Islamists Risk Backlash With Shariah 'Solution' in Egypt

Monday, 02 Jan 2012 11:43 AM

By Tawfik Hamid

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Islamist parties captured an overwhelming majority — more than 60 percent — of the votes in the first and second rounds of Egypt's recent parliamentary elections.

This victory of the Egyptian Islamists, while seeming to be the end of the tribulations within Egypt, actually can result in another revolution. This time, though, the revolution is more likely to be against the Islamists themselves. The reason for this is that, throughout the past few decades, many Islamic groups have given the people of Egypt the impression that implementing Islamic Shariah will solve all the problems in the country.

The Muslim brotherhood has made that clear in its slogan that “Islam is the Solution.” Although these promises helped the Islamists win these elections, they are considered to be risky to them as well. If the Islamists failed to deliver prompt and fast solutions to the deeply rooted problems in Egypt, the Egyptians are likely to revolt against them.

Many Egyptians have been suffering for years and have become impatient and ultimately unable to wait to see significant improvements in their standards of living. Linking the word “Islam” to the “solution” of the problems in the country will make the Egyptians expect an “almighty” solution for all their problems in a very short period of time.

Failure of the Islamist groups to deliver such an Islamic solution will backlash against them. It is likely that the pro-Shariah policies of the Islamist groups, such as banning bikinis and alcohol, will make things worse in the country as they will ruin the tourism industry and thus cause a huge blow to the Egyptian economy. This damage to the economy is likely to ruin the life of millions of Egyptians.

It is easy to claim that Islam is the solution and dream about miraculous solutions to the multitude of problems within the country; however, facing the reality of famine and the loss of millions of jobs is more difficult to decipher.

The disappointment with the new leaders of the country, the Islamists (if they came to power), for not bringing fast solutions to economic problems will direct the anger of the millions against the Islamists and is likely to reinitiate another revolution, this time against the Islamic parties.

Another factor that is likely to contribute to the anger against the Islamists is the nature of the Egyptian people, who cannot tolerate interferences in their personal freedoms. Ordinary Egyptians — even those who choose the Islamists — will not tolerate the intrusive nature of the religious police that may try to implement Shariah rules.

For example, Egyptian men are likely to use violence against anyone who either looks disapprovingly at their women or comments on how they dress. These expected confrontations, with commoners upon the streets, will be added to the former detrimental economical factors in setting the stage for a major revolt against the Islamists.

Also encouraging a revolt against the Islamists is the behavioral and historical characteristics of the Egyptian people. These characteristics are the reasoning behind the creation of hundreds of jokes each year against their rulers. Additionally, by breaking the walls of oppression and fear in the Jan. 25, 2011, revolutions, the Egyptian people have the momentum to arouse a second revolt.

The current theological debates in Egypt and the differing views of Islamic implementation justifies why many Egyptians will not consider revolting against the Islamists to be revolting against Islam. This is a crucial factor because ordinary Egyptians will have difficulty in revolting against the Islamists if they feel as though they are the only ones who represent Islam.

The only way the Islamists can avoid this disastrous outcome is if they do not implement Shariah rules in the country. In this situation, it is probable that they will lose their appeal of being “Islamic” and are likely to confront the more radical Islamic groups who will accuse them of being “infidels” for not implementing Islam.

Some may argue that the majority of Egyptians chose the Islamists. This
could be true if we counted only the Egyptians who went to the elections. In reality, only 50 percent of those eligible to vote went to vote. This group is largely made up of Egyptians who aren't extremely religious; otherwise their religious motivation would have driven them to go to the election. If we added this group to the liberals in the country and to those who choose the Islamists merely for economic reasons, the percentage of Egyptians who will most likely revolt against the Islamists will constitute the majority of the Egyptians.

Failure of the Islamic experiment in Egypt can be the biggest setback to the Islamism phenomenon throughout the world as the Egyptian Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt are the orchestrators of the so-called “Islamic revival” all over the world.

In brief, the overwhelming victory of the Islamists in the recent elections in Egypt may not be the ultimate finale for Egypt. It is likely that, if the Islamists apply Shariah rules, this will set the stage for a powerful revolt or a revolution against them.

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