Today’s Wall Street Journal has an extraordinarily insightful piece on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Kudos to a ‘right reactionary’ paper to be able to rise above dogmatism at such a crucial juncture. WSJ piece shows how flawed is the view of MB as an ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ organisation, which colours many outsiders’ (including Chinese) assessment of the developments in Egypt. The whole point is, MB is no different from Turkey’s ruling AKP in its keenness to use the democratic space. If democracy strengthens, parties like AKP and MB stand to gain. Because, they are grass root organisations with strong mass base and committed and disciplined cadres.
They are quintessentially ‘neighbourhood groups’. If there is a wedding or a funeral or a childbirth or an illness in the family, the party’s cadres promptly walk up from down the street and knock on the door volunteering to help. To the needy, they even give financial and material assistance. They organise medicare, their grocery shops sell at cost-price, they subsidise the education for children from poor families. During Ramzan, AKP arranges free community kitchens in Istanbul and other cities.
Clearly, MB estimates that if a political enviornment is generated within which ‘free and fair’ elections become possible in Egypt, it has a very good chance of coming to power. This is exactly how the AKP in Turkey moved: AKP exploited Turkey’s requirement to fulfil the Copenhagen Criteria for EU membership to robustly push through a democratisation agenda, which has worked to its advantage by removing from the Turkish political landscape the single biggest threat it faced - an army coup. Now AKP is a free bird. All it needs is to retain its popularity amongst the electorate! What else is democracy about? Similarly, MB’s decision to line up behind ElBaradei is an astute move. Its decision to work with ’secular’ forces shows its capacity to be pragmatic.
It has become quite clear now that the uprising in Egypt is not ‘anti-American’ as such. Of course, MB, like AKP, will always be ‘islamic’. But then, Egyptians, like Turks, are also a nation with deep religiosity. Religiosity has nothing to do with ‘fundamentalism’. Of course, prejudices are always deep-rooted and they take time to disappear; many Turks (Kemalists) still suspect that AKP has a ‘hidden agenda’. But I always felt differently about the Turkish ‘Islamists’ - including when as ambassador in Turkey, I got the AKP (which was in the opposition at that time) to head the Turkish-Indian Parliamentarians’ Forum. I found them to be more Turkish nationalists than anything else. In short, the West can do business with MB. Then, why this paranoia? It’s the Israeli Lobby, Stupid! Read the WSJ report
Posted in Religion.
– January 31, 2011