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Friday, October 24, 2014

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Wary times

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The Muslim Brotherhood has climbed to the pinnacle of power in Egypt. The party controls nearly half the seats in parliament, and its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, was last Sunday officially declared the country’s president.

In the past, Morsi has usually referred to Israel as the “Zionist entity,” it being very hard for him to pronounce the actual name of the Jewish state. He was also a founding member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Committee to Fight the Zionist Project. Morsi is a hardcore Islamist. Yet, he is also a shrewd, practical man. Thus, after he was declared the country’s president, he vowed to recognize all agreements that Egypt has signed with other countries. This was a clear reference to the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

Once the results were made known, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued a welcoming message of sorts to Morsi. “Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects its outcome,” the statement began. And it continued, “Israel expects continued cooperation with the Egyptian administration on the basis of the peace accord between the two countries, which is in the interest of the two peoples and contributes to regional stability.” 

Israel, justifiably, is wary of the election outcome.

The United States congratulated Morsi and the Egyptian people “for this milestone in their transition to democracy.” But clearly, the White House, too, is wary, concerned that the natural political and theological tendencies of the Morsi government will add to the exceedingly large changes already stressing the region. The Coptic Christians of Egypt are wary, too. They fear for their freedom of worship. They fear mostly, however, for their lives.

Even though they are reported to have voted for Morsi in preference to the generals’ candidate, most of the women of Egypt and the young, secular or moderately religious Egyptians are likely quite wary as well. What will be the extent of their personal and civic rights in a country whose Islamist government has vowed to pass no law that “offends the laws of God”? Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak lies dying in a prison hospital. His family is also wary.

The military council is certainly wary. Even though there is not yet a constitution in the country, the interim powers of the president have been diminished and 166 seats still remain to be elected in parliament, the council must be fearful that it will soon entirely lose its grip on the reigns of power.

And though now atop Egypt’s pyramid of power, the Muslim Brotherhood itself, are probably very wary, too, not especially sanguine that the generals and the military council will simply step aside to accommodate a democratic process they  (and indeed the Brotherhood itself) have always abhorred? These are wary times in Egypt and for the region. The entire world is on watch hoping that the new regime will care for its people as much as it does for its theocratic ideology.

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