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Egypt's victorious Islamists and the future of political Islam (2)
Egypt's victorious Islamists and the future of political Islam (2)

In this part, we will try to examine the concerns about the victory of Islamists, the roots of these concerns, approaches of foreign media and countries which have dreams in the region like U.S. and Israel , and in this context, the transformation of political Islam concept.

By İsmail Duman, World Bulletin

In the first part of this analysis, we gave place to some information and quotations about the development process of elections, the results of elections, the questions which wait to be answered and the structures, approaches and the programs of two leading Islamic party, Freedom and Justice Party and Al-Nour Party.

In this part, we will try to examine the concerns about the victory of Islamists, the roots of these concerns, approaches of foreign media and countries which have dreams in the region like U.S. and Israel , and in this context, the transformation of political Islam concept.

Concerns about the victory of Islamist

“For the army, it(Muslim Brotherhood) threatens the future of peace with Israel and cooperation with America. For their part, liberals hate their oppressive moralism.” says Jorg Luyken. “For this reason, it seems that the current round of protests and the backlash against them are both intended to delay the transfer of power to a government with a popular mandate. In this sense the youth coalition and the army are brothers in arms. Both secular and elitist in nature, what they fear most is not each other but the rise of a popular Islamist government.”

On the other hand, International Christian Concern(ICC) puts into words its anxieties: Islamists would gain control of the country in wake of the revolution that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak.

According to ICC, many Christians are concerned that an Islamist majority in the parliament will use its power to base the constitution on Sharia law, greatly restricting the rights of non-Muslims, especially Christians. “Most disconcerting for Coptic Christians is that one in four Egyptians opted for the ultraconservative Salafists, whose interpretation of Islam derives from Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. In post-revolution Egypt, Salafists have been accused of committing several attacks against Egypt’s Christian minority, including the torching of a church and the killing of twelve Christians in the Imbaba district of Cairo on May 7. Many Christians fear that laws instituted by Salafists will be similar to those enforced under the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

“Salafists want to apply the laws of early Islam from 1400 years ago in the 21st century,” Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub told ICC. “They believe in cutting the hands off people who steal and stoning adulteress women. They are Wahhabis. If they rule Egypt, it will become like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Salafists are one of the largest threats to Christians in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is also very dangerous, but the difference is that Salafists don’t negotiate. They are straightforward. They want to kill.”

What are the opinions of Islamists about these concerns?

In contrast to these concerns, the languages of Islamic parties are very soft and reconciliatory. As Zvi Bar’el says, Mohammed Mursi, head of the Freedom and Justice party, has already rushed to declare that if the Muslim Brotherhood heads a future government, it will be as broad a coalition government as possible. This declaration is not only meant to calm the liberal and secular currents in Egypt, as well as the Copts and the military.

“The Muslim Brotherhood, at least according to their declarations, would prefer to form a coalition with political parties that represent the revolution and liberals, as opposed to the Salafis.” he wrote. “And even so, they will have to reach an understanding with the army, in order to guarantee its support, not only in the government that they will form, but also in the constitution that will be drafted after the elections.”

In addition to this, the leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said he is prepared to compromise with the ruling military on the formation of a new government, and that fears of the "Islamization" of the country are overblown. "We must live in harmony not only with the military council, but with all of Egypt's factions, or else the conclusion is zero," Badie told the private Al-Mehwar TV station. "There will be reconciliation between the three powers: the parliament, the government and the military ruling council."

Moreover, the deputy head of the Brotherhood's new political party, Essam el-Erian, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Saturday that the group is not interested in imposing Islamic values on Egypt, home to a sizable Christian minority and others who object to being subject to strict Islamic codes.

"We represent a moderate and fair party," el-Erian said of his Freedom and Justice Party. "We want to apply the basics of Shariah law in a fair way that respects human rights and personal rights," he said, referring to Islamic law.

