The Muslim Brotherhood’s Post-Mubarak Anti-Americanism
The Brotherhood said the case showed that part of U.S. aid to Egypt “is being spent to destroy Egypt and ruin its society.”
The state-run Al Ahram newspaper yesterday reported that Egypt’s minister of planning and international cooperation, Fayza Aboulnaga, has told investigators that the U.S. directly funded NGOs in the country to sow chaos after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
The LA Times elaborates on current societal trends, as manifested by MB statements:
As 16 U.S. citizens await trial in Egypt for accepting foreign financing to promote democracy, for the first time in more than 30 years there is a serious debate in Washington about whether to end the $1.3-billion annual military assistance to Cairo. There’s no debate in Egypt, however. More than 70% of Egyptians, according to a recent Gallup poll, no longer want U.S. funding.
By deciding to prosecute Americans, post-Mubarak Egypt has intentionally provoked a bilateral crisis. But the legal assault on U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations and personnel is merely a symptom of a larger, more serious problem. In Egypt today, all major political forces — the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood and the government — are embracing anti-American populism.
It appears as if the optimistic predictions for a democratic, stable and broadly pro-Western post-Mubarak Egypt were misplaced. Rather, this predictive statement by Daniel Pipes on February 4th seems on the mark:
The inherently anti-democratic nature of the Islamist movement must not be obscured by the Islamists’ willingness to use elections to reach power. In the prescient words of an American official in 1992, the Islamists forward a programme of “one person, one vote, one time”.
One reason for the (to some) surprisingly conservative nature of the post-Mubarak political landscape is the failure of more liberal factions to coalesce around a common political agenda:
Despite these developments, given the lack of financial clout and organizational resources, Muslim Brotherhood reformists still appear to be electorally insignificant. So far, they have not been able to win a single seat in the first round of the parliamentary elections (though other parties in the Completing the Revolution Alliance have won 10 seats). The fragmentation among them is also problematic, and they have a long way to go to catch up with the electoral competence of Morocco’s Justice and Development Party and reproduce its extraordinary party structures.
But there is a method to the MB’s madness. A crackdown on NGOs, while fanning the flames of nationalism, enables the Brothers to go about the business of restructuring Egyptian society in their own image:
A few months before Egyptians are to elect a new president, groups that have played key roles in the elections of emerging democracies elsewhere in the region are paralyzed by a widening criminal probe of such organizations, backed by the country’s ruling generals. Other nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers in Egypt are trying to keep a low profile, saying they worry about being named in the legal case or otherwise affected by the broader cloud of suspicion hanging over foreign-funded groups.
I find myself wondering if the political culture of post-Arab Spring countries will not be given a uniform anti-Western teint by the Islamists who have been seeking and often gaining new, democratically legitimized power in the region. Certainly, the nature of US-Egyptian relations is in flux. With the MB holding a firm grasp on both political and social processes, the likely shape of things to come seems to be taking on firm outlines, but the Middle East has surprised us before.