December 1st, 2011

Muslim Brotherhood doing well in Egyptian elections: is anyone surprised?

Early election results indicate the Muslim Brotherhood is doing well in Egypt:

The party formed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group, appeared to have taken about 40 percent of the vote, as expected. But a big surprise was the strong showing of ultraconservative Islamists, called Salafis, many of whom see most popular entertainment as sinful and reject women’s participation in voting or public life.

Analysts in the state-run news media said early returns indicated that Salafi groups could take as much as a quarter of the vote, giving the two groups of Islamists combined control of nearly 65 percent of the parliamentary seats.

That victory came at the expense of the liberal parties and youth activists who set off the revolution, affirming their fears that they would be unable to compete with Islamists who emerged from the Mubarak years organized and with an established following.

Anyone—anyone—with even a smattering of historical knowledge going back to Iran in 1979, and knowledge of the history of Egypt and the influence of the Brotherhood there, should have had no trouble whatsoever predicting this. It is simplicity itself. The only real question (and that question remains a question) is how far they will go and how restrictive and Islamist Egypt will become. There is no question, however, that a sizable and powerful percentage of those in charge of Egypt would like it to go very very far and become very very Islamist.

And yes, I know that Iran is overwhelmingly Shi’ite and Egypt overwhelmingly Sunni and that the two branches have some differences. But I also am aware of the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it’s not a pretty one.

I claim no special prescience here in having predicted this from the very moment I heard Mubarak might be in trouble, and in harping on it thereafter. It took no particular insight to see it.

Here is the very first article I wrote on the subject, back in January of 2011, in which I said:

I have been concerned from the start about the possible influence and popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood [in Egypt], a currently-banned Islamist fundamentalist group that has its roots in Egypt in the earlier part of the twentieth century. And here’s some background on the position of El Baradei, who might (accent on the “might”) be in a position to take charge in a while.

The Egyptian people are protesting in favor of democracy. As a person who remembers the turmoil of the Iranian revolution of 1979—the different groups temporarily united for the Shah’s overthrow and then jockeying for position (vainly) against the fundamentalist Islamists who quickly established their dominance—I have to say the situation makes me nervous.

Here’s another long article I wrote on the subject, one of many. And I was hardly alone.

I still don’t know how the situation could have been improved, however. It’s the same old question: do we support repressive dictators or encourage democracy in countries that are unready, unwilling, or unable to guarantee liberty and human rights for their citizens, and who are likely to democratically vote in governments that could be worse than the dictatorships they replace, both for us and for their own citizens? I’ve written tons on that subject, too (see the category “neocons” in the right sidebar, and especially this 2-part series). Feel free to weigh in.

20 Responses to “Muslim Brotherhood doing well in Egyptian elections: is anyone surprised?”

  1. Mr. Frank Says:

    The Islamists will be taking over a sinking ship. Half of Egypt’s food is imported, unemployment is rampant, and Egypt has little oil. In short order the people will be very unhappy.

  2. Commenter formerly know as roc scssrs Says:

    I don’t have much optimism concerning the so-called Arab Spring. I have a friend, a Christian, who grew up in Syria. He is rooting for Assad. He says if the Islamists prevail, genocide will occur. He saw it almost happen in the 80′s. The Copts in Egypt are a much bigger minority, but things are not loooking too good for them, either.

  3. kaba Says:

    This was as predictable as sunrise and sunset. The young idealist may have been well motivated. But it is the ruthless guys with the guns that will win. One further prediction here. Many will soon think of the days under Mubarak as the good old days. A little like people missing the shah in Iran.

  4. Promethea Says:

    If the Arab muslim world (including Christians) weren’t such anti-semites, I might feel a bit more sorry for them.

    I know that Arabs and Arabized other peoples are supposedly very hospitable and all that, but what else have they done besides promote poisonous hatred?

    Islam is a Jim Jones cult that was successful in stealing, lying, raping, and murdering its way across many lands. We would be fools to help it spread any further.

  5. Occam's Beard Says:

    I blame Bush.

  6. Occam's Beard Says:

    I’ve been in Egypt several times, years ago, and found the people to be warm, hospitable, and friendly. Still, it only takes a relatively small proportion of hard-nosed types running the country to change the tenor of a place.

  7. Old Rebel Says:

    The lesson here is that Western freedom is a Western institution. The freedoms that are part of our culture aren’t necessarily a good thing in the hands of those who would misuse them.

    Burke was right: “The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do.”

