Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Out of Power—For Now
|Wednesday, April 16,2008 19:37|
|By Richard Palmer|
President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party won a landslide victory this week in the Egyptian parliamentary elections. In reality, though, the National Democrats are not all that popular. Voter turnout, according to some estimates, was a puny 3 percent, and the elections were boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a staunch Islamic conservative party, is quickly becoming the popular party in Egypt. Banned from government in 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood gained 20 percent of the seats in parliament in 2005 by having its candidates run as independents.
It won one fifth of the seats in parliament despite the widespread reports of governmental strong-arm tactics aimed at enfeebling the group’s showing in the vote. So it was far more popular in 2005 than the election results reflected—and since then, its popularity has grown.
High food prices, for example, are boosting the MB’s support. Egypt has a bread problem. A large percentage of the population relies on subsidized food; 40 percent live below the poverty line. Two days of deadly riots over low wages and high food prices—Egypt’s worst unrest since 1977 bread riots—preceded the elections. While Mubarak’s government was struggling to respond to the crisis, the MB was on the streets handing out bread.
This isn’t just a short-term problem though. Many in Egypt are in a grim state. Unofficial estimates of unemployment range between 17 and 25 percent. It is common to find lawyers, doctors and engineers working in unskilled jobs, such as taxi driving, just to get by.
Marriage is become an unaffordable luxury to many young people in Egypt.
With these kind of conditions, it’s not surprising that many get bitter, and cling to guns or religion—or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment—as a way to direct their frustrations.
As a result, droves of young Egyptians are turning to Islam.
In February, the New York Times wrote:
In Egypt, where the people have always been religious and conservative, young people are now far more observant and strict in their interpretation of their faith. A generation ago, for example, few young women covered their heads, and few Egyptian men made it a practice to go to the mosque for the five daily prayers. Now the hijab, a scarf that covers the hair and neck, is nearly universal, and mosques are filled throughout the day with young men, and often their fathers.
Egypt’s youth are becoming increasingly religious and anti-government. The Egyptian government under President Hosni Mubarak is becoming more Islamic to accommodate them. State television airs a larger number of preachers than it used to, and Mubarak himself is making more references to Islam.
Many in Egypt now believe that Islam is the solution—which is the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the face of the Muslim Brotherhood’s growing popularity, the Egyptian government worked very hard to prevent the MB from making gains this election. Due to bureaucratic—and physical—brutality, only 485 potential candidates from the MB, out of the 10,000 who tried, managed to submit the paperwork necessary to run in the election. According to Ashraf Badr A-Di, a Muslim Brotherhood parliament representative, 1,100 members of the organization had been arrested since early March. Only 21 MB members finally made it to the list of candidates; the Brotherhood therefore boycotted the election in protest.
Mubarak’s party, of course, won by a landslide.
But this does not mean the end for the Muslim Brotherhood. It is biding its time.
Last September the MB published a draft political platform, the Brotherhood’s most concrete policy paper to date. Not only does it forbid Christians and women from holding the presidential office, but it also establishes a board of Muslim clerics to oversee the government.
"It establishes a religious state," said Abdel Moneim Said, head of the leading Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies. "It’s an assassination to the civic state."
"The proposed commission recalls the system in Iran, where clerical councils have final say on a wide range of political issues and can even vet candidates running for president and parliament," the Associated Press reported (Oct. 11, 2007).
A future Muslim Brotherhood political victory would create a hard-line, anti-U.S., anti-Semitic, Iranian-allied Egypt.
The MB has repeatedly exercised patience in its dealing with the government. Events are certainly playing out in its favor.
Mubarak is 80 years old. He is unlikely to live much longer. His death could give the Brotherhood the chance it needs to take power. Egypt may also come under more international pressure to have freer and fair elections. True democracy in Egypt would give the MB the chance it needs to take over.
Meanwhile, public discontent with the present government and economic conditions is rapidly increasing. Public opinion is on the Muslim Brotherood’s side. Soon its patience will likely pay off. Egypt will turn to radical Islam.
In his booklet The King of the South, first published in 1996, Gerald Flurry forecast a "far-reaching change in Egyptian politics," based on a scripture that indicates Egypt will be allied with the king of the south, or Iran, in the end time. Conditions in Egypt are building toward this change in Egyptian politics.