A theocracy on the Nile?

I just had this piece, discussing the Islamist victory in the Egyptian parliamentary elections published over at New Humanist.

With Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliament now sitting, it is abundantly clear that elections were an important win for political Islam. Of the 27 million votes cast, more than 10 million went to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, and another 7.5 million to the hard line Salafist Al Noor (“The Light”) Party. Together the two parties have a comfortable majority – if they vote as a block, (and assuming the presidential elections produce a similar result) the stage could be set for a general Islamisation of the Egyptian state.

There are good reasons, however, to believe that the Islamists’ victory in this particular battle will do them little good in the overall war for Egypt’s soul.

Before discussing their future prospects, it is important to understand the reasons for the success of these parties. The Brotherhood’s success, in particular, should come as no surprise. Founded in 1928, it is among Egypt’s oldest political institutions, and with a membership in the hundreds of thousands and a strong national structure it was well positioned to take advantage of Egypt’s unexpected democracy. That said, even they seemed to only get their banners and campaign posters up in large numbers in the days and weeks immediately preceding the elections.

More important than its campaigning strength was the Brotherhood’s long-standing involvement charitable work, involving the provision of low-price hospitals, job training programs and support for other local NGOs, as well as its strong participation in professional associations and syndicates. This work has left many Egyptians with a good impression of the Brotherhood as, on the whole, a devout and moral bunch, with genuine concern for their fellow citizens. There is also a hope that their religiosity will lead them to break with the corruption that has so long typified Egyptian politics. As one Freedom and Justice voter told me: “I have nothing to fear from a man who fears god.”

Still more important than this, however, is the issue of identity….

read the rest here.

About Austin G. Mackell

I am a freelance journalist who has worked for a variety of corporate and community outlets from my hometown of Sydney and from the Middle East, including from Lebanon during Israels 2006 invasion and from Iran during the tumultuous presidential elections there in 2009. I have recently moved to Cairo to watch the revolutions in Arab world unfold.
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