What about this whole Egypt/Muslim Brotherhood/Democracy thing?

This last week has been heavy laden with tragedy, protests, and devastation in Egypt. For the last decade or two, the spotlight in the Arab world has shown most brightly on Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and a few other countries.

Ever since Jimmy Carter successfully brokered peace between Egyptian President Anwar Al Sadat (who was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood shortly after the treaty was signed) and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at what we call the Camp David Peace Accord of 1978, Egypt has spent very little time in the forefront of political and religious discourse. The treaty they signed turned the massive tide of worry the world over – Israel and Egypt were finally at Peace, something many people thought an impossible feat. The peace was brokered out of mutual respect and a weariness from war, and required concessions from both sides.  Thus the Arab-Israeli Conflict ended, ushering in 33 years of peace between the two nations, and untold gains in freedom and economic welfare.

1979 Peace Accords After that brief history lesson (which was as much for myself as for you), we must address the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as an Islamist organization, because since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been in power, the Muslim Brotherhood has since declared itself a non-violent organization. (Let’s recall that was immediately after they assassinated an Egyptian President.) Here is a BBC Mubarak Article that will bring you up to speed relatively quickly on Mubarak’s policies.

The Muslim Brotherhood (which I have linked you to above) was started in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan Al Banna (a known xenophobic and misogynist) in his campaign to restore the Caliphate and meld politics into Islamic law and belief. The MB had ties to Nazi Germany before and during WWII, complete with all the pomp and panoply of formal state visits, de facto ambassadors, and overt as well as sub rosa joint ventures. (Information about MB gathered from Barabar Zollner’s book about The MB and it’s founder) They are credited with a myriad of terrorist attacks which you can discover in detail through a google search. In spite of all this, the MB has not been directly linked to violence since it’s non-violence declaration in 1979. However, it is important to note that there are several violent offshoots from the MB, many of with which you will be familiar. Hamas (meaning zeal in Arabic), the Islami Jihad, the Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda.

So I guess that’s two history lessons. Now on to actual discussion about what’s happening. First – it’s apparent in this situation how closely connected religion and politics are. The protesters and demonstrators marching in the streets are almost certainly composed of a majority of Muslims.  Second – Mubarak has had a fairly secular government, one which has been difficult to deal with for many Egyptians. One cannot deny that Mubarak should probably go, and the idea of free elections with decent (to the Egyptians) candidates is an excellent one.  Here’s my personal concern: should the MB become heavily involved in the political process and offer up a candidate that wins the upcoming election, Egypt will start to move from a secular country to one more likely to lean toward Islamism ideology – the ideology Iran is governed by. This will pose a problem for the entire region of North Africa and the Middle East, potentially plunging Arabs into war with Israel again. If that happens, the likelihood of Iranian and United States involvement in a conflict increases. It also poses a threat to the more “moderate” or “secular” Muslim population within Egypt itself – perhaps inviting radical MB offshoots into Egypt to wreak havoc.

Should the United States step in? How should Israel prepare for the upcoming months? Do you foresee a situation of global war? How can moderate Muslims participate now in order to perhaps stem the tide of riots and protests in favor of Islamism. Should we as private non-Egyptian citizens  even concern ourselves with this conflict?

I’m interested to hear your comments or questions.

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3 thoughts on “What about this whole Egypt/Muslim Brotherhood/Democracy thing?

  1. Kim says:

    Interesting — thank you for sharing this.

    I’m not entirely certain how prudent it is for the United States to involve itself in Egypt’s affairs at this juncture…this isn’t our fight, so we shouldn’t have a dog in it.

    Then again, taking this isolationist approach on the affairs of other nation-states tends to forget how inextricably linked we all are globally. The fate of Egypt’s election (and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood) could have far-reaching consequences not just for the Egyptian people, but for other countries. It’s entirely possible that the change of power in Egypt could be one more piece in the puzzle that leads to a heavily galvanized, nuclear-armed Muslim world…one that has, in splinter groups, illustrated itself to be inherently hostile towards Western nations, especially the U.S., who has invited the ire of the Muslim world for its warm relationship with Israel and foreign policy approach in that area during the Cold War and into present day.

    So I guess the linchpin in whether or not the US should involve itself is this: how big a threat will this change be to our way of life? How our elected officials choose to answer this question will determine how they intend to act.

  2. Kim,
    I personally view this as an issue of more immediacy regarding the tactical capabilities Egypt offers the United States. As it currently stands, Egypt offers not only military cooperation (in the form of fly-overs, purchasing US made military items, etc.) but also front line access to the Suez Canal. I can’t be certain whether or not the US should directly involve itself in the conflict but I can say in the case an anti-US, anti-western culture government were to be established in the wake of Mumbarak’s departure, but it will have overwhelming ramifications for the US.

    Here’s how I see things playing out in a worst case scenario. Egyptian government is replaced with an Islamist, ideologically intertwined government (similar to what happened with the Hezbollah party opposition in Lebanon). They immediately break ties with the US, ally with other Islamist states in the region, and have successfully surrounded Israel.
    Conflict ensues.
    Israel gets involved in a conflict with nation A, nation A is backed up by Iran, Israel is backed up by US, world flatlines.

    Albeit, that’s the worst, worst, WORST case scenario, but you get the picture.

    Not to mention gas and energy prices increasing dramatically for not only the US but the entire world.

  3. Kim says:

    I don’t appreciate being countered.

    Kidding. 🙂

    I definitely see your points and agree with a lot of them. There are a lot of variables at stake and it would behoove the US government to keep a close watch on how events unfold. It’s possible that this could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, with respect to that region of the world…or it could be nothing. Time will tell.

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