After decades of planning for Egypt’s transition into an Islamic state, a mere two years of open politics seems to have ended the Muslim Brotherhood’s dreams of Islamist renaissance, says Al-Ahram’s Yasmine Fathi.
The poor performance of President Mohammed Morsi’s government, especially its failure to deliver either economic improvement or existential security, has sapped its credibility, observers suggest.
“When Morsi came to power, most people still had a positive view of the Islamic project. But during his first year in office he managed to destroy this image in the eyes of most Egyptians,” explained political analyst and former MP Emad Gad:
He points out that Morsi has made many promises that he never kept and that his regime has tried to ‘Brotherhoodise’ the nation by taking over many of the country’s top institutions, including the Ministry of Interior and the judiciary.
However, Gad adds that the turning point came when he passed a constitution that was rejected by most political forces in Egypt. The constituent assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution saw numerous squabbles, along with accusations that Islamist assembly members were forcing their opinions on the non-Islamist minority. This led most non-Islamist members to withdraw from the constitution-drafting body, leaving only the Islamists to conduct a final vote in a 14-hour marathon session.
“After this, he confirmed to the public that the Islamic current is undemocratic and does not like dialogue,” said Gad. Morsi’s refusal to fulfill his promises, including the creation of a coalition government that would include Egypt’s diverse political forces, also hurt his popularity, say critics.
“His lack of commitment to democracy made people not trust him,” explained Khalil El-Anani, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “Secondly, it showed that the Islamists are fascists, and don’t have a democratic ideology.”
The Brotherhood’s authoritarian impulses are also evident in the latest draft law governing non-governmental organizations
The proposal is “a harbinger of what is to come – a brand of social reform that suppresses independence and plurality in civil society not much different than that state of affairs under Egypt’s deposed former president,” according to two expert observers.
“Prior to Morsi’s election, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) saw a political opportunity to win followers in the post-revolutionary phase, and thus proposed a draft NGO law that was uniformly considered progressive,” write Sahar Aziz and Hany Thabet:
But since taking power, FJP’s proposal has changed significantly to the detriment of an independent civil society…. A number of foreign NGO provisions create a discriminatory environment, which in effect restrict foreign civil society assistance. For example, Article 59 allows foreign NGOs to participate in “licensed” activities, but ambiguously and over broadly prohibits their participation in “partisan” activities that “infringe national sovereignty”.
“If it passes, the new draft NGO law will only foster the Islamist versus everyone else dichotomy that has already reached boiling point,” according to Aziz, an associate professor of law at Texas Wesleyan School of Law and president of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association, and Thabet, an attorney and member of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association:
There is still time to make changes that will build consensus at a time when Egyptians desperately need it. An NGO law that nurtures a healthy civil society and leaves behind the draconian rule-by-law precepts of the Mubarak era would be a vital start.
Egypt’s Jasmine revolution brought together different Islamic forces behind a very clear objective: “defining themselves as ‘Islamists’ against the old regime and against the liberal current,” said Tarek Osman, author of ‘Egypt on the Brink.’ But, he adds, ‘the more they delve into the details of the country’s legislative, political and economic transition, the more the fractures appear.”
Many Egyptians are now discontented with the Brotherhood’s performance. The group’s seeming confusion has prompted a popular joke: “The Brotherhood fought to control Egypt for 80 years but had no plan what to do when it actually achieved it.” It remains unclear how much damage this last year has done to the Islamists’ popularity.
“In this struggle about the country’s social identity, the shape of the future, the loudest voice – the key determinant – will be the 45-million Egyptians under 35 years old,” said Osman.
“Their preferences, ideas and views will be the deciding factor,” he asserted. “At the end of the day, it is a fight over the hearts and minds of this generation.”
On June 4th, forty-three NGO workers were convicted in a politically motivated trial targeting foreign civil society organizations in Egypt. The men and women caught up in the case find themselves as convicted criminals, with many forced to leave their homes in order to avoid imprisonment. Join us for a discussion of the case, the current human rights situation in Egypt, and prospects for the future. Welcoming Remarks by: Ruth Wedgwood, Freedom House Trustee Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy and Director of the International Law & Organizations Program, Johns Hopkins University – SAIS Featuring Panelists*: Nancy Okail, convicted NGO worker, Freedom House Yehia Ghanem, convicted NGO worker, International Center for Journalists Lila Jaafar, convicted NGO worker, National Democratic Institute *Additional panelists may be added Moderated by: Stephen McInerney, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) A light breakfast will be served beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Date and time: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 – 9:00am to 10:30am
Location: SAIS – Nitze Building, Kenney Auditorium, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW 20036 ?
POMED is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.