Monday, February 7, 2011

A Government with the Muslim Bortherhood is not the End of the World, and why these protests help the War on Terror

In the turmoil that has erupted in Egypt over the past weeks, there is much speculation of what the government is going to look like post-Mubarak. I, along with many others, think its going to be far more democratic, and a new government will be formed with parties from all aspects of Egyptian society.

What many in the U.S. have picked up on is the "threat" of the Muslim Brotherhood; an opposition political party. Newt Gingrich, a prominent conservative and former House Speaker, certainly thinks the Muslim Brotherhood is a threat and turn America into an Islamic state too. He said the same of Turkey's AKP.

Both are not true. This, yet another wrong and misleading comment coming from someone who most likely will run for president. Even if he doesn't run, a national leader shouldn't make comments where he is so ill-informed in foreign policy. 

Let me explain why he is wrong.

There are many mixed perceptions of the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, they have committed acts of violence in the past and is an Islamic rooted party. Fast forward to the present day. Yes, they may still have an extremist wing which is a legitimate security concern. But now I ask, what political party doesn't have an extremist wing? If the Muslim Brotherhood is to lead Egypt, it will have to create a coalition. The party alone cannot with the election; there is just not enough support. If they are to get a figure to the presidency, they will have to negotiate with the secular forces in Egypt. This will moderate the Muslim Brotherhood if they are to stay in power. That is a fact for all politics. I highly doubt that the majority of the Egyptian people, especially the youth, want a state like Iran. Its just not going to happen.

Another reason why so many are 'terrified' of the Muslim Brotherhood is because their stance on Israel and the U.S. Yes, they are no Mubarak. People have to come to terms with the fact they are an Islamic rooted party. That's not always the end of the world. By a recent opinion poll, the majority of the Egyptians don't like us anyway! So we already lost that battle. Also, per the Camp David Accords, a continued peace with Israel means massive funding and aid to the army and the government. If a Muslim Brotherhood figure (lets say they get to the presidency) were to not honor the accords; the army would be up in arms (no pun intended) and I am sure many would be displeased with the lack of funding and possible U.S. trade sanctions. The same goes for the Suez Canal; its not in Egypt's interests to change its Israeli or its U.S. policy. It would undermine their security and clout in the region.

If the Muslim Brotherhood ascends to the presidency, it may actually be good for the U.S. A working relationship with a moderated but still conservative Muslim Brotherhood could show the world that we can work with Islamic rooted parties. Though the relationship with Turkey's AKP is a more complicated story (one for another time), it may boost our points with the Middle East. It also show's the world we're willing to work with others we may not see face-to-face with. Cooperation is the word.

So the Muslim Brotherhood isn't the end of the world. Yes, we won't have an ally like Mubarak, but its no end game by far.

Now on to the second part of this post: the protests are helping the War on Terror.

Why does terrorism happen?

Well that's a big question. One reason, which I saw through my class on the Middle East last semester, is because people's governments do not respond to their needs. In Egypt and Tunisia, there were no economic reforms for the people. There was massive unemployment. This anger and rage translates into support for groups that are radical (or want to overthrow the government) or in some cases, the people join radical organizations to secure a better future.

These protests are making the government listen up and reform. In the Tunisian case, the president straight up left. Reforms to encourage a healthy economy and happy people have the potential to make radical organizations seem, well, radical. People like to do well, and violent change often doesn't appeal with those who like the status quo. If the people of the Middle East succeed in making their governments listen and these reforms give more freedoms, and stimulate the economies; it could be a help to curbing radicalization and thus terrorism. The War on Terrorism is a war on ideas and minds. To make terror unappealing is to make one's people happy. Good government is a responsive and fair government. These protests are just what the region needed to cleanse devastating policies.

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