Furthermore, Thomas L. Friedman explains the opinion of al-Nour Party as follows:

“Nader Bakkar, a spokesman for Al Nour, insisted that his party would move cautiously. ‘We are the guardians of Shariah,’ he told me, referring to Islamic law, ‘and we want people to be with us on the same principles, but we have an open door to all the intellectuals in all fields.’ He said his party’s economic model was Brazil. ‘We don’t like the theocratic model,’ he added. ‘I can promise you that we will not be another dictatorship, and the Egyptian people will not give us a chance to be another dictatorship.’”

According to the news of Today’s Zaman, Salafi Islamist Al-Nour Party's leader Dr. Emad Eddin Abdul Gafur said Tuesday that they desired a stronger and more comprehensive cooperation with Turkey.

"The peoples of our two countries have love for each other and there is a friendship. We always wish to see strong cooperation between Turkey and Egypt," Dr. Abdul Gafur said.

We want to make use of Turkey's experiences. I hope that Turkey and Egypt strengthen their economic ties and establish a strong economic union in the region, Dr. Abdul Gafur noted.

In about the issue of tourism, Dr. Abdul Gafur also said that we are not against tourism. We wish for cultural tourism. We need to promote cultural tourism.

It is possible to find similar statements of Freedom and Justice Party which refers to Turkey. Here, looking at the reality of Turkish model can be very helpful in order to understand these reconciliatory statements and the process of transformation of political Islamists.

The Reality of Turkish model

“It is not a coincidence that at least one word of the names of the parties that come from political Islamist tradition in North Africa and Middle East is consisted of ‘justice’ and ‘development’.” says Assoc. Prof.Dr. Tarık Oğuzlu, ORSAM Advisor. “This situation demonstrates that the existing systems are unjust and that those parties, with a political Islamist pedigree, have a revolutionary spirit in their essences. To them, the general injustice in the society can only be cured through the creation of economic prosperity/welfare and its fair distribution across different societal segments.”

He itemizes for us what AKP-centered Turkish model stands for:

“In terms of domestic policies, the following can be said: the preservation of secular and democratic government style in a society where the majority of people are overwhelmingly Muslims; practicing Islam more freely and mainly as a religion and life style but while doing this taking an utmost care not to erode the secular and pluralistic characters of the government; emphasizing the idea that secularism is one of the general characteristics of the State rather than individuals and the consolidation of the view that the State should stand at an equal distance from all faiths; the evaluation of elected governments according to their performances in power and the strengthening of the idea that they would remain in power so long as they ensured the general prosperity of the people; the strengthening of the idea that coming to government and staying there would only become possible by winning elections and securing legitimacy in the eyes of the people; developing the ability of understanding the people, who are coming from different parts of the society and did not vote for them in elections, under the responsibility of being in the government.

In terms of foreign policies, the AKP-centered Turkish model idea entails the following: the desire of building cooperative relations with external actors based on mutual cooperation and common strategic interests; wearing off ideological glasses as much as possible while showing reactions to foreign developments and prioritizing pragmatic and realist motivations; making sure that the adoption of realist and pragmatic approaches does not stymie Turkey’s efforts to help institutionalize a regional and global order based on legitimacy and equality; defining national interests in a particular manner so that prosperity and security at home become intermingled with prosperity and security abroad; cultivating transnational relations in parallel to attempts at strengthening formal state-to-state relations; increasing efforts to legitimize foreign policy decisions in the eyes of the citizens of regional countries; strengthening of the idea that foreign political goals could only be achieved by winning over the public opinion in other countries; prioritizing economic, diplomatic and cultural instruments over hard power tools; internalizing the idea that the power of influencing other countries’ decisions and interests depend very much on the exhibited image abroad; believing that the success of foreign policies first and foremost stems from internal achievements; believing in the idea that ‘the ones who cannot put their house into order should not give advise to others’; instead of declaring other countries in advance as potential enemies or friends, pursuing foreign policies aiming at gaining friends; shying away from becoming part of regional polarizations as much as possible and if possible leaving the old ‘balances of power’ mentality behind.”

