Does the Egyptian coup really spell the end of political Islam?

on Tuesday, July 9, 2013

International reactions to the current political crisis in Egypt are far from united. Perhaps, considering the situation on the ground in the country, no better can be expected from the international community. Despite the fact that the Egyptian military has taken over in what is largely being described as a coup, it follows unprecedented protests all over the country against the now-deposed president, Mohamed Morsi. It has been a coup backed by the people – a democratic coup, if there ever was one.

One of the most interesting comments, in my view, came from the controversial Syrian president, who said that the deposition of Morsi “is the fall of what is known as political Islam”. Bashar Al-Assad went on to say that he was fighting a similar battle in Syria in his efforts to crush an insurgency that he argued consisted of Islamists who were trying to use religion as a tool to make personal gains. Political Islam, in this article, refers to the inclusion of religious aspects in the political sphere.

Advocates of political Islam, at the forefront of which lies the Muslim Brotherhood, argue that Islam is a complete guide to life, and it features its own political system that must be adopted in Muslim countries. Opponents of the use of extracts from the Qur’an and Traditions of Prophet Muhammad in the political sphere, argue that the so-called Islamists are merely using religion to secure their election into government, and through their questionable actions, they are merely defaming Islam.

After the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi as President of Egypt by the military and the utter rejection of him by a large group of Egyptians, has the Muslim Brotherhood failed in its attempts to Islamize the political sphere of Egypt. One of the main contentions that many revolutionaries – as they are now being called – had with President Morsi, was that he had introduced a very Islamic Constitution that did not take into account the kind of diversity that was prevalent in the Egyptian society.

Only time will tell. The fact of the matter is that very similar protests take place in Turkey against Prime Minister Erdogan. A large number of protesters in Turkey are arguing that Erdogan is taking Turkey away from what its founding father Kamal Attaturk wanted it to be – a secular state. The Turkish people are apparently so vehemently opposed to political Islam that even the most bitterly divided sections such as the Kurds have united to put forward a single voice against Prime Minister Erdogan and his allegedly Islamic agenda.

The failure of so-called Islamists in Egypt is not a shortcoming of Islam by any means. It is a shortcoming of the people who operate it. While they might rally using religion as a way to gather the masses, and effectively so, ultimately, if they cannot provide good governance to people, people will be forced to look elsewhere. This is not to say that secular leaders have proven themselves to be good leaders. Most military dictators in the Middle East, including Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, Mohammad Gaddafi of Libya and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt were all secular leaders. Their level of success as rulers can be questioned, but it seems at least the people of Egypt would rather go back to those times than relish in the bitter taste of political Islam.

The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt does not mean that they will continue to be a powerful mobilizing force in Egypt. They will still have their support among large portions of the people for the social work they do for many sections of society. However, their non-inclusive nature of governance has shown to the majority of Egyptians that perhaps they are best left out of the political sphere. Perhaps Egypt will start looking like countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia, where religious parties have historically rarely been successful at the polls, but still command tremendous influence over a large part of society.

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