THE MUSLIMS ARE COMING! THE MUSLIMS ARE COMING! Or more specifically, the Muslim Brotherhood is coming. It has been the panic cry of the right wing ever since the Arab Spring dethroned Hosni Mubarak over a year ago. Some in the right wing media accused President Obama of “revealing his Muslim affinities” by “hosting” the Muslim Brotherhood at the White House, when what he was doing was holding some preliminary meetings with the majority party of the Egyptian parliament.
Well, all the hysteria was premature. Two polls have been released together, one taken in February and one taken in April. They show a dramatic shift in Egyptian opinion.
Though 63% of Egyptians supported the Brotherhood, in part because they had the most efficient political organization in the country, last February, in April their support has fallen to 42%. The nation is preparing for Presidential elections.
Support for the more conservative Salafis has also fallen, from 37% to 25% over the same period. The Muslim Brotherhood has been trying to position itself as the more moderate, but Muslim party. The Salafis support imposition of Sharia law and expulsion of all non-Muslims from Egypt. As in other Muslim countries, this kind of extremist position is most popular in rural areas where the populations tend to be less educated and less affluent.
Egyptians are also expressing reservations about letting the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, who hold the majority seats in Parliament, write the new constitution. Support for the parliamentary majority to choose those writing the constitution has fallen from 62% to 44%, while support for having the new president make those choices has grown from 9% to 14% and support for the current military rulers to choose has gone from 14% to 17%.
Egyptians are also retreating from having the majority party choose the new prime minister. Support for that has dropped from 46% to 27%, and support for the new president to make that decision is up from 27% to 44%.
When asked if people thought it was a good thing or a bad thing for the Muslim Brotherhood to hold a strong position in the parliament, the “good thing” fell from 62% to 36% and the “bad thing” rose from 27% to 47%.
After the rebellion that liberated Egypt from the rule of Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood was the only group able to hit the ground with a strong political organization. That strongly impacted the parliamentary elections. They could field more candidates and put more money into the election. Now, it appears the Egyptian people are having a mass case of buyer’s remorse.
Democracy is a messy process, and in its infancy it closely resembles human infants – lots of spitting up, shitty diapers, barfing and burping occasionally interrupted by heart-melting smiles and shining eyes. Egypt has a long way to go in its evolution to a modern democracy, and all the rest of us can do is watch and hope that in the chaos they will not choose to retreat to the security of a dictator.