What’s Next for Egypt?

Monday, 28 Feb 2011 09:01 AM

By Tawfik Hamid

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The future of Egypt will be largely determined by the military, the media and the Muslim Brotherhood.

After the Jan 25 revolution, two choices are obvious: a move in the direction of liberty and modernity or a more to a radicalized and more oppressive form of Islam.

As of this writing, the trend is in the direction of more liberty. The military repeatedly asserted that it will give power to the people via democratic elections; the Muslim Brotherhood welcomed a non-theocratic country and accepted the peace treaty with Israel. In addition, the official Egyptian media is currently taking a more honest position in addressing problems of the country.

The reasons for such an initial pro-modernity trend differ among these groups. The military recognized that the power of the people — which could result in bloodshed next time — would win the day if the military betrayed them.

State media learned that they can’t deceive people forever especially in the presence of competing media, satellite TV, and the Internet. The Muslim Brotherhood failed to appeal to the masses since they made their presence known in 1928 compared to the liberal and progressive founders of the revolution who managed to move the masses and make a change in relatively short period of time.

Their slogan, “Islam is the Solution” has lost a significant portion of its appeal after the miserable failure of Islamic organizations like the Taliban in Somalia, and Hamas in Gaza.

It is unclear yet if the Brotherhood's change in attitude represents a genuine desire toward more liberty or a tactical step to get to power and ultimately implement oppressive Shariah.

That is not to say that some Islamists are not trying to hijack the revolution by creating an Islamic leadership for it. Their attempts included having huge Friday prayer service in the Liberation Square led by famous and radical Islamic scholars such as Sheik Youssef Al-Quradawy who justified terrorist acts against innocent Israeli civilians.

Still,  most protestors carry the flag of Egypt rather than the flag of other organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Several factors can impede this initial pro-democracy trend:
  • Sudden economical failure due to the collapse of tourism and foreign investing can aggravate poverty in the country. This can also open the gate for many Islamic radical groups to dominate the society. The delay in removing Mubarak from power has aggravated this problem.
  • Lack of hope for improving the living standards of individuals on the short term can make people turn to the use of violence. If hope is lost, many will lose the trust in democracy and thus can turn to radical forms of Islam with the hopes that this may solve their problems.
  • Lack of trust in the leadership: Millions of Egyptians will lose their trust in the current leaders of the country until they see members of Mubarak family prosecuted by law.
What will help Egypt?
  • Immediate measures to deal with the post-revolution economic crisis to protect the country from succumbing to the formerly mentioned disastrous cascade.
  • The emergency law must be amended so that it cannot be used against political opponents of the government yet can still be used to stop possible terrorist acts. A specific anti-terrorism law could be a suitable substitute.
  • A reconciliation program that allows former corrupt officials to apologize for the people of Egypt, repent from their wrongdoings against the nation, and taking active steps to return back significant portion of the stolen money to contribute to building the country can help in preventing the escalation of destructive forms of anger within the society.
If Egyptian leaders ignored the people or wait too long before implementing helpful solutions the country is likely to succumb to Islamic radicalism.


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