After this reminding, he notes that “saying that AKP-centered Turkey might be a model does never mean that the domestic and foreign policy characteristics of this model as mentioned above could be automatically applied to countries in the Middle East. In the final analysis, counties differ from each other in terms of their internal dynamics as well as particular role conceptualization they assign to themselves. For example; in some countries (as Egypt), the desire that the religion should play a more active role in social and political life might be conspicuous.”

At this point, Cihan Tugal objects the reality of the Turkish model:

“Even though there is frequent talk of a Turkish model for these countries, the new regime in that country is a mixed blessing. It appears that Turkey, under its conservative Justice and Development Party government, has been able to bring Islam and democracy together. It is also true that military control has diminished in Turkey over the last eight years, but this has been coupled by intensified police control and concentration of power in the executive. The separation of powers has been crippled as well. Moreover, structural adjustment has become even more aggressive, dramatically bringing down wages and boosting unemployment and poverty. While the Turkish security forces have been more restrained in comparison to those of other regimes in the region, there is no question that anti-‘structural adjustment’ protests will not be tolerated. A recent referendum (in September 2010) was celebrated worldwide because it further weakened the Turkish military. Yet, after September, the Turkish police have become more violent against protests that call pro-free-market reforms into question.

The likeliness of the Turkish scenario in Egypt is quite questionable. The actors of the Turkish process were pro-business Islamists, conservatives, (neo)liberals and right-wing nationalists. The major players in the Egyptian protests, by contrast, are leftists, (pro-labor) Islamists, and along with them liberals and left-wing nationalists. These groups are still gathering together, despite the dictator’s downfall, and working on their demands. While the higher Brotherhood leadership called for an end to the recent strikes, the mentioned coalition has not only supported the strikes, but also demanded higher wages and a wider social safety net for all Egyptians! I dread to think what techniques bequeathed from the old regime would have to be put in use to make all these strikers and young people remain silent when faced with a Turkish-style neoliberal semi-democratic rule.”

But, according to Nuh Yilmaz and Kadir Ustun, Turkish model can be very inspirational for the case of Egypt. “It can be argued that Turkey’s foreign policy activism in the Middle East contributed to the downfall of authoritarian regimes, by implicitly calling for the end of the ‘Camp David order’ and exposing repressive regimes that survived with the help of regional strategic arrangements related to the conflict with Israel. Turkey showed that it is possible to be democratic, have good relations with the West, and still stand up to unjust Israeli policies. Its ‘dignified’ stance was strengthened after the incident at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in 2009 in which Erdoğan stormed out of a discussion with Israeli President Shimon Peres about Israel’s war against Hamas.” they said. “In that vein, Egypt can play a positive role in integrating Islamist movements into the political structures in the region. Participation of Islamist parties in Egypt’s democracy can provide a model of greater diversity within Islamist movements, whose previous exclusion from official politics encouraged reactionary and sometimes extreme behavior on the part of a minority of Islamists. If Islamism is normalized, nascent Islamist administrations in the region will not feel marginalized and can pursue politics democratically. That may encourage the emergence of more independent, democratic Arab countries.”

Changing face of the Muslim Brotherhood

Talking about the Turkish model is not coincidence. This role-model represents the changing face of political Islam in the last period. Since the early of 21st century, the most popular Islamists began to play the game of politics by the rules and they transformed from radical(!) identities to moderate identities. So, today, we are talking about “Turkey as a model” idea turning into reality from perception. Of course, as one of the most important Islamic groups, the Muslim Brotherhood has Turkey’s share of moderation of political Islam. In this part, firstly, we will look at the past of them and then, their current positions.

