The Muslim Brotherhood’s decision to field a candidate, the businessman Khairat El-Shater, for Egypt’s forthcoming Presidential election is certainly a volte face, but not an unpredictable one. The MB had previously promised to stay away from the election, no doubt wishing to lessen anxiety that Egypt was on the verge of a fundamentalist takeover. But this was a mere political ‘hudna’. The Muslim Brotherhood has broken this, and other, promises because all they care about is creating an Islamic Revolution and destroying the hopes of a liberal generation. And their decision to stand reveals a great deal about the group’s political strategy and the imbecilic thinking of much of the western commentariat.
For the Brotherhood have a long history of concealing their true aims from prying western eyes, and those of their own people. In July 2011, a spokesman from the Brotherhood talked of the need for a ‘secular state’ and ‘a secular political scene’ which ‘would not allow extremism to gain momentum’. He wanted ‘a state that [was] truly neutral between religions’.
A key member of the MB delegation to Washington, Sondos Asem, recently declared that his group represented “a moderate, centrist Muslim viewpoint” and that their “priorities” were “preserving the revolution ideals of social justice, education, security for the people.”
Yet in a recent New York Times article, Shater declared that the “recent elections have proved that Egyptians demand an explicitly Islamic state,” while adding that “the Islamist landslide in the parliamentary elections is an indisputable democratic mandate for an explicitly Islamic government”. Interestingly, the manifesto of the Freedom and Justice Party said nothing about creating an explicitly Islamic state and imposing sharia law on the population.
In other words, just as Ayatollah Khomeini deceived the Iranian people in 1979 about his desire to create a religious autocracy, so too the Egyptian Islamists have deceived their electorate about their true aims, namely the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state. So the true trajectory in Egyptian politics, as predicted by many a year ago, is towards Islamist dictatorship rather than true democratic governance.
Yet despite Egypt’s worrying descent into religious radicalism, many in Washington are still pinning their hopes on Muslim Brotherhood moderation. According to Tom Vietor of the US National Security Council, this is how the MB will receive full recognition:
“In all our conversations with these groups, we emphasize the importance of respect for minority rights, the full inclusion of women, and our regional security concerns.”
This suggests an almost Panglossian level of optimism. Islamists who believe in creating a religious state based on Sharia law are already signalling a hasty retreat from western values. Under Sharia, women, gays and non-Muslims are very much treated as second class citizens. Is this something that Washington does not know, or simply chooses not to acknowledge?
As for treating all Egyptian people equally, one need only consult the Copts of Egypt who have long suffered terrible persecution from Islamist thugs and who now fear the rise of a majority Islamist government. Perhaps this is why the Coptic delegation recently withdrew from a panel working on a new Egyptian constitution.
There is also ample evidence that ‘regional security concerns’ will only grow if the Brotherhood takes control of the new government. While State Department spokesman, Victoria Nuland was careful to say that the US had received “good guarantees” that the political parties would respect the 1979 Egypt-Israel treaty, this was not the position of the Brotherhood.
Rashad al-Bayoumi, the Brotherhood’s second in command, told Al-Hayat that “the Muslim Brotherhood will not recognize Israel under any circumstances and might put the peace treaty with the Jewish state up to a referendum. We will take the proper legal steps in dealing with the peace deal. To me, it isn’t binding at all”. So much for all those assurances then.
The bottom line is that when the Brotherhood, or any Islamist group, seeks power from a minority position, it will make all kinds of vague promises to respect the constitution, uphold human rights and maintain religious freedom. Once in power, those promises go up in smoke. Just look at Gaza where Hamas refused to share power with Fatah, launching a deadly coup just one year after legislative elections. Look at Iran under the ayatollahs where secularists, communists and non Islamists were trounced in 1979 by the Ayatollah. The same is already happening in Egypt in 2012.