Why You Should Watch Egypt
December 2005 was a watershed month in the history of Egyptian politics. Thanks to elections that were closer to being democratic than any in Egypt’s history, the Islamic party of the Muslim Brotherhood (mb) won 88 parliamentary seats (the organization is officially outlawed, but it ran its candidates as independents)—a more than six-fold increase over its previous representation.
Considering that Egypt’s parliament is comprised of 454 seats, the mb’s capture of 88 seats—fewer than a quarter of the total—may not seem like much to write home about. Despite the gains, the Islamic party will remain outnumbered by the majority rule of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. Some argue that as long as Mubarak controls parliament—as he has for the past 24 years—the mb can never play a more significant role in Egyptian politics.
But politics can be messy business—especially in the Middle East. Death, incitement, revolution—all can turn a government on its head in a matter of days. The rise of an openly Islamist party in Egypt is no small matter. The political success of this long-established Islamic group represents a major step toward a fundamental shift in Egyptian politics, made possible by an electorate with a growing affinity for Islamic leadership and law, and mounting disdain for the Mubarak government.
Banned from government in 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood is an organization of staunch Islamic conservatives with a strong desire to install Islamic law as the foundation of Egyptian government. In the run-up to the elections, the Brotherhood’s ominously vague campaign motto was “Islam is the solution.”
Thus, the Brotherhood’s rising popularity unmistakably signals the growing desire of many for an Islamic government in Egypt—which makes its success nothing short of profound. “Considering that the mb won almost half of the seats it is contesting, despite reportedly widespread voting irregularities, indicates the group is emerging as the single largest grassroots movement in the country” (Stratfor, Nov. 22, 2005). From this point forward, the mb will be at the vanguard of opposition to the ruling National Democratic Party.
Mubarak is surely aware that the mb’s rise could be the catalyst for his fall. In the days before the elections, hundreds of mb supporters, campaign organizers and candidates were arrested and jailed. At a number of polling stations where Brotherhood supporters were expected in droves, Mubarak deployed riot police and instructed them to restrict the number of mb supporters who were allowed to vote. According to Reuters, the Brotherhood claimed authorities had robbed it of 13 or 14 wins by denying its supporters access to the polls (Dec. 4, 2005).
As support for the mb grows, Mubarak isn’t the only one concerned. The United States is also in a quandary.
Results of Democracy
For some time now, America has been encouraging Mubarak’s government to loosen its grip on the electoral process in order to foster more democratic elections. Mubarak finally responded. The results of that move are clear: Democratic elections—despite being manipulated by the ruling party—enabled an outlawed Islamic fundamentalist group to become the largest and most powerful opposition party in Egypt. The Egyptian people are speaking, and Islamic law and leadership is what many increasingly desire.
As America struggles to curb radical Islamism throughout the Middle East, the popularity of this party in Egypt is one more thorn in its side. The mb has already made it clear it will gladly align with Islamic governments in the region to limit American influence.
The Washington Times wrote that the mb “has affiliates in many Arab states. The Islamic state that the Egyptian Brotherhood would like to establish would be significantly more hostile to Washington than the current Egyptian government. …
“The Brotherhood also represents an anti-American political stance which is particularly popular in Egypt right now. Egyptians are overwhelmingly opposed to the war in Iraq and have long been angered by what they perceive as unqualified U.S. support for Israel” (Dec. 3, 2005).
In December, only days after the mb’s success at the polls, Palestinian Authority (pa) officials revealed that meetings were occurring between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas—one of Israel’s most notorious and popular terrorist groups, which spent most of last year developing a political face so as to increase its participation in Palestinian politics. After experiencing enormous success in municipal elections, Hamas was seeking advice from the mb on how to duplicate that success in January’s Palestinian parliamentary elections. “Hamas is trying to copy the Muslim Brotherhood model,” a senior pa official told the Jerusalem Post. Another stated, “This kind of cooperation between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is very worrying …. How can we talk about a peace process when these radical forces are uniting against us?” (Dec. 20, 2005).
These meetings make one point clear: The mb is not only popular in Egypt, it is gaining friends and allies throughout the Middle East.
Islamic Middle East
Ironically, it is the flowering of democracy that is facilitating this conservative, anti-American, pro-Islamic political movement in Egypt.
Soon, the mb could gain control of Egypt. This is evidently what a growing number of Egyptians want. President Mubarak is in his 70s and his health is ailing; clearly, he won’t be on the scene forever. In the meantime, watch for the Brotherhood to exploit any and every political misstep Mubarak might make.
In fact, the chips are falling in favor of militant Islamic forces throughout the entire Middle East.
With the Palestinians controlling Gaza, Islamic groups are flourishing; Hamas is growing more popular among Palestinians, and its relations with Iran are strengthening.
The U.S. is frankly losing its battle in Iraq to Tehran; Iranian influence in Iraq—and across the Middle East—grows by the day. Al Qaeda has it sights set on removing the pro-Western governments in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
In this context, the mb’s political success should alarm America and the West. The “moderate” Mubarak government is one of the last friendly regimes in the region, and now it is on the rocks.
As the mb grows more popular and powerful, it will strengthen its ties with Islamic powers throughout the region—especially Iran. Egypt is one of the largest and most influential nations in the Middle East. As Mubarak’s health weakens and Egyptians increasingly vote in favor of the mb, watch for Cairo to disassociate itself from America. Should the mb ever take control, Iran and Egypt would cement a strong alliance. Such a relationship would prove deadly for American hopes for peace in the Middle East. Together, Iran and Egypt would establish Islamic control over the whole of the region.
Certainly, as discontent with the political system in Egypt increases, we can expect to see the Islamists grow in popularity. A change of leadership will occur—probably sooner rather than later.
The Trumpet’s editor in chief has predicted for almost a decade that Egypt will fall under the influence of Islamists. In his booklet The King of the South, Gerald Flurry stated, “Daniel 11:42 implies that Egypt will be allied with the king of the south, or Iran. This prophecy indicates that there would be a far-reaching change in Egyptian politics!”
This change is probably closer than most people realize.