As Bruce Riedel says, “The Muslim Brethren was founded in 1928 by Shaykh Hassan al Banna as an Islamic alternative to weak secular nationalist parties that failed to secure Egypt’s freedom from British colonialism after World War I. Banna preached a fundamentalist Islamism and advocated the creation of an Islamic Egypt, but he was also open to importing techniques of political organization and propaganda from Europe that rapidly made the Brotherhood a fixture in Egyptian politics. Branches of the Brotherhood grew across the Arab world. By World War 2, it became more violent in its opposition to the British and the British-dominated monarchy, sponsoring assassinations and mass violence. After the army seized power in 1952, it briefly flirted with supporting Gamal Abdel Nasser’s government but then moved into opposition. Nasser ruthlessly suppressed it.

Nasser and his successors, Anwar Sadat and Mubarak, have alternatively repressed and demonized the Brotherhood or tolerated it as an anti-communist and right-wing opposition. Technically illegal, it has an enormous social-welfare infrastructure that provides cheap education and health care.

The Egyptian Brotherhood renounced violence years ago, but its relative moderation has made it the target of extreme vilification by more radical Islamists. Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, started their political lives affiliated with the Brotherhood but both have denounced it for decades as too soft and a cat’s paw of Mubarak and America.”

But, today, we see very different İkhwan(Muslim Brotherhood) portrait. They prefer political struggle and they try to clean their radical(!) history.

“While there are legitimate concerns about the group's positions on both domestic and foreign policy, the Brotherhood of today is not the Brotherhood of yesterday.” says Shadi Hamid. “Decades ago, it renounced violence. More recently, the group has publicly committed itself, in Arabic, to many of the foundational components of democratic life, including alternation of power, popular sovereignty, and judicial independence. In its political programs, the Brotherhood has largely stripped its programs of traditional Islamist content. Where the Brotherhood once talked endlessly about ‘application of shariah law’ (tatbiq al-shariah), it now settles for vague expressions promoting Islamic values and morals. Meanwhile, its vocabulary has shifted from favoring an ‘Islamic state’ to a ‘civil, democratic state with an Islamic reference’.”

On the other hand, according to Sabrina M. Peterson, although it is true that Al Qaeda has roots in the more violent offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, today the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda have little in common. The two groups have very different ideas about how Islam should be interpreted, different views of how to enact reform, contrary opinions on the legitimacy of democracy and state boundaries, and, perhaps most significantly, opposing stances regarding violence.

“Like most Islamist movements, the Muslim Brotherhood has historically rejected democracy, but in the last couple of decades there has been a decisive shift toward accepting democracy as a legitimate way to enter the political arena.” he says. “The Muslim Brotherhood may have moved in a more moderate direction due to political calculations, but this does not delegitimize its commitment to democracy. Moderation will make the Brotherhood more successful politically.”

It means that today, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is a more democratic movement than many Westerners realize.”

Moreover, Shadi Hamid identifies a new Muslim Brotherhood as a very pragmatic. “The Brotherhood’s strategy is to try appeal to all different audiences simultaneously; they’re trying to be a big-tent party. But that means they’re trying to move to the right, they’re trying to move to the left, they’re trying to move to the center, they’re trying to appeal to the U.S., they’re trying to appeal to anti-American sentiment, they’re trying to advocate for a free market, but also social justice. That might sound very incoherent, but I think they’ve made incoherence into an art form, in a way. …” he says. “But, for example, in some parts of Egypt like the more rural areas, the Brotherhood is reasserting its religious rhetoric and credentials. They’re trying to go head to head with the Salafis and say we’re just as authentically Islamist as they are. But in Cairo, they’re more interested in putting forth a more sensible, moderate face to the public, because Cairo is a different constituency, or at least some parts of it are. It just depends who they’re talking to and what they want to do.”

A fear of new Iran

According to Shadi Hamid, in official Washington, the name of the Muslim Brotherhood conjures up fears of another Iran.

