Egyptians couldn’t be worse off under the Muslim Brotherhood than they are under Mubarak – and the Brotherhood may well neither form a single party government, nor be extreme in government.
They are not the only opposition in Egypt either – Mubarak has targeted trade unionists for opposing him – and was so afraid of Ayman Nour - a liberal candidate in the last (rigged) Presidential elections he had him jailed to ensure he couldn’t win the election.
Mubarak's recent statement is unlikely to be accepted by the opposition (1). As their spokesman Mohamed ElBaradei had said before it “The American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for 30 years would be the one to implement democracy. This is a farce.”(2)
Photo: Mohamed ElBaradei - photo from The Independent
The widespread view that Egyptians might be worse off if Mubarak’s dictatorship is overthrown and the Muslim Brotherhood come to power is misplaced. Reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International show that under Mubarak for 30 years the Egyptian people have been jailed without trial, tortured by beatings, electric shocks and sexual violence. The victims include many children (3) – (4).
So even if the Muslim Brotherhood were to come to power in Egypt and turn into a Sunni equivalent of Iran’s semi-theocratic government, Egyptians would be no worse off than they have been under dictatorship – just as Iranians are no worse off (though little better off) under the semi-theocracy they have now than they were under the Shah’s dictatorship – and Mubarak’s past actions show he sees liberals and trade unionists as just as much a threat to his rule as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Propping up Mubarak’s dictatorship will not make it less likely that they will come to power either – just as President Carter backing the Shah’s dictatorship in Iran in 1979 to the last moment did not prevent Khomeini coming to power (5) – (6).
In fact a peaceful transition to democracy, with Mubarak persuaded to step down, would make it less likely that any one faction or party could exclude others from Egyptian politics.
Both Professor Fawaz A. Gerges in his book ‘The Far Enemy’ and ‘Self Inflicted Wounds’, a report produced for the US military, found that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic political parties are enemies of Al Qa’ida and other Jihadist terrorist groups, who consider them to be apostates for taking part in what the Jihadists see as the western system of political parties and elections (7) – (9).
Professor Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics, expert on jihadist terrorist groups
The same sources found that the Brotherhood broke with the extreme teachings of Qtub long ago (10).
Other Islamic parties elected to power around the world have shown themselves to be no friends of Al Qa’ida and not nearly so extreme as the Taliban. Hamas after winning the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections have fought gun battles against allies of Al Qa’ida in the Gaza strip (11). The AKP Islamic party government in Turkey has won two elections, governed for 8 years, continued to hold free and fair elections and accept their results even when it lost many seats in local elections ; and has been no more extreme than European Christian Democrat parties. After Al Qa’ida bombed the British consulate and banks in Turkey, the AKP government arrested, tried and jailed those responsible (12) – (14).
Even the Afghan Taliban has distanced itself from Al Qa’ida after the latter brought a US invasion down on their heads (15).
No doubt the Brotherhood would be a major political force in Egypt after Mubarak. There is no way to know whether they would win elections as the sole governing party, by part of a governing coalition or become the main opposition party – but that is because many Egyptians support them.
Propping up dictatorships has only strengthened fundamentalist parties and much worse terrorist groups.
If we want to weaken Al Qa’ida and reduce fundamentalism then allowing a transition to democracy in Arab countries is the way forward.
In the last Egyptian Presidential elections (rigged as usual) in 2005 the candidate Mubarak feared most was not the Muslim Brotherhood’s (which he banned), but Ayman Nour of the liberal El Ghad party, who he had jailed during the election and then tried and convicted on trumped up charges after it, to ensure he couldn’t lose the election to him (19) – (22).
Ayman Nour of the liberal El Ghad party was jailed for standing against Mubarak in the 2005 presidential elections and only released in 2009 - photo - Time magazine
All these groups, along with the Brotherhood, have accepted former UN IAEA head Mohamed El Baradei, a liberal rather than an Islamic fundamentalist, as the chief spokesperson for all of them (23).
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Kamel el-Helbawy hardly talks like a new Khomeini either, having recently said
“A new era of freedom and democracy is dawning in the Middle East and Arab world. That's more important than declaring that a 'new Islamist era is dawning', because I know Islamists would not be able to rule Egypt alone. We should and would co-operate – Muslims, leftists, communists, socialists, secularists…. …….Dictators like Mubarak have always told the west, wrongly, there is no difference between Islamists like the Brotherhood and some violent groups who are real fundamentalists………The west is always afraid that if the Brotherhood came to power it would end freedoms or do something [negative] with Israel. But I stress that the Brotherhood are among the people who defend democracy in full, and like to see democracy prevailing, because democracy gives them some of their rights." (24)
Kamal Helbaway of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood
So, whether Helbawy means what he says or not, if the worst case scenario happens and the Brotherhood take power in Egypt, Egyptians will no worse off than they were under Mubarak – and the worst case scenario may not happen – they may end up much better off in a democratic system that includes the Brotherhood as one political party among many.
The Guardian also reports that “The Brotherhood has said it would put the Camp David peace accords with Israel to a referendum if it took power.”(25)
The Brotherhood are also criticised for the threat they supposedly pose to Israel and their links to Hamas, whose armed wing has been involved in terrorism against Israeli civilians.
The problem with this argument is that Mubarak has links to the Israeli government, which is involved in ordering and authorising the killing of Palestinian civilians on a daily basis (26) – (30).
The US government both funds much of the Israeli occupation and has been involved in it’s own war crimes including targeting civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan (31) – (32).
So the Brotherhood’s critics really don’t have a leg to stand on on this issue – if it was close to Hamas it would be doing nothing they themselves don’t do on a larger scale.
