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Egypt Roundup: What’s Happening?

Egypt Roundup: What’s Happening?

Here are a few Q and A’s about what’s going on in Egypt.

Should We Fear the Muslim Brotherhood?
Shadi Hamid says that while Egypt’s largest opposition group is nobody’s idea of liberal, if we can be friends with Saudi Arabia, we can work with the brothers.

What should Washington do?
Not much, says Steven A. Cook. “The best the United States can do to salvage its position in Egypt is for President Barack Obama to make a statement in support of a democratic, tolerant, and pluralist Egypt — and then get out of the way to let Egyptians build a new political system.”

What’s the right historical analogy?
Thomas Carothers decries the simplistic invocation of Iran in 1979 as a (scary) template for where Egypt might be headed. A better model, arguably, is 1990s Indonesia, “an example of how a democratic transition in a Muslim country can be successful.”

What’s going on? And why now?
Salon has useful Egypt Q&A, with answers to basic questions about a revolution, among them: Who is Mubarak? What do the protesters want? When will it end? Why protest now? How will this affect the region?

Hezbollah, Israel And Egypt: What Happens Next?“Everything that the experts say and everything that the activists and politicians have taken for granted for a generation, at least, is really off the table,” author Thanassis Cambanis tells Terry Gross.

This post originally appeared on The Progressive Book Club.

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Photo credit: Muhammad غفّاري via flickr

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8:59AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

“The Brotherhood itself denounces the "catchy and effective terms and phrases" like "fundamentalist" and "political Islam" which it claims are used by "Western Media" to pigeonhole the group, and points to its "15 Principles" for an Egyptian National Charter, including "freedom of personal conviction... opinion... forming political parties... public gatherings... free and fair elections..."
Similarly, some analysts maintain that whatever the source of modern Jihadi terrorism and the actions and words of some rogue members, the Brotherhood now has little in common with radical Islamists and modern jihadists who often condemn the Brotherhood as too moderate. They also deny the existence of any centralized and secretive global MB leadership. Some claim that the origins of modern Muslim terrorism are found in Wahhabi ideology, not that of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“The Brotherhood is still periodically subjected to mass arrests. It remains the largest opposition group in Egypt, advocating Islamic reform, democratic system and maintaining a vast network of support through Islamic charities working among poor Egyptians. The political direction it has been taking lately has tended towards more moderate secular "Islamism" and so-called Islamic Democracy comparable to Christian Democrat movements in Europe, the Christian-right in the United States, and the Muslim oriented democratic parties of Turkey."

8:57AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

"In an article for the Middle East Report Samer Shehata from Georgetown University and Joshua Stacher from the British University in Egypt claim that, in fact, it was the Muslim Brotherhood that revived a parliament that till then had "a reputation for being a rubber stamp for the regime" . First of all, according to their observations, the movement did not simply "focus on banning books and legislating the length of skirts" . Instead, the movement's involvement shows attempts to reform the political system. Unlike other MPs, those associated with the Brotherhood took their parliamentary duties very seriously as an "unmatched record of attendance" already shows. Moreover, they also took their role as members of the opposition to the ruling NDP quite seriously. A significant example is the creation of a considerable opposition to the extension of the emergency law when MPs associated with the Brotherhood "formed a coalition with other opposition legislators and with sympathetic members of the NDP, to protest the extension" . The overall involvement leads Shehata and Stacher to the conclusion that the Brotherhood has convincingly attempted to transform "the Egyptian parliament into a real legislative body, as well as an institution that represents citizens and a mechanism that keeps government accountable"."

