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Embracing the Brotherhood

Reader comment on item: A Neo-Conservative's Caution

Submitted by Raymond Moore (Republic Of Korea), Dec 18, 2005 at 10:10

The recent results of the Egyption election signal a great day for Islam and democracy as well. It's a sign of good things to come. I sincerely hope that this will be repeated throughout the Middle East.

Raymond Moore

Embracing The Brotherhood
Rami Khouri
December 12, 2005

(Rami G. Khouri is editor at large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper, published throughout the Middle East with the
International Herald Tribune.)

The moment of reckoning about the next stage of Arab political development is upon us faster than anticipated, with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt winning 88 seats out of a total of 444 in the Egyptian parliamentary elections. Many people will debate whether this is a danger, an inevitability that we have to adapt to, or a positive opportunity that could help shape the elusive historical transition from autocratic Arab security states to something more democratic and satisfying.

We should not collectively watch this unfolding process on CNN, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyya television, but rather we should embrace this opening with a combination of rationality, courage, equity and vision that have been sadly lacking from modern Arab governance systems. Arab, Western and Israeli political establishments must quickly respond with policies that can transform this into a positive force and a win-win situation for all.

While small groups of radical militants exploit Islamic sentiments and iconography to carry out their murderous deeds in this and other regions, the vast majority of mainstream Islamists have started to engage the peaceful, democratic political processes that are available to them in more and more countries. Legitimate political _expression and power-sharing, rather than some vague moderate religious _expression of Islam, is what will finally defeat the bin Ladenist jihadi terrorists, and we must all work wisely to encourage the continued emergence of legitimate Islamist democrats.

Such groups as the MB, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islah in Yemen, and others around the region have done and will continue to do well in Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and any other Arab land where they are given a chance to compete in political elections with a modicum of fairness. The most important thing about the Egyptian results is not that the Muslim Brotherhood now controls around one-fifth of parliament, or that it has more than doubled its previous best performance of
holding 36 seats. It is that it won 88 seats while only contesting around one-third of all 444 seats, so as not to provoke the government and its ruling National Democratic Party. The MB candidates also did not officially run under the movement's banner, given that it is not a legal organization or party in Egypt.

Furthermore, the NDP panicked when the MB did well in the first rounds of voting, so it used thug-like tactics in later rounds, including arresting hundreds of Islamist campaign workers and putting obstacles in the way of voters with Islamist leanings. Despite all this, the Islamists won around 50 percent of the seats they contested. This suggests that if they ran in all electoral districts and did not suffer the crude disruptions of the state's and the ruling party's goons and gangs, they would certainly win a plurality, and possibly a majority, in parliament. The same situation pertains in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and other lands, where Islamists who express the simmering discontent and indignities of large swaths of citizens find their political representation in "democratic" systems severely curtailed by the consequence of rigged voting, gerrymandered electoral districts, skewed electoral laws or tacit agreements that limit the number of seats the Islamists contest. Consequently, Islamists can participate in the political system, but can never accurately reflect the weight of their true constituency.

This year represents a watershed in Arab Islamist movements engaging more routinely and openly in parliamentary elections and other forms of democratic governance, such as municipal elections, activism within civil society and the mass media, and engaging politically through the rule of law and the judiciary. It is vital that the mainstream ruling elites in the Arab world and beyond respond in kind, by simultaneously engaging and challenging the Islamists in return. They should do so in order both to strengthen Islamist tendencies toward democratic politics, and to activate the test of incumbency that all aspiring governing parties must pass. Islamists
who win power or earn a place in governing coalitions must show that they can deliver to their constituencies and to all citizens'services and policies that make sense, and that respond to the citizens' rights and needs.

Islamist movements have broadly performed well in national resistance against, say, Israeli occupation, homegrown Arab autocracy, or Western hegemonic aims. If they prove their mettle as good managers and policy-makers, they will then be validated by their own societies as legitimate governors within a democratic, constitutional context in which power is routinely contested through elections, free media, civil society and other means. Turkey is an impressive example where Islamists challenged the ruling authority for years, were routinely beaten back with strong-arm tactics, but finally prevailed democratically and have ruled, broadly, with
equanimity and efficiency.

