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Opinion: What a difference a year makes | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Anti-Mursi demonstrators gather for a mass rally to show support for the army at Tahrir Square in Cairo, July 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.)

Many of those afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in the Arab countries that witnessed change as a part of the wave of the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011, assumed that the region, or these countries specifically, would need between 40 to 50 years before a change could happen or other political forces could effectively compete for power.

It was surprising how the Brotherhood’s popularity plummeted in only one year. Thanks to an overwhelming public desire, the Brotherhood’s first president was toppled on his first anniversary in office. During the presidential elections, public opinion was divided between those who support the Brotherhood and the ones who want to give them a chance on the one hand, and the ones opposing them on the other. Now after one year of the Brotherhood’s politically fruitless practices and efforts to monopolize power at the expense of national unity, as well as being in conflict with the social and state institutions to the extent that the presidency antagonized the judicial system, it has become clear why the majority of people sided with the opposition.

The good thing is that this put the Brotherhood and its fellow travelers under the microscope like any other normal political movement which people can judge based on its policy. It has stripped the Brotherhood of the religious halo that surrounded them when they were an underground organization or in the opposition. Thus people learned the hard way that politics is politics and statecraft has nothing to do with empty promises.

During the stuttering transition, as well as the bitter political conflict in the country, there have been many analyses and predictions of what Egypt’s model will be in the light of the rise of Islamism. Will it be similar to the Turkish model, which managed to work out a modern formula of Islamism that coexisted with Turkey’s long secularist heritage? Or will it be similar to the Pakistani model?

There is nothing wrong with this at all. Societies learn from each other and benefit from each other’s experiences. However, learning from other societies is one thing and importing foreign models is something else. The model of rule must be consistent with facts on the ground, especially as each society has its own historical structure and experience. As we can see, what we are witnessing now is nothing other than the Egyptian model.

This explains what happened in June 30, including the massive protests that expressed a strong desire felt by large segments of society to change the regime. In fact, the military could not ignore the calls to step in. Otherwise, the military would have jeopardized its reputation and history. What happened in June 30 is similar to January 25, but with one difference: While Mubarak preferred to leave under public pressure, Mursi adhered to power under the pressure of the Brotherhood. This has led to a complex situation whose repercussions continue today in the form of bloody confrontations and a bitter struggle that will require a high political skill to get out of. This is not to mention the interlocking regional and international factors that add to the complexity of the scene.

One glance at the state of polarization in the region, as well as the foreign mobilization represented by the supporters and allies of the Brotherhood as well as the ones who gambled on the Islamist group, clarifies to what extent the sides realize that they are playing with fire.

One question remains unanswered: What about the future? Will it be possible for the Brotherhood to return?

A quick look at the political scene demonstrates the level of public anger at the Brotherhood’s year in power, the statements by its members and the way the country has been divided. The Brotherhood will need another 40 years to rehabilitate their image or return with new leaders of modern mentality that realize that the project and the methods of the old generation, or the so-called hard-liners within the group, are incompatible with the nature of the society or even Egypt’s national interests.

It is hard to imagine the return of the Brotherhood, or their president, as some call for, with the public so infuriated at the group and the state institutions rejecting them. Otherwise, chaos will prevail in a manner that would jeopardize the survival of the state itself.

Even national reconciliation appears to be extremely difficult to achieve in the light of the current state of polarization and extremism in the country as well as the Brotherhood’s bet on external pressures to alter things on the ground. The problem is that they fail to notice the strength of the wind of change sweeping through the country.