Ending months and decades of speculations, the Muslim Brotherhood has finally emerged triumphant by working within the Egyptian system. Traditionally and ideologically, what happens in Egypt does not stop there and many people are concerned what this evolution of Arab Spring in Egypt means for the volatile Middle East and the rest of Islamic world. As Egypt emerges, it is important to observe the dynamics that are unfolding there internally i.e., between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, it is equally critical to see how the success of Muslim Brotherhood impacts other Islamist organizations that were inspired by it.
What Caused The Arab Spring
Most of the initial discussions in the West revolved around what actually triggered the uprisings, and the criticality of social media as a galvanizer. There has been a focus on the study of these modern day social media inspired revolutions and what that means for the future.
Over time, the attention has now shifted to the deeper level analysis. For example, in case of Egypt, the younger forces of change that led the revolt against Mubarak were taken over by the more organized Muslim Brotherhood, while the forces of status quo are now spearheaded by its military. Moreover, the connection between the war on terror and the Arab revolt is now coming to the surface. In the chaos and vacuum of almost all Arab Spring afflicted countries, the Islamists and extremists are gaining ground. The tussle between the liberal and conservative and nationalistic forces is playing out in many countries. In fact, the American think-tanks have already identified the pattern working across the region as the ‘Rise of Islamists’.
These conclusions lead to the next critical set of inquiries. Despite all efforts to repress them, what has caused the rise of Islamists and where do affairs go from here. If one looks at the region without first limiting it by the dynamics of each country, the following key themes and influences emerge to be working across borders and time:
• The deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian conflict
• The nature of US-Israeli partnership
• The future of Al Qaeda and the War against Terror
• The Shiite Sunni divide
• The tussles of Arab, Persian and Turks for supremacy
These factors have been discussed amply in previous articles. For the purpose of this discussion, they are crucial in understanding the rise of Islamists. In many respects, ascent of the Islamists is the failure of the liberal and secular forces to represent the truly held values of the society. When autocratic, or even democratic rulers, cease to represent the intensely entrenched sentiments of their people, the system is bound to seek at least some semblance of equilibrium. This imbalance had after all inspired the Al-Qaeda leaders, who themselves were motivated by the forefathers of Muslim Brotherhood.
Since 9/11, the war against terror has spread to many new corners. The extremists have worked across borders and so has the response, to include the drones. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood has arrived at the driving seat, this brings to completion a struggle that spans more than 80 years.
Within the Egyptian political system, the roles are now reversed. The military that has acted as the torchbearer of the liberal and secular values will now have to work with the Islamists that have always resisted those tendencies and were persecuted because of that. Will the military accept the political authority now vested in the Muslim Brotherhood? The answer to this question has wider implications for the region.
In some respects, what is happening in Sunni Egypt is what occurred in Shiite Iran in the late 70s. The western construct of the separation of church and religion appears to be melting away. The question is what message will Muslim Brotherhood inspired Islamists and extremists take from its success in Egypt. It provides hope to moderate Islamists that victory is still possible by working within the system and by not employing violent and deadly means. This will likely discredit organizations like Al-Qaeda.
A statement released by the Afghan Taliban over the success of Dr Muhammad Morsi stated that it is “the strongest blow in the Middle East and the whole world to the American and Zionist expansionism. May the Muslim Nation of Egypt and their newly elected government take good advantage of this important occasion and historical victory in the defense and achievement of the interests of the Islamic Ummah.”
Comparing Egypt And Pakistan
What is taking shape in Egypt could very well be where Pakistan is heading as well, where conservative and nationalistic forces are resurgent. In other respects, Egypt may be heading towards the inter-institutional tussles that Pakistan is presently facing.
The statements made by the most popular political leader of Pakistan, Imran Khan, also provided some early indications. He stated recently that the country was “formed on the very basis of becoming an Islamic welfare state.” Therefore, the Muslims of India and Pakistan will feel betrayed if it does not become one.
Pakistan is also different from Egypt. The military in Pakistan is no longer projecting itself to be the bastion of liberal and secular values, as the military of Turkey was and Egypt is. In Pakistan, the army is already suspected of having religious tendencies and is increasingly accused of supporting outfits such as Haqqani network and LeT. Pakistan’s military realizes the war against terror has transformed the society to such an extent that there is no longer room available to provide carte blanche cooperation to NATO forces in Afghanistan, or be seen as a close ally.
Moreover, Pakistan is not Egypt, as it does not directly threaten the security of Israel and compete in the politics of Middle East as Turks and Iranians do. Most importantly, and perhaps perilously, it is not Iran that is close to acquiring nuclear weapons but is not there yet. And, that is why any Egyptian style transformation in Pakistan carries much higher stakes for the West.