Who Will The Egyptian People Turn To?

Man-and-Woman-Tahrir-Cairo

Michael J. Totten has a very interesting piece in PJM about the political atmosphere and possible players in the approaching election in a post- Mubarak Egypt, and the inside scoop on one influential entity hoping for control over the country … The Muslim Brotherhood. So, how “moderate” is the MB?

The Muslim Brotherhood’s spokesmen have been waging a PR campaign in the West for many years. They know exactly what to say and what not to say. They tell Western reporters that they’re activists for democracy and civil society. They don’t say they want to ban alcohol, force women to wear headscarves or veils, or further restrict the rights of religious minorities.

The term “moderate” is relative, though. Surely the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate compared with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but that’s a meaningless standard. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are the most politically extreme Islamist organizations on earth. Fidel Castro is moderate compared with Pol Pot, and the Ku Klux Klan is moderate compared with the Nazis, but so what?

It hardly matters at all that the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate compared with mass-murdering totalitarians whose weapon of choice is the suicide bomber. (Besides, its leadership supports the suicide bombers of Hamas, which ought to go without saying since Hamas is the organization’s Palestinian branch.) The only question that matters is: what does the Muslim Brotherhood actually stand for? What do they say when Western reporters aren’t in the room?

Totten found a disgruntled former MB member turned Egyptian ‘socialist’ to discuss the political lanscape in Egypt:

“They aren’t going to do well in the upcoming elections,” he said. “Most of the votes they got before were protest votes against Mubarak’s NDP rather than votes for the Muslim Brotherhood. Now that the NDP has been dissolved, they don’t have that base to fall back on.”

I’ve been told there are around 40 political parties in Egypt right now, though I’m not sure anyone who gave me that number actually counted them or could name them. Most of those parties are microscopic and irrelevant, but some are serious and should do reasonably well in a free and fair election, and they span the same ideological range that exists everywhere else, with socialists on the left and capitalists on the right.

“Lots of parties are coming up quickly,” Adel said, “and they’re getting popular. The Brotherhood is afraid of two parties in particular, the Free Egypt Party and Mostafa El-Naggar’s Justice Party.”

The Free Egypt Party is a secular, anti-sectarian, and free market capitalist party founded by a Coptic Christian businessman, though the party is by no means a “Christian” party the way many Lebanese political parties are Christian. The founder just happens to be a Christian. I saw a number of women wearing Islamic headscarves in one of their offices when I went in there for an interview. Their platform is as anti-socialist as it is anti-Islamist.

The Justice Party, meanwhile, stresses “social justice,” though it is centrist and includes activists from both the left and the right, including Mohamed El-Baradei’s sister Mona, an Egyptian economist.

These parties are new and, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, their platforms are modern and products of the 21st century.

Read the whole thing.