Egypt, and indeed the entire region, has entered a new and dangerous stage, the consequences of which God only knows, after Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Muhammad Mursi, was announced as the country’s next president. Anybody who believes or imagines that we are witnessing a cinematic movie that will inevitably have a happy ending is mistaken, while all those who believe that this is a purely Egyptian affair are not just mistaken, but are negligent as well.
We must be aware that Egypt today is truly at a crossroads, and much will depend on which direction it takes, both domestically as well as across the Arab region. For the Egyptians, the battle has just begun: Will the Egypt of tomorrow be like Turkey, namely a struggle between the Brotherhood and the military? If this occurs, we must not expect the end result in Egypt to be along the lines of the situation in Turkey. The Turkish model required a long time, while the Islamists in Turkey are different, and there are no Erdogan-like features in Egypt today. In fact, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood rejected Erdogan’s advice regarding the necessity of establishing a secularist state in Egypt. Will Egypt today be along the lines of Pakistan, namely with the Islamists on one side and the military on the other, and then add the judiciary to this? This has been a bad model until now, and it contains no glimmers of hope.
As for the other model – which is even worse – the Khomeinist revolution in Iran, which engulfed all the political powers and Iranian social currents that supported it? Some might say that the military will serve as the guarantors of Egypt, in addition to the strong judiciary present in the country. This is true, however we must remember that Egypt’s president is now a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. In other words the Brotherhood are ruling Egypt. This is the reality of the situation, and so much will depend on this, politically, economically, socially, religiously, and culturally, not just in Egypt, but throughout the entire Arab region. Anybody who says that the Brotherhood are the reality today, and therefore we must deal with them and not criticize them, and other such talk, is wrong. This is because, first and foremost, anybody who wants to be involved in politics must remember that criticism is permissible.
The other issue, which is most important, particularly to those who want to demonstrate pretend realism today, is that we must recall that the consequences of the Khomeinist experience are still affecting the region nearly four decades after the Khomeinist revolution, and the implications of this are clear in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen. This is not to mention the exorbitant cost of the Khomeinist experience on the security of the Arab Gulf as a whole. We must also recall that in the five decades following the 1952 military coup in Egypt, the consequences of the Nasserite experience affected the Arab region as a whole, not just Egypt alone. This resulted in brutal wars, the collapse of Arab regimes by military coup, as well as political Islamist coups which were no less dangerous than the military variety. What is important to recall here is that the Nasserite experience set our region back by around 50 years, while also resulting in huge losses, underdevelopment and backwardness in most Arab states under military rule.
This is not a pessimistic reading of the situation, but a message to those who have buried their heads in the sand for a long time, to be wary and fasten their seatbelts for we now face a reality that many did not believe would ever happen, however in spite of this, it came to pass and will no doubt have huge consequences.
- The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.