The Obama administration has called on Egyptian leaders to “demonstrate, in both word and deed, their commitment to religious tolerance and to upholding all of Egypt’s international obligations.”President Mohamed Morsi’s statement addressing anti-Semitic comments he made in 2010 was a “positive step,” said US State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland.
“The statement was an important first step to make clear that the type of offensive rhetoric we saw in 2010 is not acceptable, not productive, and shouldn’t be a part of a democratic Egypt,” she added.
In 2011, a Pew survey found that in Turkey, just 4 percent of those surveyed held a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of Jews; in Indonesia, 10 percent; in Pakistan 2 percent. In addition, 95 percent of Jordanians, 94 percent of Egyptians and 95 percent of Lebanese hold a “very unfavorable” view of Jews [pdf].
“As the Islamists spread their influence through civil institutions, young people were nursed on hatred,” she contends. “In the wake of the Arab Spring, as the people take a chance on democracy, they and their new leadership want to see their ideals turned into policy.”
It is time for secular and liberal forces to challenge the Islamists’ toxic discourse, says Hirsi Ali, author of the books “Infidel” and “Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations.”
“This is also a crucial opportunity for the region’s secular movements, which must speak out against the clergy’s incitement of young minds to hatred,” she writes in The New York Times. “It is time for these secular movements to start a counter-education in tolerance.”
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood won the battle over the Egyptian constitution and secured control of the country’s executive and legislative branches in large part because of the superiority of its electoral organizational machine, writes Ashraf El Sherif, a political science lecturer at the American University in Cairo. But its advantage is likely to prove short-lived as Egyptian citizens realize its deeply sectarian nature and its inability to deliver solutions to the country’s pressing problems.
The organization’s success so far has clearly been based on the superiority of its electoral organizational machine compared to that of the opposition. But this superiority—both quantitative (resulting from decades of accumulated organizational expertise) and qualitative (from the cultural and social capital generated by the group’s local networks)—is still tied to whether or not non-Islamist forces will be able to make up for lost time and develop their own organizational capabilities. This is a long-term concern for the Brotherhood
However, the most pressing issue is the MB’s inability to create a political model that is distinct from both the Mubarak regime’s policies and those of the opposition in terms of values, results, and mechanisms. This model should be able to tackle the political, social, and economic development challenges that face a society like Egypt’s. This is due to two fundamental factors: a social one which deals with the balance of power in the Egyptian public space, and an ideological one stemming from the growing number of gray areas in the organization’s rhetoric and ideology regarding pluralism and human rights. The latter may frame the authoritarian tendencies within the Brotherhood and legitimize it ideologically and, if need be, politically.
[Furthermore] there is now a secular social movement staunchly opposed to the Brotherhood, led by broad segments of the middle class, frightened by the organization’s now-sectarian tone—that of an insular organization whose objective first and foremost is the protection of its own interests.
The Brotherhood and its Salafi allies can only mobilize the Egyptian street with a sectarian approach. Their ability to win over undecided voters in election season is becoming less reliable; the further MB-led rule becomes stuck in a quagmire of failed economic development and social policies, the further that the Islamist project will devolve from political-ideological conviction to sectarian spoil-taking and the logic of self-preservation.
The above brief extract is taken from a longer article for the Carnegie Endowment’s Sada Journal. RTWT
But secular forces may be stymied by the current pact between the Brotherhood and the armed forces, a leading analyst suggests.
Fearful of the democratic challenge posed by the anti-Mubarak revolt, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces “constructed a favorable political arena by pursuing allies from two main constituencies,” writes Joshua Stacher, a political science professor at Kent State University:
The first involved securing the support of the existing state apparatus. The state was disrupted but not broken when Mubarak and his central cronies were forced from office. As time passed, the state bureaucracy resumed its previous functions largely with the same personnel …. Hardly any aspect of the state bureaucracy was touched, much less reformed.
The second partner courted by SCAF was the Muslim Brotherhood, Stacher notes in a new paper for the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program:
The Brotherhood had a tradition of being in opposition but also of communicating with the Mubarak regime. While many Muslim Brothers had gone to jail arbitrarily at the hands of Mubarak’s security state, they had also renounced violence, chosen to reform the system from within, and habitually ran for professional syndicate elections as well as for elections in local councils and both houses of parliament. While it would be erroneous to say the Brotherhood were puppets of the Mubarak state, it would be equally wrong to say they rejected the system outright or stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the contentious protest opposition.
???“From the perspective of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the first goal to pursue was to neutralize the challenge of the military and they have done that quite successfully,” Daniel Brumberg, a senior advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace on issues of democratization, tells VOA: He adds, however, that the issue of “transitional justice” has been “pushed aside.” This includes, he explains, mechanisms to prosecute those most responsible for abuses by the previous regime, reparations for victims of the regime, reform of abusive institutions and creating commissions to investigate systematic patterns of abuse.
To the contrary, argues Stacher, the military is as powerful as ever and enjoys a rapprochement with the Islamists who appear content to protect the armed forces’ prerogatives:
SCAF’s generals have seemingly returned the military to the barracks while civilians resume governing. Yet, evidence of the pact continues to surface. In fact, in the new constitution that Morsi rammed through in a December 2012 referendum, the military was one of the largest winners. Not only did the military maintain the ability to try civilians in military trials, but also it became unconstitutional for any parliament to discuss its affairs or its budget.
Furthermore, a National Defense Council will convene that will serve as a way to block any civilian president from unilaterally taking the military to war. In effect, the military has veto power over when the institution can be used. Such constitutional considerations were unthinkable during Mubarak’s time, even if civil-military relations have been unchanged in practice. Yet, now the military has constitutional guarantees that ensure its political and economic prerogatives.
In exchange, Morsi and the Brotherhood have been handed the reins of the state as well as its problems.