Uneasiness over Egypt

To what degree will new leader allow Islamism to take hold?

The intolerant and militant Muslim Brotherhood has worked for decades to gain leverage over people, neighborhoods and institutions.

Now it has control of a country.

If the military allows it.

The Brotherhood’s victorious presidential candidate in the recent Egyptian election, Mohamed Morsi, is an Islamist – one who unabashedly believes that Islam should direct the affairs of state and govern the mores of society.

What that will mean for the future of Egypt and the Middle East is uncertain, but ominous.

What it means for Coptic Christians and other non-Muslims in Egypt is beyond ominous.

Under ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, Egypt may not have been a paradise of liberty, but it was at least considered secular. And Mubarak helped maintain a shaky peace with the region’s only democracy, Israel.

In contrast, supporters of the new president have been filmed chanting about making Jerusalem their capital and, by inference, destroying Israel.

The military has already moved to reduce the president’s powers – including the power to declare war – and the new Islamist parliament has been dissolved. But if enough Egyptians back Morsi and the Brotherhood, they will likely get their way in the end.

Moreover, as Reuters points out, even if the Egyptian military is successful at defanging Morsi for now, “the mere fact that a Muslim Brotherhood man is at the helm of the biggest Arab nation will embolden fellow Islamists seeking revolutionary change around the Middle East.”

Israeli officials are being diplomatic, publicly saying they have every expectation of a continued peace with Egypt. But – well, they’re being diplomatic. The truth is that the rise of Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t likely to increase the prospects for peace in the region.

With any luck, pragmatism will ultimately win out over Islamism – if, as Reuters puts it, the people of Egypt conclude that “political Islam is no antidote to unemployment, a flatlining economy and social misery.”

The question is, how long will that take – and how much damage will be done in the interim?

And whether Western governments figure out that such an Egyptian government wouldn’t be just anti-Israel, but anti-West.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon