Haroon Siddiqui’s articles in the Toronto Star hit all the right points about what’s going on in Egypt, and I refer them to you for a balanced portrayal of what the real issues there are.
“For the first time in history,” Siddiqui notes, “Egyptians have picked a leader of their own choice. Yet we are being told that the world as we know it is coming to an end: A caliphate may be in the making. Coptic Christians may have to flee. Secularists and liberals may be completely marginalized. The peace treaty with Israel may be killed. Relations with the United States and the rest of the West may be in jeopardy. All this despite the fact that the Brotherhood has been saying the exact opposite.”
That they have. Not only have they been doing that, but they have been going out of their way to be seen repudiating those sympathetic to more extremist interpretations of Islam (the Salafists, the Iranians, al-Qaeda, you name it).
Before the Arab Spring, you would be hard pressed to hear me say much that was complimentary about the “Islamic moderate” – I would have taken that to be a synonym for “person who becomes very quiet while theocrats violently attack innocent people”. But in the past two years, I’ve had an opportunity to some see real Islamic moderates, and I am considerably more impressed. To paraphrase something once said about Mikhail Gorbachev, I think we can work with these people.
Indeed, “moderates” in the Islamic world are, for the first time, starting to look more moderate than “moderates” in our part of the world. Their moderates stand up to the extremists, ours quietly resign and hand over power to a band of Elmer Gantries.
All of that said, of course Egypt’s new president has some issues. This article points out that Mohammed Morsi has, for example, reached out to women and Coptic Christians as members of his electoral coalition, and has placed a woman and a Copt as Egypt’s new Vice-Presidents. But Morsi is on record as believing that neither a woman nor a Copt can be a president – so, this might be taken to be an arrangement that is more on the “dhimmi” model. In other words, women and Copts can have important roles so long as they understand that only Muslim men can rule.
Democratic pressure does still need to be kept on Morsi, lest the Brotherhood slide back into its religious conservative comfort zone – but recent events suggest that he may well be responsive to democratic pressure. The best policy, thus far, is to give him a chance. If I see any signs to the contrary, I’ll be the first to tell you. But right now, it has to be admitted – he’s headed the right direction.