Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

In Egypt: Who wins? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Politicians and analysts continue to try to interpret the current electoral scene in Egypt. They attempt to define and describe the principal causes for the results of the first phase of the elections which shows a big win for the religious parties, namely the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, the Salafists Al-Nour Party, the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot al-Wasat Party, and the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya’s Construction and Development Party. The results showed that the Muslim Brotherhood and their Freedom and Justice Party were well prepared for the election battle. The sizable experience they have accumulated over the years, their benefitting from the experience of others, not to mention their efforts to ensure that they get the best out of all their experience and expertise seems to have clearly paid off for the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, the recent election successes cannot be attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood’s great thinkers and intellectuals such as Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, or even Abul Ala Maududi, a sheikh who had a considerable influence upon the Brotherhood, albeit indirectly. Rather, it is more appropriate to attribute the Muslim Brotherhood’s success to someone like Michael Porter, an internationally renowned expert in the art of marketing; responsible for producing various means and tactics for garnering influence in the business world. The Brotherhood has taken note of his style and implemented this successfully, ever since they put forward their most famous slogan, “Islam is the Solution”.

Let us look more closely at this simple and direct slogan. It does not say religion is the solution, or even that upholding religion is the solution, but rather it says Islam is the solution, without going into details or saying how this will be applied, and despite the fact that Islam is full of different trends, opinions and sects. This reminds me of the giant sportswear company “Nike”, which coined the simple and extremely clear slogan “Just Do It”. This has since become a permanent fixture in our popular culture, and is taught as a textbook case of successful marketing in prestigious business colleges around the world.

The Muslim Brotherhood group, with its party and political leadership, realized the importance of taking advantage and utilizing different media outlets, increasing their presence on satellite channels, whether Western, local or regional. Although the Muslim Brotherhood continued to hold deep reservations about many of these channels, they ultimately overlooked this and began to put forward young faces to represent them to the media, instead of their “antiquated” symbols and figures who would not be able to engage with the new generation. A good example of this is the official spokesman of the Freedom and Justice Party, Ahmed Abou Baraka, a clean-shaven man who takes pride in his personal appearance and is always dressed smartly. Performing the role of a “spin doctor”, he clarifies, justifies and remedies any crisis that emerges as a result of Muslim Brotherhood stances or statements, by issuing concise sound bites in a respectful and professional manner, similar to the manner of strong political parties in the West. This is contrary to the behaviour of the al-Nour Party, with its reckless, unwise, immature and seemingly hostile rhetoric. This can clearly be seen in its leaders’ ludicrous stances, such as their intention to impose the jizya [per capita tax levied on an Islamic state’s non-Muslim citizens] against Copts in upper Egypt, their intention to destroy statues and tombs [for being un-Islamic], their attempts to make use of Islamic Sharia edicts other than those issued by al-Azhar University and its Fatwa committee, and the accusations they have levelled against certain Egyptian symbols, using the worst words imaginable.

The Egyptian character is a wondrous mix of attributes; an Egyptian loves the sound of Abdul Basit ‘Abd us-Samad’s recitation of the Quran, as well as listening to the music of [famous Egyptian singer] Umm Kulthum. He loves to watch [Egyptian actress] Faten Hamama’s movies and attend al-Ahly vs. Zamalek football matches. He likes to spend the summer in Alexandria, sit in a café and read Naguib Mahfouz’s novels. Any attempt to forcibly separate these attributes from his character will not be tolerated. The main priority remains the dignity of the people, rather than imposing one’s viewpoint upon others or telling them what to think. The electoral experience in Egypt so far has been somewhere between marketing and politics, between the writings of Michael Porter and Machiavelli, the author of “The Prince”. The coming political scene in Egypt will focus on the religious parties, and the battle as to which political party has the exclusive right to use religion has already begun to escalate between the Freedom and Justice Party and the al-Nour Party.