In these elections days, the Muslim Brotherhood argues its way out of this issue. “Brotherhood leaders have made a series of statements in recent days suggesting they are ready to put pragmatism ahead of ideology. They know the world is watching closely—and nervously.” Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Sobhi Saleh, a prominent Brotherhood figure, said: "The West looks at us like the Shia regime in Iran, but we aren't. We're much closer to the Turkish example."

As James Traub quotes, “When people hear the name Muslim Brotherhood, they think of terrorism and suicide bombings,” Magdy Ashour, who had been elected to parliament from a dismal slum at the furthest edge of Cairo conceded. “We want to establish the perception of an Islamic group cooperating with other groups, concerned about human rights. We do not want to establish a country like Iran, which thinks that it is ruling with a divine mandate. We want a government based on civil law, with an Islamic source of lawmaking.”

Here, it is required to bracket in order to understand the emphasis on Iran. As we know, Iran waved a greeting for Egyptian uprising and said that this revolution is the result of Iranian Islamic revolution. As Amani Maged mentions, Tehran is waiting until the new Egyptian parliament convenes and then discusses a bill to revive bilateral relations. “Tehran believes that Egypt's revival, in a new Islamic garb, will give extra support to Hamas and the Palestinian cause.” he says. “Also, it thinks, Egypt may join the rejectionist front and revise its position on the Camp David accord. It is little wonder, therefore, that Supreme Guide Ali Khamanei declared his support for the Egyptian revolution from the outset and delivered an address in Arabic to the Egyptian people.”

On the other hand; “The greatest potential area for such a shift, though, is in relations with Iran.” says Max Strasser. “An Iranian deputy foreign minister is due in Cairo next week, and Egypt's foreign minister will meet his Iranian counterpart at the end of the month on the sidelines of the global summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Indonesia. The two countries have not had ambassador-level contact since Egypt welcomed the deposed shah in 1979. Improved relations with Iran will give Egypt new leverage, enhancing its regional independence.”

Because of the fear on Iran, the Gulf States look for a way to disable Iran in the Egypt. “As Cairo prepares to change course from Mubarak's unblinking adherence to the region's pro-U.S. bloc, Saudi Arabia can be expected to do its best to prevent both the current military leadership and any future civilian government from disrupting the status quo.” Max Strasser says. “Riyadh, whose first concern is blocking the expansion of Iranian influence, has an arsenal of political, economic and social tools to keep Egypt in check.”

On the other hand, according to AIC News, the United Arab Emirates joined Saudi Arabia in offering a multi-billion dollar economic assistance package to Egypt as it seeks to block the way for Iranian influence in post-Mubarak Egypt.

“Moving away from the established orbit of Egypt being part of an axis that views Iranian involvement in the region with suspicion and hostility is a major concern for the Gulf States,” Salman Shaikh, director of Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said. “There is in this changing and fluctuating region a competition taking place to shape the region and Egypt is very pivotal in that. Simply put, Egypt matters.”

In association with this rivalry, there are some rumors like that “Riyadh and Doha, offered logistic and financial support for the Freedom and Justice Party (Brotherhood), Al-Nour Party (Salafi) and poor densely populated Cairo neighborhoods.” But, we do not know the rate of reality of this rumor.

Does the politicization of the Muslim Brotherhood mean the moderating of political Islam?

“In the Arab context, the question of democracy and the question of political Islam are inseparable.” says Shadi Hamid. In other words, if Islamists will be excluded in the politics, a new government will be illegitimate in the eyes of Egyptians. So, it should be accepted that Islamists are the most important parts of Egyptian society. But, there is a fear about the political Islam and its violent(!) aspect. In western media, there are some debates about this issue. Generally, many commentators evaluate the politicization of the Muslim Brotherhood as a means of moderating of political Islam. Even, some of them describe this process as integration with world political system.

