Magazine article The Spectator

Aims of the Brotherhood

Magazine article The Spectator

Aims of the Brotherhood

Article excerpt

Make no mistake: the Muslim Brothers' vision for Egypt is a frightening one

Hosni Mubarak should be given cred - it for at least one achievement in his three decades in power: his deft exploitation of Washington's fears about the Muslim Brotherhood. There is, in fact, no evidence that the Brotherhood has ever been able to count on the support of more than a small minority. For its part, the Brotherhood has used Mubarak's persecution of its rank and-file membership with equal cleverness to elevate its status within Egypt and, perhaps more importantly, among the champions of 'moderate Islam' in the West.

The Brotherhood was formed as a fundamentalist group in 1928 with the aim of Islamising Egyptian society from below and thus purging the country of decadent Western influence and customs. From an Egyptian population of 80 million, it has today per - haps two million supporters and half a million members. Many of these supporters are ordinary people who do not wish to live in an Islamist state, but who would be willing to vote for the devil himself if it meant ridding the country of its hated Last Pharaoh.

None of this is understood by Washing - ton, which has happily propped up Mubarak and his regime just as it once did the Shah of Iran. The tragedy is that this combined effort to thwart an Islamic Egyptian revolution will probably hasten Washington's own worst-case scenario - with devastating con - sequences for Egypt's historically tolerant and pluralistic culture and America's influence in the region.

Anti-Mubarak anger on the streets of Cairo will increasingly be redirected in the coming weeks and months at Washington and Tel Aviv. As a result, more and more ordinary Egyptians will heed the call of the Brother - hood. For all the optimistic Western analogies to the collapse of communism, Egypt in 2011 is looking more like an action replay of Iran in 1979.

In the chaos of post-revolutionary Egypt, as in Iran three decades ago, Islamist forces are certain to emerge as the strongest, most disciplined and best-organised opposition - thanks to Mubarak's repression, this is not a hotly contested category. This is pre - cisely what Khomeini's Islamists did in Iran.

Regardless of their lack of popular support, they are poised to fill the vacuum - and to impose their agenda on the majority.

The pressing question, then, as Mubarak clings to power by his fingertips, is what kind of Egypt the Brotherhood wants to create after the tyrant departs. …

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