(1) = BBC News Middle East ‘Huge protests fan Egypt unrest’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12307698
(2) = Reuters 30 Jan 2011 ‘ElBaradei urges U.S. to abandon Mubarak’, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/30/us-egypt-usa-elbaradei-idUSTRE70T30920110130?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews
(3) = Human Rights Watch 25 Feb 2004 ‘Egypt’s Torture Epidemic’, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2004/02/25/egypt-s-torture-epidemic
(4) = Amnesty International World Report 2010 – Country Report – Egypt,http://report2010.amnesty.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa and http://report2010.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_AZ_EN.pdf#page=77
(5) = Lawrence Freedman (2008) ‘A Choice of Enemies’, Weidenfield & Nicolson, London, 2008, Chapter 4, especially pages 64 - 72
(6) = Kenneth M. Pollack ‘The Persian Puzzle’, Random House, New York, 2005, chapters 4 – 6
(7) = Fawaz A Gerges (2005) ‘The Far Enemy – Why Jihad Went Global’, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2005, pages 9 -10 (on torture and dictatorship radicalising people into terrorists and jihadists), pages 110- 116 – on Jihadist/terrorist groups and Islamic fundamentalist political parties hating and despising one another (and Bin Laden’s deputy Zawahiri hating the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood); pages 93 -4 on torture of Zawahiri by Egyptian dictatorship leading him to join Al Qa’ida to build organisation to take revenge
(8) = Assaf Moghadam & Brian Fishman (editors) 16 Dec 2010 ‘Self-inflicted wounds : Debates and divisions within Al Qa’ida and it’s periphery’, Harmony Project, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/Self-Inflicted%20Wounds.pdf ; see especially pages 158 - 162 - or 168 to 173 if looking at the pdf browser's page count
(9) = Loretta Napoleoni (2005) ‘Insurgent Iraq’ Constable & Robinson, London, 2005, Chapter 3 (pages 61 – 62 of paperback edition)
(10) = See (5) to (7) above
(11) = Observer 16 Aug 2009 ‘Hamas destroys al-Qaida group in violent Gaza battle’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/15/hamas-battle-gaza-islamists-al-qaida
(12) = Justice and Development Party (Turkey), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_and_Development_Party_%28Turkey%29
(13) = BBC News 30 Mar 2009 ‘Turkish PM's party slips in polls’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7970448.stm
(14) = Guardian 17 Jan 2007 ‘Turkey jails al-Qaida cell for consulate bomb’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/feb/17/turkey.alqaida
(15) = CNN 06 Oct 2008 ‘Sources: Taliban split with al Qaeda, seek peace’,http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/10/06/afghan.saudi.talks/#cnnSTCText
(16) = Wikipedia list of Egyptian political parties,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Egypt#The_known_parties_of_Egypt
(17) = Amnesty USA 27 Jan 2011 ‘Egyptian Protests Day 3: Next Steps’, http://blog.amnestyusa.org/middle-east/egyptian-protests-day-3-next-steps/ - ‘This was a protest that crossed class, ideology and religion’
(18) = Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 17 Feb 2010 ‘Labor Protest Politics and Worker Rights in Egypt’, http://www.carnegieendowment.org/events/?fa=eventDetail&id=2816
(21) = Human Rights Watch Sep 2005 ‘From Plebiscite to Contest? Egypt’s Presidential Election’, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/mena/egypt0905/egypt0905.pdf
(22) = Human Rights Watch 6 Dec 2005 ‘Egypt: Ayman Nur Trial Badly Flawed’, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2005/12/06/egypt-ayman-nur-trial-badly-flawed
(23) = Reuters 30 Jan 2011 ‘ElBaradei urges U.S. to abandon Mubarak’, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/30/us-egypt-usa-elbaradei-idUSTRE70T30920110130?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews
(24) = guardian.co.uk 30 Jan 2011 ‘Egypt protests: Cairo prison break prompts fear of fundamentalism’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/30/muslim-brotherhood-jail-escape-egypt
(25) = See (22) above
(26) = See page link below and sources listed for it,http://www.duncanmcfarlane.org/Israel-Palestine/notdemocratsversusterrorists/
(27) = See page link below and sources 21 to 45 listed on ithttp://www.duncanmcfarlane.org/sevenliesthatkill/index.html
(28) = Amnesty International 2010 annual report – Israel and the occupied territories,http://report2010.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_AZ_EN.pdf#page=129
(29) = Times 29 Jul 2008 ‘Palestinian child shot dead by Israeli soldiers’,http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article4425395.ece
(30) Herald (Scotland) 14 Feb 2009 ‘Long-term truce for Gaza near agreement, says Hamas’,http://www.heraldscotland.com/long-term-truce-for-gaza-near-agreement-says-hamas-1.902709 ‘In the West Bank city of Hebron, staff at a local hospital said a teenage boy was killed by Israeli army fire during a clash between troops and stone-throwing Palestinian youths…Doctors at Alia hospital named the dead boy as Izzadine Jamal, 14. They did not know if he was among those attacking the Israelis….The army said dozens of Palestinians hurled stones at a military guard tower next to an Israeli settlement and a soldier shot the ringleader.’
(31) = See links below and sources listed on them on war crimes including targeting civilians in Iraq,http://www.duncanmcfarlane.org/who%27s_right_on_Iraq/bothsides/ and http://www.duncanmcfarlane.org/replytogray/Iraq/
(32) = See links below and sources listed on them on similar actions by US forces in Afghanistan,http://inplaceoffear.blogspot.com/2010/03/one-more-push-for-what-in-afghanistan.html and http://inplaceoffear.blogspot.com/2010/08/killings-of-civilians-by-nato-forces-in.html