“Election victories have transformed Islamists from unburdened outsiders to incumbent insiders. Incumbent, accountable Islamists are a new species of Arab political beast that is totally untested. The Islamist parties assuming office are faced with massive immediate challenges that they must respond to, in the arenas of job creating, economic revitalization, domestic political restructuring, foreign policy, and, in cases like Libya, creating new national governance systems alongside even a durable sense of national unity.” says Rami G. Khouri. “The challenges are so big and so pressing that these governments have to deliver quickly and efficiently, or they will find themselves booted out of office by that immense new force that now hovers above every incumbent Arab official: populist will and legitimacy, expressed on the street or in elections. The enormity of this transformation should not be underestimated. The birth of the Arab citizen and politics that I have called the most significant new developments of the past year are encapsulated by the wider phenomenon of populist legitimacy that now provides the benchmark of politics in newly liberated Arab countries.”

On the other hand, Shadi Hamid sees this politicization process suitable for Salafi Party too. “Salafis, like everyone else, are capable of changing. They’re capable of adapting. Maybe it will be harder for them to do so because the whole basis of their appeal is that they are uncompromised, while the Brotherhood is compromised by politics.” he says. “So it’s in the interest of the U.S. to engage in dialogue with them as well. There’s no reason they shouldn’t, as long as they’re playing by the rules of the game. What is there to lose by engaging with Salafi parties?”

In this issue, Thomas L. Friedman’s theory is very interesting. “They(Egypt’s Islamist) will have to open up to the world, and they seem to be realizing that. Egypt is a net importer of oil. It also imports 40 percent of its food. And tourism constitutes one-tenth of its gross domestic product.” he wrote. “With unemployment rampant and the Egyptian pound eroding, Egypt will probably need assistance from the International Monetary Fund, a major injection of foreign investment and a big upgrade in modern education to provide jobs for all those youths who organized last year’s rebellion. Egypt needs to be integrated with the world.”

As he quotes, Muhammad Khairat el-Shater, the vice chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood and its economic guru, made clear that his organization intends to lean into the world. “It is no longer a matter of choice whether one can be with or against globalization,” he said. “It is a reality. From our perspective, we favor the widest possible engagement with globalization through win-win situations.”

“Egyptian Islamists have some big decisions.” Thomas L. Friedman warns. “It has been easy to maintain a high degree of ideological purity all these years they’ve been out of power. But their sudden rise to the top of Egyptian politics coincides with the free fall of Egypt’s economy. And as soon as Parliament is seated on Jan. 23, Egypt’s Islamists will have the biggest responsibility for fixing that economy — without oil.

They don’t want to blow this chance to lead, yet they want to be true to their Islamic roots, yet they know their supporters elected them to deliver clean government, education and jobs, not mosques. It will be fascinating to watch them deal with these tugs and pulls. Where they come out will have a huge impact on the future of political Islam in this region.”

Relations with the U.S. and Israel

“Can America work with an Egypt where the Ikhwan is part of a transition or even a new government?” asks Bruce Riedel.

“Ultimately, though, American fears about the Brotherhood are not about gender equality or religious freedom. After all, one of America's closest allies is the most theocratic country in the world. Saudi Arabia, as conservative as it is, supports U.S. security objectives in the region.” says Shadi Hamid. “Crucially, would it attempt to cancel the peace treaty with Israel—long the cornerstone of the U.S.-Egypt relationship? Such an outcome is unlikely; the Brotherhood is well aware that this is a red line for the international community. Any new, transitional government—which will be tasked with rebuilding a battered country—will not want to harm its relationship with Washington and risk losing billions of dollars in much-needed assistance.”

In his interview, Shadi Hamid answers the question ”Why now? What factors are at play in these more public contacts with the Brotherhood right now?” as follows:

“The [parliamentary] elections are the big difference here. The results are in and they’re unmistakable: They have confirmed that the Muslim Brotherhood will be the dominant political player in Egypt for the foreseeable future — and this could be 20 or 30 years or God knows how long. It’s going to take a considerable period of time for liberals to ever replace Islamists in that respect. …”

According to him, even if U.S. policymakers don’t like the Brotherhood, the Brotherhood looks a lot better head to head [with] the Salafis.

