Welcome to the “Islamic awakening” in Egypt

Published: June 28, 2012
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PHOTO: REUTERS

In a bid to save Egypt from further turmoil, the results of the final runoff vote for the presidential poll were declared in favour of Mohamed Mursi Eissa al-Ayat, of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mursi won with 13,230,131 votes against Shafiq’s 12,347,380. The election, in which more than 50 million voters were eligible to cast their ballot, saw a 51.8% turnout.

For quite some time there was a deadlock between the two candidates with the world media hinting towards further chaos in the country. The Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters were accusing the military establishment for holding off the results in a bid to defeat Mursi and support Shafiq ─  something the West, especially the US and its close ally Israel, were hoping for.

As soon as the news of Mursi’s victory went out, Tahrir Square went haywire with Brotherhood’s supporters celebrating joyously. The world news forums ─ be it social or electronic ─ termed the victory as the dawn of an Islamic awakening in Egypt.

One of the major focal points of this poll were Egypt’s bilateral ties with Israel.

With Mursi as the new president, Israel fears that the already delicate relations may further corrode as the Muslim Brotherhood has already hinted towards a shift in its foreign policy. The Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, however has expressed that his country respects the Egyptian poll results and looks forward to working with Mursi’s administration.

“I believe that peace is the fundamental pillar of stability in our region,” he said.

However, last year he warned against Egypt’s revolution stating that it could help the Islamic radicals, pointing towards the Brotherhood coming into power.

As for the common population of Egyptians, the opinion seems to split amongst supporters of both Mursi and Shafiq. Egyptians on the left, supporting Shafiq, hold the opinion that the Muslim Brotherhood will take the country many centuries back as the implementation of religious codes will not sync up with the moderate Egyptian ideology.

On the other hand, the right wing supporters are trying to clear the misconceptions hovering over the Brotherhood and its ideals. They say that it is the only party that respects and treats women and the minorities equally, citing the example of Muslim Brotherhood’s Vice President, Rafiq Habib, who is a Christian by faith.

The US lawmakers have shown both hope and worry regarding the transition in Cairo. The concern that they hold is of the staunch Islamic nature of the new ruling party. Dianne Feinstein, who heads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said,

This new Egyptian government can go either way. It can be open to the ideas of others. It can work to develop a vibrant economy for the people, jobs for this very young country with so many young people.  Or it can turn inward into Sharia law and a much more fundamentalist Muslim country. And that is the worry.

Some political and social analysts around Egypt and the Middle East believe that this change will not bring a positive change to the country. Sarah Jamal, an international politics researcher and analyst in Tunisia, believes that even though the Brotherhood has won the poll, it will be hard for them to go against military establishment which maintains allegiance towards Israel.

On the foreign relations front, most of the progressive Asian states have welcomed Mursi’s election, especially Russia, Iran and China. A statement issued by the Kremlin said that,

The Russian president hopes to strengthen Egypt-Russia relationship in all fields and ensure peace and stability in the Middle East.

Chinese President Hu Jintao congratulated Mohamed Mursi for his victory in Egypt’s presidential election, saying that Beijing respected the choice of Egyptian people.

On a positive note, the Muslim Brotherhood has made their stance clear regarding Iran as well. Mursi has announced that he will be looking towards improving Egypt’s relations with Tehran; something which Cairo’s allies were least expecting from him.

The situation in Pakistan regarding the Brotherhood’s win is no different.

Pakistani newspapers have hailed Mohammed Mursi’s presidential victory and have stated that his success is a positive sign for Muslim democracies all around the world. Furthermore The Express Tribune analysed the event in a pragmatic manner.

Just because Mursi belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, it does not warrant that he will turn Egypt into an Islamic state.

Religious parties, including Jamaat-e-Islami, celebrated the victory with great zeal too. Chances are, Pakistan may develop good bilateral ties with the new government in office.

What cannot be disregarded is that when a president wins by a mere margin of 800,000 votes, the degree of the divide among the citizens of the state becomes prominent. This may also give a whisker of a chance to the army elite for laying enough traps against the newly elected Mursi administration. This is something the new government should not overlook even in the slightest.

Egypt may seem to be heading towards copious relations with other Muslim countries with this new development in the state. It will be interesting though to witness as to how the democratically elected government will detox three decades of military influence in running the state affairs.

On a side note, for all those who may weary of the name ‘Muslim Brotherhood’, which is said to be a fundamental religious party, they have announced to give a good share of representation in the government to the minorities and women.

Read more by Farooq here or follow him on Twitter @faruqyusaf

Farooq Yousaf

Farooq Yousaf

The author is a PhD (Politics) Candidate currently pursuing his studies in Australia. He has previously completed his Masters in Public Policy and Conflict Studies from Germany. He also consults Islamabad-based Security think tank, Centre for Research and Security Studies, and occasionally writes for various news and media sources. He is specialising in Indigenous conflict resolution and counter insurgency. He tweets at @faruqyusaf (twitter.com/faruqyusaf?lang=en)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.