    And that’s the difference between paleoconservatism and Neoconservatism – the concrete vs. the ideal.

  8. JimG33 Says:

    The worst of this is the idea that Islam has a moderate side. Sure Muslims can be hospitable, that’s the reality of life in the desert; even 1500 years later that is still a major part of their personal relation to the infidel, if they are in the minority. But the infidel is still an infidel, a kaffir, someone who must eventually submit or die. We may look at our actions over the last 32 years and blame our leaders and politicians. But to me the most interesting parameter is why Islam was relatively quiescent after the siege of Vienna in1643. Since then they have never won a war against a Western army, the Battle of the Pyramids in 1790 being the classic example, the continuing wars against Israel demonstrating this truth again and again. But as Iran gets closer and closer to a nuclear bomb they seem to be closing off our options rather than their own.

  9. George Pal Says:

    We need neither support dictators nor encourage democracy in backwater hellholes. There’s a third option, dissociate ourselves from Muslim/Sharia countries, i.e., close our embassies and consulates and order the counterparts out of this country.

    We might also start making demands of such countries; failing to comply, such countries would be segregated from the world community – such as it is. For example:

    On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations, in its Charter adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which:
    Article 1
    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

    Article 5
    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    Article 16
    (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

    Article 18
    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

    Article 26
    (2)… It [education] shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

    Every second of every day Islamic/Sharia countries defy Articles 1, 5, 16, 18, 26, denying such freedoms and as often as not with intimidation and violence. Until such time as the UN block of OIC Islamic/Sharia countries comply with Articles 1, 5, 16, 18, 26, de facto and de jure, they should be expelled from the UN.

    Concepts valued by the West only in the abstract are certain to be contemptuously defied, especially in the particular instance of Islamic practice. Either stand up to Islam or end the UN; win-win.

  10. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Not that uncommon that organized folks take advantage of catastrophe or revolutions run by others.

  11. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    I’m betting that just such a result is exactly what Barack Hussain Obama wanted.

    As for the warmth and hospitality of Muslims, I refer people to the Hadith that talks about how Muslims should treat unbelievers, if Muslims happen to be in a majority Infidel country and under the potential control of Infidels i.e. “We smile in some peoples faces, but we curse them in our hearts.” (see, for instance, http://www.politicalislam.com/blog/is-a-nice-muslim-a-good-muslim and http://quotingislam.blogspot.com/2011/06/we-muslims-smile-in-face-of-some-people.html).

  12. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    The only thing that would surprise me would be that the MB was not winning.

    Sayyid Qutb, the modern instigator of Islamism was Egyptian. He was executed by Nasser in 1964 for his extreme views, which were vehemently opposed to Nasser’s secular nationalist ideology. He was a member of the MB and is one of their martyrs. Egypt, with no oil and unable to feed itself, will not fair well as an Islamic state. Of course there may be another Col. Nasser ready to arise and become their next dictator.

    We now have two theaters of Islamic power grabbing going on – Egypt and Libya. Libya has oil and could become another formidable problem, like Iran. That tension and chaos will also keep the price of oil higher than it needs to be. Oh joy!

  13. Don Janousek Says:

    And now an ancient Christian community, the Coptic Orthodox Church, faces its long night of darkness, sorrow and tribulation.

    Ain’t the “Arab Spring?” great? Look at all them purty guns…er…flowers.

  14. Daniel Says:

    A couple colleagues of mine quit their jobs in Cairo and are moving their families here to the US to be illegal aliens if necessary, just to get away from the coming chaos.

    Our choice in the US is clear. To encourage democracy and to protect our interests. Sometimes, democracy in one country (which is what you’ve just seen, like it or not) is not necessarily in our best interests, but it is also not right for us to subjugate an entire country to our will just because we don’t like their government.

    Let’s not just think of the Egyptians as being a bunch of idiots and let them work things out for themselves. I’d much rather help them along as much as we can rather than throw up my hands and scream “Islamists!”.

  15. Bob from Virginia Says:

    George Pal, the idea of disassociating ourselves from the nuttier Islamic states has a downside, they all run terrorist organizations as an extension of their foreign policies. Recall we had disassociated ourselves from the Taliban government of Afghanistan. The problem is the same as with the other aggressive ideologies of the 20th century, you cannot disengage. Fall back (disassociate) and they come after you.

    I suspect a mix of the anti-Nazi and anti-communist strategies will eventually evolve. All out war against the more dangerous Islamofascist states like Iran and containment against the laughing stock Islamofascist states like those emerging in Egypt and Libya.