An important dimension of the Islamists entering establishment politics in the Arab world is how they will be engaged by the U.S., Israel and other Western powers. The Islamists say they will honor existing laws and treaties, including peace treaties with Israel in Egypt and Jordan, and significant aid and military ties with the U.S. It is ironic but welcomed that the MB Islamists have done well in Egypt in part because the U.S. pressured the Egyptian regime to open up the political system and allow diverse political groups to contest elections, including the presidency in a very limited

The Islamists have won a significant victory in Egypt, and it would be appropriate now for those in the U.S. and the Arab world who long fought against the concept of democratic Islamists to engage them, work with them, sometimes embrace them, but always challenge them to prove their efficacy as wielders of power in a democracy, rather than only challengers of authority in an autocracy. This might be a good time for some thoughtful, non-hysterical U.S. senators and
congressmen to invite a handpicked delegation of newly elected Arab members of parliament in several countries, including a few Islamists, to visit the United States for exchanges of views and perceptions on issues of common interest, including democracy, religion in public life and the impact of American, Arab, Israeli, Turkish and Iranian foreign policies.

Who knows? Maybe they would have a good chat on why we all love freedom and democracy, why Arabs tend also to stress sovereignty, liberation, self-determination and dignity as parallel goals, and how we could work together to promote those universal aspirations. This is a historic moment, and an opportunity not to be missed to promote democracy and stability in the Arab world.

Copyright 2005 Rami G. Khouri

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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Reader comments (72) on this item

