Atlantic Council Middle East Published Articles

The Common Islamist: Principle, Pragmatism, or Triumphalism?

Islamist Giza Protest

From my new article on EgyptSource:

For many in Egypt, conspiracies and manipulations are evident, none clearer than the current battle over the Supreme Constitutional Court. Many liberals are convinced Islamists are seeking to destroy the judiciary in order to establish control over all three branches of government.

But do Islamists see themselves this way? Setting aside any possible top level schemes and propaganda among Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi leaders, do their supporters believe they are involved in a pre-planned hijacking of the revolution? Or might their own assumed conspiracies of the liberals have a measure of legitimacy?

‘They are doing everything they can to keep the decisive voice from going to the people,’ Ezzat al-Salamony, a member of the Guidance Bureau of the Islamic Group in Cairo, said of the secular politicians.

Demonstrations on Sunday at the Supreme Constitutional Court led to its chief justice suspending all work in protest. The headline of Ahram Online read: ‘Besieged by Islamist protestors, court delays ruling on Constituent Assembly’. Attending this protest, I witnessed hundreds chanting against the court.

But I also witnessed scores of riot police securing the entrance, enabling anyone to go in or out.

SCC Islamist Protest

I write next of what may represent a liberal effort to discredit Islamists via the protest at the court. But there may well be other games as well by the other side:

In his [Morsi’s] earlier declaration the president issued two more months for this assembly to complete its work. But in this closed door meeting the message was different.

‘Either we accept the declaration, or the constitution would be voted on tomorrow [Thursday, November 29],’ said Messiha, referring to the message delivered by the president’s legal advisor Mohamed Gadallah. The president was forcing their hand, and they refused. Just like that, the two months disappeared.

But most of the article is given to direct quotes from protesting Islamists, such as this one:

‘We can go outside the law if necessary for the public interest,’ said Adel Mohamed, ‘and the wali al-amr [Islamic terminology for the leading governmental authority] has the right to define the public interest.

‘Morsi walks righteously because he knows God, whereas Mubarak [also a wali al-amr] put those who mentioned the name of God in prison.’

Some of the quotes will resonate, others will infuriate. I can only hope, though, that all were sincere. For the most part I did not feel Islamists were trying to sell me a bill of goods.

Now, the country must make that determination. The referendum on the constitution is scheduled for December 15. The next two weeks will be very interesting.

Please click here to read the rest of the article at EgyptSource.

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