    Meanwhile I understand anyone with any money in Egypt is moving it out of country. Assuming that the MB government will end the treaty with Israel, the US government will end aid to Egypt, they won’t have enough money to buy food but plenty to ship arms into Gaza, why even mention tourism, and it looks like Arab world has just entered a whole new learning curve.

    Has anyone noticed we are facing a 7th century ideology combined with a failed 20th century ideology (the MB founder was heavily influenced by Nazism) in the 21st century, weird.

  16. Bob from Virginia Says:

    On Arab society in books: Leon Uris was first in his book The Haj to publicly proclaim that Arab society was amoral. Edward Luttwak, and many others noted the some thing. Now there are a slew of books saying the same thing. The latest I can recommend is The Strong Horse by Lee Smith. My favorites include Nonie Darwish’s Now They Call Me Infidel and Cruel and Usual Punishment, Brigette Gabriel’s Because They Hate, Wafa Sultan’s A God That Hates. Other informative books are Kingdom of Hate, and Preachers of Hate.
    Of course anything and everything by Prof. Barry Rubin is good. The Truth About Syria describes the type of Arab government Clinton has been trying to ween away from Iran. Faoud Ajami and Walid Phares are for the more advanced readers.

  17. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Nice reading list, Bob from Virginia. I read “THE HAJ” shortly after 9/11. Everything that has happened since then has confirmed Uris’s description of Muslims. The other books, most of which I have also read, just add more detail. It’s clear that we are involved in another conflict between the forces of tribalism and modernity in the form of liberal democratic governments. If we are to fare better than the Romans did, we must understand the enemy. Your listed books help us do that.

  18. George Pal Says:

    @ Bob from Virginia Says:

    “… the nuttier Islamic states has a downside, they all run terrorist organizations as an extension of their foreign policies. Recall we had disassociated ourselves from the Taliban government of Afghanistan.”

    They may run all the terrorist organizations they wish, it is up to the West to make it known that this will avail Islam less than nothing. For example, it is made know that any Islamic terrorist attack on any non Islamic country will result in the closing down of all mosques and Islamic community centers in that country, the property confiscated and sold, the proceeds going to victims and their families. Sympathetic countries may do likewise, if moved. Re the Taliban: we are now negotiating with them to please stop; I expect this entails the payment of a good sum of money as this seems to be a long-standing condition among the tribes for cease fires and temporary peace.

    “All out war against the more dangerous Islamofascist states like Iran and containment against the laughing stock Islamofascist states like those emerging in Egypt and Libya.”

    We have neither money (see Treasury) nor will (see Taliban/Afghanistan) to fight an all out war with Iran – nor need. Containment sounds enough like dissociation if applied to islam outside the islamic state; there is no containing to be had in the vast Middle East. All aide, financial, military, training, and support should be stopped immediately – to all Islamic states. Trade should also be greatly curtailed. Absent Western technology, expertise, and foreign workers, I suspect most Middle East Islamic states would tailspin into the past – eventually meeting where their social and cultural evolution stopped – 14 century?

  19. ziontruth Says:

    “Is anyone surprised?”

    Only the heirs of those who believed, after 1919, that mere democratization could bring out the good in people and prevent the recurrence of horror.

    George Pal, kudos on your words. People say the Atlantic Ocean is no longer a moat, and that’s true, but it’s not really relevant; for, whether it is an ocean (in America’s case) or a fence (Israel’s) that’s between you and the enemy, the same truth holds that, in order to wreak their destructive work, the enemy needs to physically be here. Hence the key to solving the problem: Deport the entire population from which 100% of the terrorism threat originates.

    “Sounds too easy,” you might say. Unfortunately, I admit it isn’t: So easy to bring to practice, this solution is nevertheless the hardest, because it’s the most politically incorrect one. In a day when the mere assertion that multiculturalism might not be in the individual nations’ best interests is decried swiftly with the R-word, the enemy within—the Marxist traitors—are the first and foremost barrier standing the way of dealing with the Islamic imperialist threat.

  20. Bob From Virginia Says:

    George Pal

    As along as the Islamofascist states have oil they will have money to finance terrorism. We’ve seen how well sanctions worked on Iraq. As for an all out war on Iran, we may not have a choice if they get or are the verge of getting the bomb. In such a case the cost of a war against Iran would be minuscule compared to not going to war.

    I doubt a ground invasion would be necessary. Air attacks could reduce Iran’s weapon making and offensive capacity to near zero.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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