Title Commenter Date Thread
1Looking Back [38 words]NobodyFeb 1, 2011 22:48182196
Embracing the Brotherhood [1120 words]Raymond MooreDec 18, 2005 10:1030136
1Muslim Brotherhood [14 words]SirSethDec 30, 2005 04:1230136
Neo conservatism caution [93 words]steven lNov 26, 2005 17:3528874
Democracy will not successful in the middle east [20 words]BhekiMay 11, 2005 04:0322058
A liberal's views [104 words]RobshapazApr 28, 2005 11:3521871
Quote Regarding Chile 1970 Reference [97 words]Pamela BeckApr 4, 2005 11:0421326
Gujrat Chief Minister [103 words]Emmanuel PApr 2, 2005 08:1521302
DP Not a Neo-con [204 words]GWMar 19, 2005 21:1321068
Gujarat Chief ministers' visit [508 words]RayMar 18, 2005 23:4921063
NEOCONS UNITE ! [92 words]Randy SizemoreMar 18, 2005 22:1321062
Chief minister of Gujarat visit to the US [46 words]A Hindu from BangladeshMar 18, 2005 13:2921058
Out with the Shah... [198 words]Robert B. ArbetmanMar 13, 2005 15:0620972
Old PC games [70 words]Octavio JohansonMar 12, 2005 08:0320961
What does Neocon mean? [126 words]Timothy LaneMar 11, 2005 23:5520960
...sugar is sweet, but this "neo" fad is making me sick. [47 words]NathanMar 27, 2006 08:1820960
SUI GENERIS? [61 words]David GuyMar 11, 2005 14:4720959
Neocon versus paleocon [53 words]McGroartyMar 11, 2005 13:0520955
Is there a definition to a Neo Conservative? [175 words]Abir ChaabanMar 11, 2005 08:3920952
Question [27 words]Neila Charchour HachichaMar 10, 2005 19:1920949
Encouraging Islamic Reformation [148 words]LorenzoMar 10, 2005 15:0720948
Caution isn't enough [34 words]Ted SimanMar 10, 2005 13:5420947
Irrational Exuberance? by John Derbyshire [59 words]Mr. DowntownMar 10, 2005 10:0220944
Caution First, Euphoria Much Later [79 words]Vivian E. WolfeMar 10, 2005 05:4020941
Out of the frying pan into the fire? [14 words]Lenn ChowMar 9, 2005 22:5820937
You could not be more correct. [197 words]H. YazdiMar 9, 2005 21:0420936
I Agree 100% [18 words]AlexMar 9, 2005 20:3820935
Caution Tale for the Neocons. [502 words]Arlinda DeAngelisMar 9, 2005 18:3320933
History Demands Respect [383 words]Daniel W. WeilMar 9, 2005 17:4320931
Neo-conservative or just clever? [34 words]Octavio JohansonMar 9, 2005 17:1220930
Golden Opportunity missed! [125 words]vincent villanoMar 9, 2005 16:1420929
Neo Cons / Israel [220 words]D SagMar 9, 2005 16:0920928
Why worry? [63 words]BillMar 9, 2005 16:0820927
Dictionary definition [119 words]Scott AdlerMar 9, 2005 15:3020926
From frying pan to the fire; [131 words]Goerge FranklMar 9, 2005 14:3820924
Condemning the Neocons: classic propaganda [128 words]JohnMar 9, 2005 14:3520923
Islam behind Democracy [344 words]A Hindu from BangladeshMar 9, 2005 14:0920922
Ignoring the danger signals [64 words]Ronald RothmanMar 9, 2005 13:5520921
Syria and Hezbollah [79 words]B. AlotaibiMar 9, 2005 13:4020920
Constitutions [91 words]CraigMar 9, 2005 13:1120918
Why did we drain the swamp only to find ourselves up to our "rears" in aligators [122 words]Cindy ConnerMar 9, 2005 11:2020915
Neo Conservative [34 words]Paul RinderleMar 9, 2005 09:5820914
Replacing autocrats with democrats [100 words]LouisaMar 9, 2005 09:3420910
neo conservative [9 words]MichaelMar 9, 2005 08:2720908
Neo-Conservatism and Islam [13 words]Brandy HansMar 9, 2005 07:2320906
AOL Mardh 9th report on Lebanon shows anti-Israel bias [54 words]lila ImasMar 9, 2005 05:0520903
Thinking outside the box [351 words]Kenneth SikorskiMar 9, 2005 04:2120902
Perhaps the rule of law is the Greater Need [266 words]JonMar 9, 2005 04:1020901
Neocon subtext [66 words]Marvin RabinovitchMar 9, 2005 03:1820900
Changes in Transition Period [689 words]Dr. Jamshid IbrahimMar 9, 2005 02:2020899
Islamist government is not necessarily a threat per se [367 words]Seb DakinMar 9, 2005 01:4620898
You have been labelled a neo-conservative [101 words]Octavio JohansonMar 9, 2005 01:1920897
Democracy v Republic [68 words]Raymond SingerMar 9, 2005 01:1220896
Steps? What steps? [57 words]Wayne WagnerMar 9, 2005 00:5720895
Adam is Right [4 words]GeoffMar 9, 2005 00:2520894
Neo Caution [141 words]J. GlueckMar 8, 2005 23:2620893
Mercilessly convincing [29 words]Emmanuel PrattMar 8, 2005 22:3620891
Definition of neo-conservative [128 words]Adam WeinrichMar 8, 2005 22:3420890
Reality [31 words]Joel KirsteinMar 8, 2005 21:5620889
Great article [18 words]pat tharpMar 8, 2005 21:0820888
Brilliant insights [3 words]Jeff PerrenMar 8, 2005 20:5720887
"Honesty?" Honestly! [166 words]Alan NitikmanMar 8, 2005 20:4920886
You can't make anything out of cookie dough except cookies [377 words]Peter J. HerzMar 8, 2005 20:2220885
Cynical Skeptics Unite!! [289 words]Darwin BarrettMar 8, 2005 20:1320884
Islamists [51 words]Donald W. BalesMar 8, 2005 20:0220883
Russia [33 words]Richard ValierMar 8, 2005 18:5620882
Not too random responses [70 words]Howard J SchwartzMar 8, 2005 18:0420881
Euphoria too Soon [76 words]Allen GinsburghMar 8, 2005 18:0320880
As always, you are so right! [26 words]IsaacMar 8, 2005 17:4520879
Funding for other groups [121 words]David W. LincolnMar 8, 2005 17:2620878
Hezbollah [39 words]Karen PerryMar 8, 2005 16:5120875

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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