Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate for the presidency of Egypt, was declared the winner of this month’s election and promptly quit the Brotherhood. The tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters who had filled Tahrir Square in Cairo erupted into celebration.
Morsi won by a narrow 51.7% to Ahmed Shafiq’s 48.3%. The turnout for the election was only 51% of the qualified voters. Many younger voters had boycotted the election because the choice was between a member of the Brotherhood and the last Prime Minister of the Mubarak regime. Neither was acceptable to a young population that wanted a more modern, liberal candidate.
The Constitutional Court has disbanded the Parliament that was supposed to work with the new President to create a new Constitution. The long-drawn-out election process had seated a Parliament that was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The military council that has ruled the country since the fall of Mubarak in February, 2011, has retained enormous powers through this transition period. They are known to oppose the establishment of an Islamist government.
Morsi, in his declaration quitting the Brotherhood, said he wanted to be a president for all the people, but he is known for his distaste for Western culture and intense dislike of the United States. He spent several years here and developed a belief that Islam and American culture were incompatible. Egypt’s younger, educated citizens have embraced a more secular lifestyle and a more global world view than is acceptable in strict Islam.
These transitions are not going to be easy. A freer society not only frees the modernists and the young, it also frees the religious extremists who had been contained by the old regimes. What the transitions don’t need is ridiculous stupidity being spread by the right wing in America. There is a segment of our society that believes President Obama is a secret Muslim, wants to convert America into a Muslim state and supports the ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the right wing equates with terrorists like al Qaida and imposition of strict Sharia law like the Taliban. A better comparison would be with the IRA, a group founded in the same time frame as the Brotherhood, a group that has moved more into the political arena and away from armed insurgency. The Brotherhood, almost two decades ago, ejected al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri because he advocated violence. But factual history and informed analysis is not part of America’s extreme right wing which advocates either nuking the entire region (and all 1.3 billion Muslims on the planet) or an American invasion of the whole Middle East and the establishment of an American empire to replace the French, German and English empires that were overthrown by the people of the Middle East decades ago.
The thing to watch now is the manner in which Morsi works with the military to form the committee that will write the new constitution. It all comes down to how well both sides are willing to trust each other to work for the benefit of the entire nation and not just for their own interests. They are both very much aware of how easily the Egyptian people can come together in protest and, if necessary, revolt.