Islamists in Power: Easy Come, Easy Go!

Hakim Khatib

Hakim Khatib

Hakim Khatib studied political science of the Middle East, European Studies, journalism and linguistics. He has been lecturing at different German universities since 2011 on issues related to ideology and the interplay of power thereof in socio-political life, and religion and its relationship to contemporary politics in the regions of West Asia and North Africa, especially Egypt and Syria. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal (MPC Journal) since 2014 and has published over 100 articles in different languages, academic and otherwise, in a wide spectrum of on-line and printed newspapers, journals and think tanks. His current research focuses on Islam-inspired political ideologies such as Islamist extremism and Salafism, radicalisation, de-radicalisation processes in Germany as well as peace and conflict in the Middle East.
Hakim Khatib
People gathered in Tahrir Square to protest against Morsi.

© Image: Vice News – People gathered in Tahrir Square to protest against Morsi.

Interestingly, fair elections in Arab countries have nearly always resulted with Islamists reaching out to the highest positions in power. Hamas in Palestine in 2006, Al-Nahda in Tunisia in 2011 followed by Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, then Libya and Yemen and now the Islamisation and increase of sectarianism dominate the on-going Syrian civil war.

Islamic factions were politically marginalised under the rule of dictatorships but they were evidently active in the social sphere in the Arab world. They proved to be organised in heart-hunting campaigns to win the sympathy of the public. After the demonstrations of 25 January 2011 in Egypt for instance, parliament elections resulted with 45.7% for the conservative Islamic Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and 23.6% for the extreme conservative Salafi Al-Noor Party. In this case, Islamists owned 351 seats from 498, around 70% of the Egyptian parliament.

In the case of Arab uprisings, the issue of uncertainty remains a ravelling and problematic concept. The sudden fall down of dictatorships has left a vacuum in the political system of those countries. The nationalist states were suppressive to the extent that no political opposition was worth mention.

The socially active Islamist groups were the most organised groups to fill in that political vacuum; therefore, it was by coincidence that they were more equipped to win at polls than other parties.

The days go by and Islamic factions gain more power in Arab countries, specifically in those, which witnessed uprisings. They proved their inexperience in state management. The quality of performance and competence they offered was less than what they had promised.

The Middle East Values Study Organisation (MEVS) conducted a survey with 3496 interviewees from Egypt before and after the 25 January uprising. The survey showed that there is a significant decrease in supporting an Islamic government after 2013.

Asda’a Burson-Marsteller, a communication network in the Middle East, also confirmed such tendency. Asda’a conducted 3,000 face-to-face interviews between December 2012 and January 2013 with Arab men and women aged 18 to 24 in several Arab countries. The young simply long for better standards of living as well as to practice more fundamental freedoms regardless the form of state. They revealed that the core demands of the public differ completely from those of Islamists.

Protests against Mohammad Morsi on 2 July 2013

Protests against Mohammad Morsi on 2 July 2013

In 2011, millions crowded into Tahrir Square in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood supported this uprising but very lately. Indeed, the same Muslim Brotherhood, which supported the uprising of 2011, deemed demonstrations against them in 2013 as a result of a universal conspiracy against Egypt.

All those who demonstrate or protest against president Morsi are thugs repeating the same rhetoric of the Mubarak’s government in January 2011. “I separate the legitimate opposition from the vandals who committed violence,” Morsi said adressing Egyptians on National TV on 6 December 2012. “I won’t tolerate anyone working to overthrow a legitimate government,” he added.

Mohammad Morsi addressing the nation on 2 July 2013

Mohammad Morsi addressing the nation on 2 July 2013

After ousting Morsi in July 2013 by the General Abdulfattah Al-Sisi, the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian armed forces and minister of defence, the Muslim Brotherhood showed interest in only rescuing their own organisation neglecting the national interest of Egypt.

The promises Islamists made for Egyptians were brazenly broken. While Morsi was running to the Egyptian presidential elections, he promised to lift contingency law. He stressed: “It is not needed in a free country like Egypt.” He reconfirmed that message right after becoming the president of Egypt.

Ironically in 2013, in order to suppress the demonstrations rallied against the Brotherhood, Morsi imposed contingency law again and called for a national dialogue, in which all political parties can take part.

According to media reports, demonstrations took place for several reasons throughout 2013 against the Muslim Brothers such as: the failure of the Islamist-dominated government to deliver what they had promised, the autocratic governance and the continuation of the same policies of the previous regime.

New political leaders in Egypt, as in the rest of the Middle East, lack a democratic experience. Therefore, Egypt faces a number of key challenges in defining and implementing democracy, which is by far the most challenging form of government – both for politicians and for people.

According to analysts, there are doubts about the strength of the Brotherhood’s commitment to its promises. Islamists represented by the Brotherhood in Egypt are not equipped enough to lead a country into democratisation, according to the Mohammad Badi, the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

National states oppressed Islamic movements in the past 60 years. The dictatorships worked hard on the de-Islamisation of their societies and the enforcement of secularisation and marginalisation of Islam in educational and legal systems. Therefore, and as not only a reaction to the global changes in the world but also to the internal changes in their national states, those movements evolved seeking ideological and political alternative in Islam to socialism, liberalism, communism, secularism…etc.

The insistence on Islamist values in governance and the renewed commitment to the basic principles of Islam are not a return to the past, as it seems but an effort to encounter the changing contemporary problems. The contemporary worldwide wave of revivalist movements is a direct response to the global changes that constitute modernity for such societies.

In the 70s, many of those revival movements took a political form to revive what Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, started in 1928. These Islamic movements spread all over the Muslim-majority world: The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Al-Nahda in Tunisia, Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, the Jama’at-Islami in Pakistan and else- where in south and south-east Asia, and Shiite movements in Lebanon such as Amal and Hezbollah.

In countries like Tunisia and Egypt, in which the majority are Muslims, a growing movement based on Islamic religion is not a surprise. This change in the balance of power gave the chance to Islamists of all sects to strongly emerge and explicitly speak their minds, which led to a deep mixture between politics and religion. However, based on the above-mentioned premises, it seems that Islamists will vanish from the political scene in Arab countries as quickly as they emerged in power.


 

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