Saturday, December 17, 2011

Some Thoughts On Egyptian Elections...

It's been awhile since I've blogged about the Arab Spring.  So here goes...

I'm not one of those people who's terrified of the Muslim Brotherhood, for several reasons.

*Firstly, the way they're hyped as a Big Bad that's going to turn Egypt into a new Iran and start a war with Israel reeks of the whole "justify your tyranny by creating an enemy," especially when it's mixed with the erroneous notion that Islam and democracy (in the colloquial sense of the word) are incompatible.  I'm sure people could make the case Christianity and democracy are incompatible based on how most of the anti-Semitic violence, witch trials, etc. long ago were populist in nature and it took monarchies and the like to restrain them (the king of Poland offered protection to Jews persecuted in Western Europe during the Black Death, frex), and that would be just as foolish.

*Secondly, a former member of my alternate-history message board, though we've had our disagreements on a lot of things (namely the revisionist theory of the Cold War, which is my personal bugbear), made a good case that the Freedom and Justice Party (the political face of the old Muslim Brotherhood) is more akin to the Christian Democratic parties of Europe rather than some anti-democratic death machine.  He even compared it more positively with the Turkish Islamist party, which he described as "peasanty."

*Thirdly, the Freedom and Justice Party's platform at present seems to indicate the MB's priorities at present are more economic than anything else.  Quibbling about social values in times like these is a luxury in a wealthy country like the United States.  In a much poorer country like Egypt, which has had food riots relatively recently, there's even less justification.  Luckily the Freedom and Justice Party seems to be aware of this, based on these comments about Islamic punishments being suspended in a time of famine.

That being said, the fact there's been violence against Christians in Egypt after Mubarak's fall is something to be legitimately concerned about.  Furthermore, the Salafist al-Nour Party, which looks a lot more like the scary fundamentalist entity the Western pro-Mubarak types are afraid of, is expected to do well in the coming second phase of the elections.  Not to mention the Freedom and Justice Party isn't entirely sweetness and light by its own admission--the Al-Ahram article indicates the party doesn't want members of certain Islamic splinter sects to proselytize, which is antithetical to the idea of freedom of religion, while the Wikipedia article states that they don't think Christians or women should be the country's president.

So here's a suggestion for the Freedom and Justice Party.  When the time comes to form caucuses and alliances and such, they should ally with the secular liberal types who kicked off the revolution against Mubarak in the first place rather than the al-Nour Party.

Not only would this show respect to the people who helped make these elections possible, but it would ensure Egypt does not become a pariah trade nobody will trade with and tourists won't visit.  That will in turn hurt Egypt's economy and cause mass suffering among the population, something I'm sure Mohammed and the other early Islamic leaders wouldn't have wanted given the Islamic doctrines on charity and the like.  Plus if al-Nour does really well in the second and third phases of the elections, which look to be taking place in poorer and more conservative areas, the Freedom and Justice Party might need to ally with the secular liberals in order to maintain a majority.

The Al-Ahram article quotes some Freedom and Justice Party types saying they won't caucus with the Salafists, which is a good sign.  The article about violence against Christians assigns much of the blame to the Salafists, so they seem like the true villains anyway.

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