Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hamas is all smiles

Hamas is all smiles

Boaz Bismuth

It took the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt 84 years to realize the vision of Hassan al-Banna, who founded the movement in 1928, to overthrow the existing regime and stand at the head of Egypt, which is known in the Arab world as "Umm al-Dunya" (mother of the world). That is a long time.

On the other hand, it took just one and a half years for the brotherhood to take control of Egypt from the moment Hosni Mubarak was deposed as president on Feb. 11, 2011 as a result of the Tahrir revolution. Egypt took the same path as that of the Tunisian uprising and followed its lead in the elections as well, painting itself green — the color of Islam. It was utterly predictable, although not the speed at which it transpired.

The brotherhood ruled over of a large portion of the Egyptian public prior to the revolution, including villages and poverty-stricken neighborhoods (42 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars a day). They also featured prominently in welfare issues and dominated many mosques throughout the country.

At first, the revolution lead to democratic elections, which gave the brotherhood a majority in parliament and control of the Constitutional Council. But their appetite grew larger and their stunning and easy victory caused them to renege on their promise not to field a presidential candidate. The temptation was too great because victory was in their pockets. It was a great opportunity for them to obtain a portion of the economic pie as well, which comes with government rule.

The military intervened, invalidating the brotherhood's first candidate. It then curtailed the president's authority and postponed publication of the election results. But loyal brotherhood followers filled Tahrir Square in their tens of thousands and gave the military an ultimatum: Mohamed Morsi or instability. The ruling military council preferred to do business with the brotherhood as long as it was still able to do so.

Morsi's election will not put an immediate end to military rule in Egypt, but it has reduced the council's strength. We have to wait and see how things develop there. Due to the military council's measures, Morsi will receive the presidency without a supporting parliament, without control over the Constitutional Council, and most importantly with a candidate for prime minister who is expected to be a compromise (perhaps Mohamed ElBaradei). The challenges Morsi faces are by no means to be considered easy (especially in the economic sphere).

But something happened in Egypt on Sunday. The West's worst fears until two years ago turned into — in the name of democracy — a done deal. The Aswan Dam was breached politically. The military and the brotherhood, who do not trust each other at all, must work together now. The brotherhood knows it can't operate without the military and the military knows it has already lost the support of the street. Both of these forces will rule hand in hand until they reach the inevitable point at which they will have to wrestle each other.

The results of the elections as announced on Sunday proved that not all is Islamic green in our southern neighbor. The votes were divided almost 50-50. If we consider that only half the country participated in the elections, it seems that only one quarter of the country wants a different Egypt. The big question is how does the brotherhood intend to handle the wishes of those who lost the elections, the aspirations of the liberals and Copts.

Hamas was quick to congratulate the president-elect. Within a year and a half, the extremist organization was rid of its arch enemy Mubarak and obtained a bonus of having a more friendly figure in the palace.

Hassan al-Banna had a vision: He and those who inherited his legacy were supposed to topple the existing regimes in Arab countries one after another and unite them under a singular international Islamic regime with the slogan "The Quran is our constitution." That was his dream, which was blocked by a dam, until U.S. President Barack Obama came and breached the dam.

Suddenly, in Egypt, Morocco and Kuwait, the Islamists are winning. As it seems so far, democracy is helping al-Banna's vision come to life. Egypt in 2012 is not exactly Iran in 1979, although the similarity is indeed frightening.