Commentary: Bribe and Prejudice: Ed Husain Gets It Wrong Again
Commenting on the Muslim Brotherhood’s charitable activities during the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha, Ed Husain argues in his latest article for the Council on Foreign Relations that the MB’s "noble support for Egypt’s poor […] smacks of bribery and corruption when used at election time to gain votes, undercut political opposition, and portray the Muslim Brotherhood as God’s good soldiers against the secular and liberal Egyptians. For as long as such practices continue, Egypt’s elections will not be fair and free—they will have been manipulated from the outset."
Ed Husain’s article is a shameless distortion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s contribution to social welfare, full to the brim with contradictory half truths.
The word bribe is by definition exchange of monetary or other incentive for guarantee of a favour in return, in this case a vote. Can Ed Husain, from his office in the US, confirm that in Cairo and the rest of Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood is withholding or leveraging the social services it provides in return for votes for the FJP? The answer is a resounding no. How do charitable activities at a time of religious celebration manipulate voters exactly? Aren’t all Muslims enjoined to distribute charity, including meat from slaughtered animals, on the occasion of Hajj. Has the Muslim Brotherhood been bribing people in this way for its entire 80-year existence?
Ed acknowledges that the Muslim Brotherhood social welfare apparatus has filled the void years of neglect previous regimes left but strangely thinks it should stop providing help to Egypt’s vulnerable as the country embraces democracy. Did the poor cease to exist now that elections have been scheduled? Maybe a visit to Egypt will correct Ed’s impression that there is little need to provide vital services.
Whilst here, why not cite some studies showing causation between giving children sweets and the political parties their parents will vote for. Even if this benign act had any political motive, gifts, sweets and trinkets are regularly distributed by European political parties. Why should the FJP or Muslim Brotherhood or even the Salafis be singled out for concern?
Ed’s article disguises a myth a lot of recent discourse on the FJP and Muslim Brotherhood is based on, that their popularity is a recent phenomenon, allowed by the inaction of its liberal rivals. The reality is of an organisation which has built deep roots in Egypt separate from the political sphere.
There is nothing stopping people of all political hues to take upon themselves a responsibility to serve those in need and Egypt would without doubt become a better place. Asking any organisation to stop a decades-long tradition of serving fellow citizens for political point scoring is a cheap shot.