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Ed Webb

Gulf Islamist Dissent Over Egypt | Marc Lynch - 0 views

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    Gulf Islamist dissent over Egypt | Marc Lynch http://t.co/OnpSpVYU1Z
Ed Webb

Divine rights: the problem of Egypt's Islamists - 0 views

  • at present the wind is not blowing the Islamists' way.  Despite some electoral successes since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, Islamist movements are now clearly on the defensive – and not just because of their confrontation with the military in Egypt. Arab (and Muslim) opponents of Islamism, whose voices were often marginalised in the past, are speaking out as never before.
  • In Egypt’s most recent parliamentary election (2011-12) the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, together with allied parties, won 37.5% of the popular vote – well short of an overall majority. Given that the 2011-12 poll was probably as good an electoral opportunity as the Brotherhood is likely to get, this result ought to have prompted some deep reflection within the movement about its future strategy – though its subsequent behaviour suggests the voters’ warning went unheeded.
  • In lower-class neighbourhoods, the Salafis were also quick to denounce the Brotherhood as composed of bourgeois elites disconnected from the street. As a local Nour party leader in a poor Tanta suburb argued, “we are from the people, we were on their side constantly during the Mubarak days, we have developed intimate knowledge of their problems… while the Brotherhood were wasting their time [with] useless institutional politics.”
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  • Around 40% of Egyptians who voted for Islamist parties did not choose the Muslim Brotherhood, preferring an alliance of Salafist parties instead.
  • there are fundamental questions about how far a reconciliation process can go unless the Brotherhood (and the Salafis too) change their approach towards working in a democracy. They are happy to accept electoral politics but still tend to view it as a tool for gaining power rather than a means for determining and implementing the will of the people
  • winning is not the only consequence of being free to contest elections. They may also lose or, as seems likely in Egypt for the forseeable future, have to share power with others. This, however, strikes at the ideological core of Islamism and it’s difficult to see how it can be resolved without changing the ideology.
  • the Nour Party now explicitly defends democratic mechanisms (i.e. elections at all levels, separation of powers, freedom of speech, etc.). They are keen, however, to stress that they distinguish between the “procedures of democracy,” which they accept, and the “philosophy of democracy,” which they reject. For them, ultimate sovereignty cannot be held by the people, but only by God, meaning that there can be no discussion as to whether sharia, understood as an all-encompassing corpus of law, should be enforced
Ed Webb

The myth of the Islamist winter - www.newstatesman.com - Readability - 0 views

  • In Tunisia, as in Egypt, the Islamists who came to power through the ballot box are seeing their popularity erode and are tempted to hold on to power by recourse to authoritarian measures. But they have to deal with the legacy of the Arab spring. They face a new political culture: now, one where people who disagree with the government take to the streets; where there is no reverence for established power and the army and the police no longer inspire fear.
  • consider the precise nature of this authoritarian turn because it bears little resemblance to the “Islamic revolution” often associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Nahda, the Renaissance Party, in Tunisia. It is, on the contrary, a conservative and paradoxically pro-western “counter-revolution”
  • The electoral and social base of the Egyptian regime is not revolutionary. Instead of trying to reach a compromise with the principal actors of the Arab spring, Morsi is attempting to get all the supporters of the new order on his side. The coalition he is building is based on business, the army, the Salafists and those elements of the “people” that are supposedly tired of anarchy
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  • economic model is neoliberal
  • State control of religion would in fact go beyond institutions and extend to religious orthodoxy, leading to limitations being placed on Sufi practices and theological discussions. Even if the Muslim Brothers succeed in the first part of the operation – nationalising faith institutions – the price they will have to pay for it will be high, because the imams won’t appreciate being turned into civil servants. They also run the risk of destroying the religious dynamic of their movement: if the state controls religion, what use is a religious “brotherhood”? And if religion is identified with the state, there is a grave risk that the unpopularity of the government will affect faith institutions in turn, as has happened in Iran
  • Time is against Morsi, because the economic measures that he wants to introduce will make the government increasingly unpopular. And, on the other hand, continued popular protest will require him to call on the army, which will support him, but at a price – the political and economic autonomy that the military is asking for runs counter to the Brotherhood’s programme of economic liberalisation
  • the other battleground for the Muslim Brotherhood is control of the religious sphere. Like al- Nahda in Tunisia, it has discovered that this is considerably more diverse than it had thought. Moreover, figures who had previously been relatively docile where the state was concerned, such as Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, have reasserted the autonomy that they were granted by the Arab spring. This means that the only way for the government to wrest back control of the religious sphere is to place it under the authority of the state (specifically, to submit the mosques to the diktat of the ministry of religious affairs)
  • Morsi has accepted the outlook of the IMF, not because he has been forced to do so, but because it is an approach he shares. This will bring further privatisation and competition. And because the price paid by swaths of the population will be severe, the government will need a functioning apparatus of repression and to break the trade unions. It will also have to gain the acquiescence of the army, in exchange for immunity and the right to regulate its own affairs, particularly in the economic sphere
  • a politics more redolent of Pinochet in Chile than of Khomeini in Iran
  • Religion is becoming just one instrument of control among others – rather than a social, economic and ideological alternative. This is, in short, the failure of political Islam
  • Al- Nahda is neither as strong nor as deeply rooted as the Muslim Brotherhood. The movement is more diverse, with a branch that is, if not more liberal, then at least more realistic. And because of their commitment to violence, the Tunisian Salafists are not credible allies
  • Al-Nahda is coming into conflict with the unions, either for the same reasons as in Egypt (a fascination with the free market) or for reasons more specific to Tunisia (it wants allies on its left but cannot bear to compete with a truly popular movement of grass-roots activists)
  • As in Egypt, al-Nahda proposes to use its own ministry of religious affairs to control the religious sphere, although this statism could rebound against the movement
  • if there were a credible and unified opposition, it could beat al-Nahda in the elections. Consequently, Tunisia’s chances of staying democratic are better than Egypt’s
  • The Islamists are succeeding neither in delivering the goods in economic and social terms nor in giving the impression that they are architects of an authentic social project that goes beyond the stamping of “Islamic markers” on a society over which they have increasingly little control
  • To get through the period of austerity and the economic difficulties that go with it, they should have done more to secure a “historic compromise” with the liberals. The alternative to such an alliance is not “Islamic revolution”, however. What is taking shape instead is a coalition that is con - servative in politics and morals but neoliberal in economics, and thus open to the west
Ed Webb

Salafist Attacks in Egypt Raise Spectre of Sectarian Violence - Al-Monitor: the Pulse o... - 0 views

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    Few good directions from here.
Ed Webb

Egypt's Morsi Need Only Apply Law In Conflicts With Jihadists - Al-Monitor: the Pulse o... - 0 views

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    I used to chat to the author of this piece a lot in the 1990s: very well informed on all the Egyptian Islamist currents.
Ed Webb

Salafist Nour Party visits Sinai to combat 'religious extremism' - Politics - Egypt - A... - 1 views

  • The group will hold a series of meetings urging Sinai citizens to stand by the army in combating the “Takfiri” mentality, referring to supremacist Islamist groups in the region.
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