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Can Egyptian presidential candidate al-Sisi deal with Muslim Brotherhood?
The Egyptian Presidential election is just a formality. Candidates have been vetted and there are only two in the fray: 'Field Marshall' Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabahi. This is curious mixing of two completely different political systems: two-way American Presidential contest and vetting by Iranian Grand Council.

Sabahi is no match to al-Sisi. But can al-Sisi deal with Muslim Brotherhood properly in the larger interests of the nation and can he deliver on economy? Before that let's see what one of the most profound Egyptian leaders, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had to say about the Arab world and Egypt in an article published in Foreign Affairs in 1955.

“For a century and a half the Arab world has been following a negative policy. It has known what it wanted to do away with, but it has not known what it wanted to build. … Democracy was only a veil for dictatorship. Constitutions framed in the interest of the people of the Middle East became instruments for their exploitation and domination. Egypt's story in these years center upon the effort to free the country from a foreign yoke and to find a policy capable of eradicating the evils accumulated by feudalism and compounded by misuse of governmental power. It was a long and painful search. Egyptians hoped for leaders to champion their cause and defend their interests, but politicians and factions for the most part made themselves subservient to the forces that were ravaging the country,” said Nasser as reported by Daily News Egypt.

Very aptly said! Egypt has been in turmoil for the past more than three years. After the Jasmine evolution some hope arose about the real democracy coming to this part of the world. But after the deposition of Egypt's first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, on 3 July, 2013, by military apparently compelled by a popular uprising against the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi, hopes have been dashed on normalcy returning to Egypt for many people inside and outside the country. Civilian government controlled by Egyptian armed forces has declared Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and is trying to designate any potential supporter of the Islamic organization as a criminal.

Recently there have been numerous cases where overt injustice has been done to Muslim Brothers and their supporters by the Egyptian judicial authorities. The same is true many times in street-battles all across Egyptian cities. But then fighting Islamists is nothing new in this North African nation. Right from Nasser to Hosni Mubarak to al-Sisi all have tried so, many times successfully too. The fight is going to continue as Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed and al-Sisi is in no position to relent on over this matter.

Now banning Muslim Brothers and other Islamists implies ignoring approximately about 40% of Egyptian population even though al-Sisi and his aides project him to be a very pious Arab Muslim. But then ignoring 40% of public implies inviting more troubled in this already tensed Arab world. More and more normal public would become radicalized with many young males taking arms against the authorities, if not necessarily against the Egyptian state.

On the contrary not dealing firmly with Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations would imply giving them multiple-times a majority in all possible elected bodies for decades. The rising, conflicting, competing consciousness implies that nationalists-Islamists would dominate in an aware Arab society. This is particularly true about those societies where people are very proud about their past. Moreover, Egypt does not have any eternal enemy except for Israel, whereby anger can be quelled by abusing and accusing it. But on Israel, al-Sisi-led Egypt would be soft as Israel is offering vital support to Egyptian authorities in fighting al-Qaeda operatives in Sinai Peninsula.

If I could make a point then I would say that ousting Morsi was not correct though a majority of Egyptian public was then unhappy with the way he was running their lives. The mandate for Morsi was for five year and he should have been given more time to prove his mantle. But then it was great plan plotted to ultimately make al-Sisi as the President of Egypt. There is no point looking back in time. Unless and until the US does not compel there is no question of Egyptian authorities lifting ban on Muslim Brothers. But not doing so would be equally disastrous. The continuing ban would ultimately radicalize and Islamize the Egyptian public and would colorize the neutrality to great extent. There would be more blacks and more whites in Egyptian history than grey ever. Such could affect the demographic vitality of the nation and beyond.

Now important point is that the Egyptian economy should show sign of recovery. Right now the Egyptian economy is being saved by contributions from rich Gulf countries like the Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE. It is on life support system for the time being. Recovering the economy and saving it further deterioration would require three equally important things: first the traditional tourism sector should get the required boost, second the Egyptian should diversify their skills and third the Egyptian authorities would have to liberalize the economy and brace themselves for integration and homogenization.

All three require improvement in security situation which is rather unlikely till there is a ban imposed on Muslim Brothers. But the Egyptian authorities cannot lift the ban as they will lose vital and urgent economic backing from Gulf countries and ideological support from the US Congress and other dominant global Parliamentary bodies. Egypt has two polar options in front of it: first one is to accept the localism, defy the West and dominant opinion against the Islamism and improve on economics and second one is to believe in otherwise universal goals fighting with Islamists over secularism and remain mostly dependent on foreign aids and loans. Both these choices are not so neat in themselves. There is a great battle going between ideology and interest and all sides claim that both are interrelated. The fact is that that they are not.

But I will bet for Egyptian economy going robust and it becoming as independent as possible for any Arab nation of the size of Egypt though I do not think that al-Sisi would be that forthcoming in this regard. The security situation is very important anyway as any attack by al-Qaeda operatives based in Egypt on global interests or the US interests would invite immediate global condemnation. The situation in neighboring Libya is anyway very volatile and Egypt should be prepared for the worst. The fact is that al-Qaeda and its unacceptable destabilizing ideology needs to be defeated all across the globe but equally it is also true that despite of huge fastidiousness Muslims Brothers are no al-Qaeda and fighting with them ideologically and even materially for long and banning them could turn counterproductive.

Irony is that the Egyptian military cannot win the battle without negotiating a deal with moderate Muslim Brothers and other Islamists. But the way al-Sisi directed regime is proceeding, it appears that the present and incoming Egyptian authorities do not want peace with Islamists. But economic hardships in the midst of drastic changes in a society could invite catastrophe. The Islamism could very well turn into fascism with great contagion value. The whole of the Middle East and the North Africa would thus be affected by such changes.

The better thing would be to invite moderation and lift ban on Muslim Brothers. But they should also abandon part of their hardcore agenda and should be ready to give appropriate proportionate rights to apostates, atheists, minorities and females. The Muslim Brothers should also reconsider their position on imposing Shariah laws in Egypt if offered truce with amnesty. The Brothers should be allowed to fight elections after some moderation. An Islamic fundamentalism cannot be replaced by military dictatorship. At the very least it is not a suitable option.

The fact is that military rule is just like an unnatural transplant and Muslim Brothers are the true majority voice of Egyptian people in longer terms on religious and social matters. Earlier the Egyptian authorities admit this better it would be for them and for many other parts of the Arab world. Legitimization of military rule by making al-Sisi as President is no great step and would hardly change the situation on the ground. But I would welcome the definite win of al-Sisi provided he shows flexibility towards his opponents and allow peaceful dissenting voice to be transmitted. All should know that he has asked Egyptian people to prepare for more economic hardship.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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