An Islamic Egypt: Not so inevitable anymore?
By JONATHAN ADELMAN
The Muslim Brotherhood faces either a protracted battle for consolidation of its power or a possibility of ultimately being ousted form power. Either way an Islamic Egypt may not seem so inevitable anymore.
The rapid rise of Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt after the deposing of
Hosni Mubarak last year prompted many observers to see an Islamist Egypt as
inevitable. After all, the Muslim Brotherhood was the best organized and most
popular political party in Egypt, the opposition was divided, there was little
Western support for the secular opposition and the United States welcomed Muslim
Brotherhood delegations to the White House and worked openly with President
Mohammed Morsi to achieve a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas War. All this seemed
to many to be a rough replay of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Yet, as the
mass demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood recently in Tahrir Square and
across Egypt have shown, an Islamic Egypt, while still likely, is far from
Successful revolutions are usually led by charismatic leaders
with strong political intuition, like Mao, Lenin, Tito, Castro and Ayatollah
Khomeini. All personified their revolutions and drove the masses on to victory.
Morsi is no Ayatollah Khomeini, who embodied revolutionary mysticism,
persecuted, exiled past and lifetime spent in politics. Morsi lacks charisma and
spent his life gaining a PhD at USC and chairing an Egyptian engineering school
until 2010. His abrupt and radical moves belie a lack of political savoir
MORSI AND the Brotherhood lack the great wealth in oil and gas
revenue (as high as $100 billion annually) and expropriation of the great wealth
of the Shah that gave the ayatollah financial leverage in Iran. Egypt is a very
poor country whose GNP ($80b.) and stock market ($40b.) are both far less than
one percent of the level of the United States.
Equally important is the
lack of any Great Satan (which Khomeini called the United States) and Little
Satan (which he called Israel) against which the ayatollah roused the Iranian
masses. Instead, Morsi, through his negotiations with and accepting money from
the United States, looks more like an ally of the Great Satan. He also has
pledged to maintain the Camp David Peace Accord with Israel. He also lacks a war
with an enemy country (such as that between Iran and Iraq from 1980-1988) around
which to rally the Egyptian population.
The Shi’ites in Iran, after a
lengthy period of perceived persecution, rallied too around the idea of a
revolutionary Iran restoring them to their “proper” role in a Sunni dominated
region. This appeal was reinforced by the frequent and powerful interference by
England, the United States and Russia in their internal affairs. Egypt lacks
such a history. And, to boot, has eight million Christian Copts, many of whom
oppose the Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood also faces a significantly
stronger regime than post-Shah Iran in a strong military (which after an elite
purge, remains above the state), million- man security force, multi-million-man
bureaucracy, independent courts and media. Unlike Iran, Egypt lacks the
resources to provide serious help to the impoverished masses. Its GNP of $2,500
per capita (barely 5% that of the United States), over 40% female illiteracy and
88% of the population with no books at home save for school books for their
children limn a desperate situation.
And finally, having seen what
happened in Islamic revolutions in Iran (1979), Afghanistan (1996) and Gaza
(2006), its secular opponents are far more likely to come out and fight for
The flight of Mohammed Morsi from his presidential
palace on Tuesday and the massive number of demonstrators in front of the palace
and elsewhere does not augur well for Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood faces either
a protracted battle for consolidation of its power or a possibility of
ultimately being ousted form power. Either way an Islamic Egypt may not seem so
The writer is a professor at the University of
Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.