Egyptians have gone to the polls in large numbers this week to cast their votes in the first stage of protracted parliamentary elections that will stretch into early next year. Meanwhile, the country’s military rulers do not appear to be going anywhere, unless forced out by mounting street protests and outside international pressure.
Few of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have crowded Tahrir Square in recent days would appear to trust the integrity of the electoral process, nor think it will mean greater freedom any time soon. One voter quoted by the New York Times captured the situation succinctly when he said, “It is like a play, it is like a sham. We are pretending to be voting. I know these elections don’t mean anything, but I am still going.” Another said, “There is no justice, no integrity, no confidence. But I came because then I will have done my duty, so I will ask to claim my rights.”
The main beneficiary of the elections will in all likelihood be the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leaders formed an alliance of convenience with the ruling military council to ensure that the elections would proceed as planned. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best-organized political force, wanted no delays that would give opponents the opportunity to catch up with its organizational prowess.
We got a taste of what is to come from the Muslim Brotherhood’s co-sponsored “kill the Jews” pep rally held last Friday in Cairo. According to a report in YNet News, about 5,000 people joined the rally at Cairo’s most prominent mosque, the Al-Azhar mosque. Over and over again, the crowd chanted passages from the Koran vowing that “one day we shall kill all the Jews.”
The rally was co-sponsored by the Al-Azhar University, which President Obama had referred to as a “beacon of learning” in his June 2009 speech to the Muslim world, and by the Union of Muslim Scholars. The latter group is headed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s virulently anti-Semitic spiritual leader Youssef Qaradawi, who just happened to return to Cairo two days before the rally for the first time since his February trip when he delivered his fiery speech calling, among other things, for “the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The rally event, dubbed “Friday of Al-Aqsa Support,” was called to promote the “battle against Jerusalem’s Judaization,” in observance of the anniversary of the approval of the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine which the Palestinians and their Islamist supporters condemn to this day.
The imam of Al-Azhar mosque, Muhammad Ahmed el- Tayeb, exhorted the crowd: “Al- Aksa Mosque is currently under an offensive by the Jews… We shall not allow the Zionists to Judaize al-Quds [Jerusalem]. We are telling Israel and Europe that we shall not allow even one stone to be moved there.”
An Egyptian newspaper, the Egypt Daily News, reported that Abdel Rahman Al-Mor, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s advisory bureau, said that “the most important step to a free Palestine is to prepare the young generation for the upcoming battle.”
Eldad Beck, Ynet’s Arab affairs correspondent, reported that other speakers at the rally delivered “impassioned, hateful speeches against Israel, slamming the ‘Zionist occupiers’ and the ‘treacherous Jews.’”
The crowd was riled up. In addition to their recital of the “kill the Jews” passage from the Koran, protesters chanted such nuggets as:
- “Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, judgment day has come.”
- “Our beloved Aqsa, your sun will never set.”
- “Islam regains its pride or we die as martyrs.”
The rally has received very little attention by Western media. Running under the banner of its newly formed Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to project an image of moderation between the ultraconservative Islamist Salafis and the liberal parties whom the Brotherhood characterize as secularists wanting to reject Islam altogether. It’s as if they were adopting former President Bill Clinton’s triangulation strategy. Their audience is not only the Egyptian voters who are likely to give them a controlling number of seats in the Egyptian parliament. Their audience also includes Western leaders and opinion makers. And they are succeeding.
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