When we hear calls for free elections and democracy in Egypt, a theocracy under Sharia law would very likely result if such elections were to occur. Many politicians in the West fail to realize that democracy only works if the citizens of those nations have reached the level of respect for individual rights and democratic principles to handle it. Unfortunately, many in Middle East have certainly not reached that level of thought, and the cunning and sinister Muslim Brotherhood will use every tactic necessary to exploit the process in order to seize control, just like the Ayatollah and his followers did in Iran after the fall of the Shah in 1979.
The political nature of Islamic ideology makes it fundamentally incompatible with a true democratic form of government. The unfortunate reality is that only relatively stable forms of government which have been proven to work in the Islamic world are secular “Kemal Ataturk style” dictatorships that force secularism on their people, and keep the extremists in check.
Voter intimidation by the extremists in an Egyptian election is common and easy. A member of the Brotherhood is easy to spot. They oftentimes have a beard, and generally have a bruise on their foreheads from hitting their head on the floor during prayer. Sometimes they even heat up a metal spoon in the fire and place it on their foreheads to accentuate the bruise. Sounds crazy to us in the West, but you see it on one out of every five men walking down the street in Cairo. The members of the Muslim Brotherhood can easily identify each other this way, which makes it easy to intimidate others at the polls when voting occurs. A Coptic priest shared with me how this practice has directly affected him: his church once organized buses to bring Christians to vote in a local election, only to have Brotherhood thugs armed with knives stop the Christians and turn them away.
There is little the Egyptian police will do about this. It is easy to become a cop, and the police force is filled with Brotherhood sympathizers.
The biggest hurdle standing in the way of the Muslim Brotherhood taking power is Hosni Mubarak and his followers. While the police may not always be loyal to him, the national military is, as well as those in his intelligence agency. So the only way the Brotherhood could come to power would be through the guise of democratic reforms. Mubarak’s crackdown over the years on the Brotherhood, through imprisoning their leaders and fighting to diminish their power wherever possible, has been an ongoing battle in the nation for decades. Even his vice president pick, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, was a message to the Brotherhood. It was Sueliman who put many of the Brotherhood’s leaders behind bars over the years.
The civil unrest in Egypt shows no signs of diminishing. Mubarak has just authorized now-Vice President Suleiman to speak with the opposition (which includes the Brotherhood), and a volatile struggle for power is under way. If Mubarak’s regime goes entirely, there will be little to stand in the way of an Islamist Republic of Egypt, and one hopes the policy-makers in Washington deeply understand this.
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