Scapegoating the Muslim Brotherhood
CAIRO: Egypt’s most popular opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, continues to be the argument against democracy in Egypt by Western conservative scholars. They argue the Islamic group is a “terrorist” entity that wants to implement Islamic law on Egypt.
The conservative wrangling over who can condemn the group the most is a seemingly endless competition that right-wingers in the United States and Europe appear ready to continue. They argue the Brotherhood – a non-violent, Islamic organization that continues to call for democracy – is akin to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Hamas is a close ally to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a group that wants to overturn the nationalist regime and give Egypt an Islamist state that would enjoy all the blessings of Iran and Taliban Afghanistan,” wrote Barry Rubin in Global Politician recently. “In or after their revolution, the Egyptian elite would be murdered and all of its property confiscated,” he added.
It is almost a certainty that Rubin, and his fellow conservative cronies, have never spoken to a Muslim Brotherhood official. If they had, they would understand the organization to be much more nuanced and tolerate of the ‘other.’
But Rubin and his fellow naysayers are heard more often than the more sensible in the United States. It makes sense and fits with the media agenda of portraying any active Islamic group as barbarian and unworthy of Western respect.
It is a cop-out on reality that wants to see American interests protected in an Egypt that continues to see unrest spread across the land. American commentators and policy wonks have no desire to see a democratic Egypt, because in almost all scenarios – whether the ‘radical’ leftists or the ‘terrorist’ Brotherhood – appeasing the United States and abiding by their every move would end. This is a no-no for the so-called scholars.
What the likes of Rubin – search Muslim Brotherhood in Google and it is easy to see the hate foment – and others want is an Egypt on its knees. The excuse for arguing that Egypt is “not ready for democracy” is the Islamic groups, but the reality that many activists and Brotherhood members believe is that they don’t want a non-National Democratic Party (the party of President Mubarak) running the show. This would mean an end to the American project in the region.
There are a number of arguments resonating in Egypt from the elite over the future of the country and much of it does center around the Brotherhood. Those with money in the country are fearful that the Brotherhood would “take away their freedom,” as one businessman recently pointed out. Their worries are real and although slightly geared toward conspiracy theories on how the Islamic group would govern, they exist. In reality, we don’t know what they would do until Egypt has the ability to govern itself, by the people for the people.
Egypt wants and deserves its own national project, away from the gaze of Washington, but in order to do so, the Muslim Brotherhood and its fellow opposition forces, whether they agree on policy or not, should unite over the next 14 months in order to provide the 80 million people with an alternative that could push Egypt toward being Egyptian again.