Islamic Leadership in Egypt … failure after failure

imagesThomas Friedman offers some very interesting insights into Egypt within the New York Times …

The country is more divided than ever between Islamist and less religious and liberal parties, and the Egyptian currency has lost 8 percent of its value against the dollar in the last two months. Even more disturbing, there has been a sharp increase lately in cases of police brutality and rape directed at opposition protesters. It is all adding up to the first impression that President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are blowing their first chance at power.

That is exactly what one expects to happen when you elect some religious lunatics to office, this is quite frankly not a surprise in any way at all. The behavior demonstrates everything that is wrong about Islam …

Since the start of the 2011 revolution in Tahrir Square, every time the Muslim Brotherhood faced a choice of whether to behave in an inclusive way or grab more power, true to its Bolshevik tendencies it grabbed more power and sacrificed inclusion. This was true whether it was about how quickly to hold elections (before the opposition could organize) or how quickly to draw up and vote on a new constitution (before opposition complaints could be addressed) or how broadly to include opposition figures in the government (as little as possible). The opposition is not blameless — it has taken too long to get its act together — but Morsi’s power grab will haunt him.

When you embrace a belief that dictates that everybody else is wrong and only you have the “truth”, then the very concept of inclusiveness is alien. What is coming next has been on the cards since the hijacked the revolution …

Egypt is in dire economic condition. Youth unemployment is rampant, everything is in decay, tourism and foreign investment and reserves are down sharply. As a result, Egypt needs an I.M.F. bailout. Any bailout, though, will involve economic pain — including cuts in food and fuel subsidies to shrink Egypt’s steadily widening budget deficit. This will hurt.

In order to get Egyptians to sign on to that pain, a big majority needs to feel invested in the government and its success. And that is not the case today. Morsi desperately needs a national unity government, made up of a broad cross-section of Egyptian parties, but, so far, the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to reach any understanding with the National Salvation Front, the opposition coalition.

Egypt also desperately needs foreign investment to create jobs. There are billions of dollars of Egyptian capital sitting outside the country today, because Egyptian investors, particularly Christians, are fearful of having money confiscated or themselves arrested on specious charges, as happened to some after President Hosni Mubarak’s fall. One of the best things Morsi could do for himself and for Egypt would be to announce an amnesty of everyone from the Mubarak era who does not have blood on his hands or can be proved in short order to have stolen government money. Egypt needs every ounce of its own talent and capital it can mobilize back home. This is no time for revenge.

What they need to do is clear, but they are incapable of doing it because of their religious thinking …

The Brotherhood, though, doesn’t just need a new governing strategy. It needs to understand that its version of political Islam — which is resistant to women’s empowerment and religious and political pluralism — might be sustainable if you are Iran or Saudi Arabia, and you have huge reserves of oil and gas to buy off all the contradictions between your ideology and economic growth. But if you are Egypt and basically your only natural resource is your people — men and women — you need to be as open to the world and modernity as possible to unleash all of their potential for growth.

Bottom line: Either the Muslim Brotherhood changes or it fails — and the sooner it realizes that the better.

Will they change, will they get their act together? It might be nice to think they will, but the reality of what will happen is clear. When faced with a contradiction between an ideology and reality, the irrational belief will generally prevail (for example “fact-based evolution” vs “holy book” = “dismissal of reality and embrace of myths). So yet another state is on the sorry road that will lead them spiraling back down towards the 7th century, a place where intolerance, misogyny, injustice, poverty, violence and homophobia prevail.

Make no mistake, I’m not harking back to what came before, a time when the US deal was that the Mubarak dictatorship simply needed to be nice to Israel and nasty to the jihadists to enable a blind eye to be turned to the oppression and human rights abuses. The overthrow of that vile regime was indeed needed, but the hijacking of that revolution by the Muslim Brotherhood is even worse.

Leave a Reply