8:55AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

“Whether or not the Brotherhood would unconditionally or conditionally dissolve Egypt's 32-year peace treaty with Israel is disputed within the Brotherhood. While the deputy leader of the Brotherhood has said the Brotherhood would seek the dissolution of Egypt's 32-year peace treaty with Israel, a Brotherhood spokesman has said that the Brotherhood would respect the treaty as long as "Israel shows real progress on improving the lot of the Palestinians."”
“the huge gains in the 2005 parliamentary elections allowed the Brotherhood to pose "a democratic political challenge to the regime, not a theological one" . Initially, there has been widespread skepticism regarding the movement's commitment to use its influence to push Egypt forward towards a democratic state. For instance, briefly after the elections Sameh Fawzy remarked in the Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper, "If the Muslim Brotherhood were in a position to enforce its ideological monopoly, the vast majority of the populace would face severe restrictions on its freedom of opinion and belief, not just on religious matters, but on social, political, economic and cultural affairs as well" However, considering its actions in the Egyptian parliament since 2005, it appears that those skeptics misjudged the movement's scope.

8:50AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

I support secular democracies and post the following not to defend the Muslim Brotherhood, but to demonstrate its wide appeal and that the movement is not as black and white as some of the hyperbole posted here in the comments would lead you to believe:

“The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the world's oldest and largest Islamic political group, and the "world's most influential Islamist movement."”

“Since its inception in 1928 the movement has officially opposed violent means to achieve its goals. Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor, calls it "conservative and non-violent," and "poorly understood - especially in the West.". The Brotherhood condemned terrorism and the 9/11 attacks, but whether or not it has ties to terrorism is a matter of dispute. The Brotherhood's nonviolent stance has resulted in breakaway groups from the movement, including the Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya and Al Takfir Wal Hijra. Osama bin Laden has similarly criticized the Brotherhood, and accused it of betraying jihad and the ideals of Sayyid Qutb, an influential Brother member and author of Milestones. In Egypt, the Brotherhood has stated that, while it seeks the establishment of an Islamic state, it would not force women to cover up....Even its most severe critics acknowledge the role the organizations has had in improving the lives of those living in extreme poverty.”

8:29AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Ronald N., you've hit the nail on the head. Some here are actually opposing democracy--mainly because they fear the results--hypocritically ignoring our own right-wing extremists and religious fundamentalists while condenscending in their attitudes towards people of other countries.

Instead of considering our part in helping to deny other people their rights and a voice in government to serve our own selfish interests, one respondent actually twists Obama's willingness to support democracy as "post-colonialist guilt." (Ignoring that there is nothing "post" about our constant and continuing support of Israel while it still colonizes Palestinian land, creating an apartheid state; or that U.S. economic policies and multinational corporations often only constitute and disguise a more modern version of colonization.)

3:31PM PST on Feb 6, 2011

I know very little about the Muslim Brotherhood and take all propaganda for and against with a pinch of salt. I was impressed by them though recently when one of their spokesmen not only acknowledged that they had not instigated the anti-Mubarak protests but actually stressed that they had participated but not led. One of my fears had been that they or some group would seek to take credit for the protests in an effort to get political kudos and thus advantage when (for he surely will) Mubarak finally leaves - well done to them for not trying to hijack credit and for being honest - in that they have my respect - I hope their future actions etc. also command respect. At least in this much they have proved honorable more than we can say about a lot of our politicians.

1:22AM PST on Feb 6, 2011

Allah bless shabab Masr we thorat masr

1:20AM PST on Feb 6, 2011

Allah bless people of Egypt ... bless the new revalution

8:16AM PST on Feb 4, 2011

@Monica and her questionable statistics. Egypt is a secular country who happens to be Sunni Muslim not Shia Muslim like Iran. They are more Westernized, but have a proud history. The anti-Mubarak protestors were from all walks of life and were both Christian and Muslim. Their protests were non-violent until they were attacked by thugs from the Ministry of Interior. When the Muslims were praying in Tahir Square, their Christian brothers formed a protective baracade around them so they would not be attacked. After reviewing the Pew report of December 2, 2010 because I could not find a report taken in June 2010, Monica needs to tell the whole story and not pick and choose according to her own biased opinion.

4:45AM PST on Feb 4, 2011

The real terrorists are elected.

Regards...

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