He also answers the question about the benefits of the Muslim Brotherhood through its relations with the U.S. as follows:

“International legitimacy. The Brotherhood is very concerned about how outside actors view it. It wants to be seen as a respectable actor, and that’s important in terms of attracting foreign investment, improving its economic situation, boosting trade with Europe and the U.S. On all of these counts, the Brotherhood is going to need to develop strong relationships with people who can help rebuild its economy. For better or worse, the U.S. and Europe are still going to be primary economic interlocutors here. …”

According to him, having ties to the West does not hurt İkhwan’s Islamist credibility. “The Brotherhood has very strong nationalist credentials, it has very strong anti-American credentials, so it can actually counterintuitively get away with being closer to the U.S. No one is seriously going to accuse the Brotherhood of being American stooges.” he notes.

On the other hand, the head of the political arm of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood hailed U.S.-Egyptian ties during talks with the U.S. State Department's number two, but also said they must be "balanced."

FJP head Mohammed Mursi said his party "believes in the importance of U.S.-Egyptian relations," but stressed that ties between the two nations "must be balanced," a statement issued after the talks said.

Moreover, as Troy Carter quotes, while wariness about Israel appears unanimous, many Al-Nour members are unsure of how to proceed with the United States. “Our problem is with the American government, not the American people,” says Hisham Tawfik, an Al-Nour party member from Shobra with a law degree, whose opinion represented the consensus in his area.

“Once the US starts to treat us as real friends instead of President Bush‘s ‘you‘re with us or you’re against us’ attitude, we can maintain positive relations,” he says.

Although many commentators in the U.S. advocate the Muslim Brotherhood-America relations, there are some writers who do never accept this relation. Andrew C. Mccarthy is one of these writers: “To this day, the Brotherhood’s motto remains, ‘Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, Jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu akbar!’ Still, our see-no-Islamic-evil foreign-policy establishment blathers on about the Brotherhood’s purported renunciation of violence — and never you mind that, with or without violence, its commitment is, as Qaradawi puts it, to ‘conquer America’ and ‘conquer Europe.’ It is necessary to whitewash the Ikhwan’s brutal legacy and its tyrannical designs in order to fit it into the experts’ paradigm: history for simpletons. This substitute for thinking holds that, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice famously told an Egyptian audience in 2005, America has too often opted for stability rather than freedom. As a result, the story goes, our nation has chosen to support dictators when we should have been supporting . . . never mind that.”

According to Bruce Riedel, the most problematic issue between the Ikhwan and America will be Israel. “The Israelis find themselves in the very unpleasant position of having a huge stake in the outcome of what happens in Egypt and absolutely no ability to influence the course of events, except to do harm by foolish statements or actions.” he says.

The main issue between Israel-Egypt relations is Camp David Treaty. As Nuh Yilmaz and Kadir Ustun emphasizes, the Mubarak government enjoyed a privileged position in the region as a facilitator of the ‘Camp David order.’ It aligned itself with Israel albeit in a ‘cold peace’ relationship, and, in return, received close to $2 billion annually in U.S. military and economic aid. Egypt supported the Arab world’s normalization with Israel through the ‘peace process’ and reduced its regional ambition to supporting U.S. interests.

Although there are many scenarios about the relations between Israel and Egypt, the statements of Islamists are different. “This is an agreement that was formulated and signed far from the eyes of the people and the Parliament, so we must return this agreement to the people and let them have their say about whether this agreement hurts Egyptian interests and sovereignty,” Rashad Bayoumi, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood said in an interview published Sunday. “No Muslim Brotherhood members will engage in any contact or normalization with Israel,” Bayoumi reportedly said. On the other hand, “We are not opposed to the agreement, and we are saying that Egypt is committed to the agreements that previous Egyptian government have signed,” spokesman of Al-Nour Party, Yousseri Hamad said.

