The initial results of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, and the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood, alongside the Salafists, with a comfortable parliamentary majority, means that Egypt is the latest country to reveal its Islamic nature, after the Islamists won in Tunisia and Morocco with a similar proportion of the vote. As for Libya, there is no need to wait for the results of the parliamentary elections there to know the strength of the Islamists. The Islamists provided the structure and backbone of the Libyan revolution, so it is inevitable that the Islamists will dominate any Libyan elections.
Thus, the Islamists in their various guises, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, have now entered the nerve center of power via the ballot box, for the first time in the history of the Arab world. They now face the stern test of demonstrating their governing capabilities. If we disregard coming to power by democratic means, then Sudan was actually the first country to experience Islamist rule, and this was a failed experiment by all accounts. It is true that during the initial period of their rule, the Islamists in Sudan provided an honest, righteous model for heads of state. However, the rule of the Islamists in Sudan soon followed the path of the Arab military revolutions, which had suppressed the Arab people through the monopolization of power, dictatorial rule, and governance with an iron fist. During the era of military Islamism in Sudan, the aspects of good governance vanished, whilst the Sudanese people were deafened with endless empty promises of virtuous Islamic rule. The Sudanese Islamists’ revolution was such a failure that the Sudanese President was no different in his attachment and grip of power than Hosni Mubarak, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Bashar al-Assad, Ali Abdullah Saleh and Muammar Gaddafi. Indeed, we do not need to waste further time highlighting the compelling evidence for the failure of military Islamist rule in Sudan.
In the countries where they won parliamentary majorities, the Islamists are now facing a number of challenges and difficulties. Some people will excuse them if these obstacles are not overcome in the initial period of their rule, for example economic prosperity and developmental progress, for it may take decades until this can be fully enjoyed by the Arab people. However what the Arab people cannot excuse would be the Islamists failing to establish financial and administrative integrity. Theorizing about integrity whilst outside of power is easy, but when the Islamists are at the heart of power, they will be subject to temptation. After their success at the parliamentary elections, the Islamists have been handed the keys to power and financial influence. With the exception of the era of the four rightly guided caliphs, only rarely have rulers in the Islamic world governed without failing the test of financial and administrative corruption.
The Islamists – and here I am giving a special mention to the Muslim Brotherhood [in Egypt] – will also face a stern test in overcoming partisanship in their respective countries, which sometimes can be as difficult as detecting a black ant on a black rock in the middle of the night! If the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to exclusively appoint its own men to government offices, then this will be the beginning of the end, but if they source these positions from both inside and outside the Brotherhood, then they will be on the right track. The countries in which the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists were victorious have transformed – from the era of dictatorships, which prevailed and then collapsed – into states plagued by corruption and underdevelopment. A great amount of work is required in order to correct what was destroyed by the era of tyranny, and the Islamists must use all available talent, regardless of party affiliation or ideology.