From Marcus Benigno, Cairo, Egypt
Photo by Marcus F. Benigno
CAIRO – The recent election of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi marks an outward shift from the 30-year rule by his ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak. But as the Supreme Council of Armed Forces relinquished its transitional power to the Islamist president last week, members of the largest religious minority expressed concern.
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Emad Gad, a former member of the dissolved parliament, spoke about the Coptic vote in the recent elections and his mistrust in the Muslim Brotherhood, the influential group supporting Morsi and the Freedom and Justice Party.
“Not only Copts, but also the middle class and moderate people are afraid of the future,” Gad says. “They are afraid that the Muslim Brothers will do anything to change the identity of Egypt.”
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Liberal youth formed the crux of the revolutionaries that took to the streets of Cairo to oust President Hosni Mubarak. Once toppled, Islamist parties in Egypt seemed to take over the political process. Islamist parties form the majority of members in parliament with a large say on the forming of a new constitution. Where did the liberals go? Why were they defeated so soundly in elections and have the Islamists hijacked the revolution?
Egyptian blogger Mahmoud Salem, better known by his nom de plume “Sandmonkey” spoke at the Washington Institute and shared his perspectives on the upcoming Egyptian elections and why there don’t seem to be any viable liberal candidates in the running. He is a longtime analyst of Egyptian political affairs and advocate for free speech. He also ran as a parliamentary candidate last year on the ticket of the Free Egyptians party.
He believes that the street movements were largely disorganized. Leftists have no candidates because they have not created a message that connects with the public at large. These civil and secular groups need to do a better job “modernizing their rhetoric” to appeal to large groups that are fundamentally Islamist and have lived the better part of their lives under a one-party system. The economy, corruption and security are the real issues that have to be dealt with forthright with new ideas and platforms that can appeal to the masses.
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One year later in Tahrir square, Zeinab Mohamed (via Flickr)
Delegates from the Freedom and Justice Party, a group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, arrived in Washington DC this week to meet with White House officials, members of Congress, media and the general public to discuss their plans for what they wish to accomplish in the Middle East. At Georgetown University, they discussed issues such as women’s rights, religious minorities and the role of Islam in government. From NPR:
“It’s not necessarily just a PR campaign, but mainly we would like to get to know one another more,” said Dr. Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, a lawmaker who is part of the delegation. He said it’s “very important to understand the American concerns and they understand our aspirations as Egyptians, after the Egyptian revolution.”
The Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as a powerful force in Egypt’s political landscape. They control more than two-thirds of parliamentary seats. They recently announced that they would present a candidate in the presidential elections of Egypt, breaking away from a pledge not to do so. Officials in Washington are concerned that Islamic governments, such as the ones that emerged in Egypt and Tunisia and Morocco may have an agenda very different from relationships previously established.
America Abroad’s Katherine Lanpher speaks with Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at the Brookings Doha Center, and Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, about whether and how the US should engage with Islamists. Read more »
Photo by FreedomHouse2 (via Flickr)
Officials from the Syrian government are saying that they have begun to draw-down its troops in advance of the April 10th deadline coordinated by U.N. international envoy Kofi Annan. The truce requires that Syrian forces withdraw from cities and towns and observe a cease-fire. Rebels would also put down their arms and hopes are high that this will lead to talks on a political solution.
According to Reuters, hardline Sunni Muslims in Lebanon are maneuvering for influence over Syrians across the border who have spent the last year fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad. As opposition groups abroad squabble over politics and Assad’s army pounds rebellious cities, Muslim hardliners want to make religion the unifying basis of the revolt.
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament began drawing up a no-confidence motion against the military-appointed government Thursday, further escalating the Islamists’ increasingly public power struggle with the country’s ruling generals. The Muslim Brotherhood holds almost half the seats in parliament and wants to form a new government.
Across the Arab world, Islamist parties are taking power. After last year’s pan-Arab wave of revolutions, Islamists swept elections is Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco. They’re expected to win again if there are votes in Libya, Yemen and Syria. Islamists already dominate politics in Lebanon, control the Gaza strip and rule Iran. But do Islamists want to be dictators or democratizers? What does their new authority mean for the the future of the Middle East? Read more on America Abroad’s Rise of the Islamists »