Muslim Brotherhood

Muslim Brotherhood Turns Away From “Democratic Engagement”

Depressing news for those political commentators who believed that the Muslim Brotherhood, was capable of embracing pluralist democracy.

The results of the Muslim Brotherhood executive have just been announced, and it is a stunning victory for the hardliners. Marc Lynch reports:

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has just announced the results of its internal electionsto the 16 member Guide’s Office (which acts a sort of executive branch for the movement).  Held in the midst of intense pressure from the Egyptian regime and a hot internal crisis, the election has produced a dramatic turn towards the conservative end of the spectrum.  The most dramatic result was the failure of leading reformist Abdel Mounim Abou el-Fattouh and the Deputy Supreme Guide Mohammad Habib to win a place in the Guide’s office.   Essam el-Erian, whose defeat in a special election several months ago prompted the latest round of internal crisis, did win a seat — reportedly by joining a slate with conservative leader Mahmoud Ezzat. Otherwise, conservatives focused on religious outreach rather than politics won a thumping majority.

Marc, an associate professor at GWU, who is supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and who had hoped that the ‘reformist’ minority in the party would triumph, is downcast:

The results of the elections look like a repudiation from within of the choice by the MB to engage in democratic politics despite regime pressures, and likely signals both a withdrawal from political engagement and possibly some serious internal splits.  Such an internal retreat from democratic engagement has seemed increasingly likely, as I warned in late October, as regime repression and political manipulation slammed the door in the face of MB efforts to be democrats. Hopes that free and fair elections would resolve intense internal divides and produce a legitimate leadership appear to be fast fading in the Muslim Brotherhood… just as in so many other recent cases (see: Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan, and soon Iraq).

Marc regards the Muslim Brotherhood as the great white hope for democratic politics in the Middle East, and usually demonstrates a Micawber-ish optimism about the role that this clerical fascist party might play within the region. It is hard not to feel sorry for a man whose hopes and expectations have been so palpably dashed.

Marc is right, up to a point – the Muslim Brotherhood does have a faction within it which believes that it can best take power through elections. But why wouldn’t political repression make its members more hungry for democracy, rather than repudiate it?

The problem with the Ikwaan is that there is a fundamental tension between its theocratic ideals, and the democratic aspirations of a minority of its members. As the theocrats are able to invoke God, they have a certain advantage over those brothers who urge the movement to “trust the people”.

It has been clear for a long time that the Muslim Brotherhood can’t bring itself to embrace democracy. Think back to October 2007, when they published a “blueprint” for the sort of state they wanted to create. The long-awaited result was a facsimile of Iran’s political system, complete with a “board of clerics to oversee the government”. Democrats in Egypt were dismayed. One described it as “an assassination to the civic state”. Remember, this was a platform produced at a time that the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to build a coalition with other non-Islamist reformist groups. Yet, even when the prize was so great, they could not bring themselves to embrace democracy.

This should be the end of the “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” thesis, but it won’t be.

As Marc observes, the next fight is for the post of Supreme Guide. It looks as if some faceless hardliner will capture that prize as well.

However, “moderate Muslim Brotherhood” pin up boy and founder of the Muslim Association of Britain, Kemal El Helbawy, has his own choice for Supreme Guide.

Ismail Haniyeh.

A logical choice, really. After all, Hamas is no more than “one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine“. Although it poses as a “Palestinian national liberation movement”, as an Islamist party, it does not recognise artificial national borders. Indeed, were the Muslim Brotherhood to seize power in Egypt, it would be likely to absorb Gaza into its proto-Caliphate.

Ironically, it is that very anti-Palestinian “solution” that is touted around by the likes of Daniel Pipes.