslim Brotherhood or Salafists. They’re less reporters and more pro-democracy advocates, which makes for lousy journalism.

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