In the Muslim Brotherhood, there are different voices about the issue of Israel. As Thomas L. Friedman said, on the peace treaty with Israel, Essam el-Erian, the vice chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s party said: “This is the commitment of the state — not any group or party — and we have said we are respecting the commitments of the Egyptian state from the past.” Ultimately, he added, relations with Israel will be determined by how it treats the Palestinians. But generally speaking, he said, Egypt’s economic plight “is pushing us to be concerned about our own affairs.”

“Egypt’s Islamists are unlikely to make the peace treaty with Israel their central focus given the challenges facing a new government elected by a population suffering most from the country’s endemic economic stagnation.” says Tony Karon. “And there are plenty of reasons to expect that the Islamists will be restrained from breaking a treaty that could plunge Egypt back into war and jeopardize the interests of a military that will remain a central influence even if it did yield the reins of power to a civilian government — a prospect far from certain at this stage. Such is the imbalance in military capability between Israel and its neighbors that the Israelis would easily prevail in any conventional conflict, which would be catastrophic for any Egyptian government.”

On the other hand, there is another scenario which is very dangerous for the future of Egypt:

“It is likely that while internal policy, education and other civil issues will depend on compromise between the political parties, foreign policy and defense issue will continue to be dictated by the army.” says Zvi Bar’el. “This means that relations with the U.S., Israel, Iran or Syria, considered an inseparable part of Egypt’s strategic and military approach, are likely be influenced to a relatively small extent by these political changes.”


For the future of Egypt, there are two different scenarios. Both of them emphasize the agreement between Islamist and the army.

“You can canvass a thousand views on Tahrir. There will be a big uprising here, I'm told at a medical tent, there will be a titanic struggle between a newly elected parliament and the Military Council, unless, of course, the Brotherhood have done a secret deal with the army (I suspect, I suspect) so that Tantawi can rule as a closet Mubarak, the Great Father Figure who will escape all civilian control by allowing the Islamists to flounder away in government in return for lèse-majesty privileges, an Algeria-like ‘pouvoir’ above the ‘pouvoir’, In Tahrir, it's easy to be cynical.” says Robert Fisk.

On the other hand, Shadi Hamid answers the question about “striking a deal of military with the Salafis to undercut the Brotherhood’s influence in Parliament” as follows:

“No one does a divide and rule better than the military. I think [what that report] was pointing to was something that has the potential to happen based on what we know about Salafis.

Salafis are not yet democrats; that’s not their top priority, so they could really care less if there’s a military that is intervening in the democratic process as long as their own interests are protected. …

Ultimately, the issue Salafis care most about is Islamic law. If the military is willing to help them on that and encourage that kind of Islamization, in return for not opposing the military, the Salafis can cut a deal like that. … That’s the problem when you have parties that don’t prioritize democracy. They’re willing to put other interests ahead of democracy, Just like the military is willing to put its own interests ahead of Egyptian democracy. So in that sense the Salafis and the military work in similar ways.”

We do not know whether these scenarios true or not. If these are true, there will be very dangerous and chaotic future of Egypt. On the other hand, when we look at struggles to transform Islamists into moderate structures, we can easily say that there is no need these scenarios.

The destiny of Egypt, now, at the hands of Islamists. If they prefer to politicization in line with globalization and capitalism, we will see a different type of “Turkey’s AKP Government”. Even, in such a case, we can mention a new Egypt role-model in the Middle East.

But, if they prefer to govern their own countries independently of imperialist projects and aims, they will be source of hope not only for Egyptian people but also all the oppressed people. We know that meeting American diplomats does not mean subjection to them. But we also know smartness of the U.S.; they do not leave the table without bargaining and making sure their position in the region and the country.

So, we hope that the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Nour Party will conduct their countries virtuously and serve to their people morally.


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