Monday, January 23, 2012

Egyptian election results

The official results of the three-stage Egyptian elections have been announced, and they are worse than expected. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won 38% of the vote and the Al Noor (light) Salafi Party won 29%. Overall this gives the Islamist fundamentalists a huge two thirds majority in Parliament. But, there is a difference between the MB and the Salafists, although both are Islamist in the sense that they are political parties that base their program entirely or mainly on Islam. That means that both of them will want to introduce sharia law into Egypt, the Islamic law that was developed over the centuries by the umah, the collective of Muslim Imams and scholars.

The Moslem Brotherhood was established by Hassan al Bannah in 1928 and his follower Sayyad Qutb wrote an intensely anti-American book after having lived in the US from 1948-50. His response to the US was profoundly antagonistic and the party was heavily influenced by Nazi WWII anti-Jewish propaganda. They intended to protect Egypt and other Muslim countries from what they considered the corrosive effects of westernization and modernization. As such, this movement has its roots in a distinctly anti-western Muslim tradition. The salafi party has its origins in the strict interpretation of Islam fostered by the so-called Wahhabi sect of Islam that was founded by Muhammed al Wahhab in the northern remote Nejd region of Arabia starting in the 18th century. The Wahhabis believed that the Hashemite rulers of Arabia were corrupt because they were dealing with the west and they had strayed from the true path of Islam. The Wahhabis made a deal with Ibn Saud, the ruler of the Nejd and they fought a campaign against the Hashemites and drove them from Mecca and Medina and hence established Saudi Arabia in 1932. Anyone who believes that these movements are of ancient origin is wrong, the Egyptian MB was established in 1928 and the Saudi salafi movement in 1932. Both of them are united by a strong anti-western polemic.

However, things may not be as bad as it seems, there are a few mitigating circumstances. First, the FJP published a list of ca. 1,000 prisoners it would release, that includes a Coptic blogger who has written pro-Israel articles. Second they have chosen a notable Egyptian who will be the speaker of the Parliament who has committted himself to strictly neutral parliamentary procedure. There is also a one third minority opposition of non-Islamic parties, including a secular party that supported the revolution that has 1.5% of the seats. It is said that the FJP is partly pragmatic and interested in social justice and staying in power. However, the FJP has also said that it will work to help Hamas become the only representative of the Palestinian people (ie. they will oppose Fatah and the peace process) and they will help Hamas to overcome the "occupation," in other words to eliminate Israel. This has split Hamas, between those who want to retain ties with Shia Iran while others want to cut ties and rely only on the MB for support. Whatever happens these events do not augur well for Israel.


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