By Raed Omari
25 June 2013
As the Arab Spring has unexpectedly fulfilled the Muslim Brotherhood’s long-awaited wish to rule, its aftermath will definitely see the group regain the alienation that has characterized the group in the past.
The Muslim Brotherhood has taken power, or better to say, “Inherited power,” in almost all Arab states that have witnessed the Arab Spring after uprisings definitely not ignited by the power-thirsty Islamists but by angry youths aspiring social justice, opportunity and decent living conditions.
By “inherited,” I mean the Islamists have received something for free and did not come into possession or succession from predecessors as the world semantically connotes.
A Ripe Time to Rule
In Egypt, Tunisia and partially in Libya, the 1928-founded group and its affiliates are ruling not due to their high popularity but certainly because they are the most organized powers in countries torn apart by unprecedented chaos, uncertainty and perplexity.
As a matter of fact, it was not the movement that began the spontaneous revolution in Tunisia. Mohamed Bouazizi, the catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution, was neither a member of the movement nor a die-hard supporter of the Islamists but a simple and humble street vendor who set himself on fire in protest against the confiscation of his wares and the humiliation and dehumanizing treatment that was inflicted on him by a municipal officer.
When thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011, the Brotherhood did not fully join the crowds until it became clear that a mass uprising had taken shape and had reached a point of no return. Under the pretext that they did not want the mass protest to be misinterpreted as an “Islamic revolution,” the Egyptian Islamists remained reluctant to join in until later.
The same thing happened in Libya. When mass protests began in February 2011 – or probably tribal-driven opposition – they were ignited by angry youths against the lack of freedom and economic opportunity and the totalitarian regime of Muammar Qaddafi. Under whatever circumstances, what was witnessed in Libya can’t be said to be an Islamic revolution led by the Islamists.
In Jordan, though it can’t be elevated to the status of revolution, it is not in fact the Islamists that began the reform-oriented protests in the kingdom some two years ago, but youths from the village of Thiban - some 30 kilometres south of Amman - angry about living conditions and unemployment.
Anyway, all the popular movements in Jordan that used to be joined by the Brotherhood in protests in downtown Amman and other cities have deserted the Islamists in dismay over the latter’s “opportunism and suspicious agenda.”
The Syrian Brotherhood’s exiled leaders have attempted to rebuild a presence in Syria after the outbreak of the popular uprising – or I would say to hijack the revolution – that was also spontaneous and never Islamic-oriented, that demanded freedom and was centered around ending a totalitarian regime.
Their presence in Syria has complicated the scene anyway to the point in which the entire world and the Syrians themselves have deep concerns about the post-Bashar al-Assad Syria. In other words, the Islamists taking power as they did in Egypt and Tunisia.
In all the Arab states swept by the so-called Arab Spring uprisings, including Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria and those that witnessed partial or benign protests that brought about political reforms like Jordan and Morocco, there is now - or will be soon - a “counteraction” by political powers and people against the Islamists’ “manoeuvrings” and their “totalitarian” rule.
Having seen their uprisings hijacked by the “brothers,” who so far proved immaturity at politics and have been unable to bring about the sought after change – the motto of all uprisings – people who elected the Islamists at a moment of despair and uncertainty, will not vote for them again.
The Islamists’ rule in Egypt and Tunisia in their role in the Syria revolution has created a sort of “Islamophobia” this time not in the external world but inside the Islamic Arab world itself.
What is being witnessed now in Egypt and before in Tunisia of people’s opposition to the Brotherhood’s rule is just a proof for that. Jordanian Islamists are silent anyway, now suffering from internal disputes and low popularity.
Incapable Handlers of the State’s Affairs
Due to its centrality as the Arab world’s largest country, whatever happens in Egypt always has an impact on other Arab states.
The Brotherhood-ruled Egypt, after the election of the Islamist-oriented President Mohammad Mursi, has been witnessing instability with very few tangible steps taken to improve living conditions or achieve the goals of the January 25 Uprising.
To the surprise of most the change-starved Egyptians, Mursi’s rule has been marked so far with hesitation and uncertainty – “a decision taken and a decision annulled.” Not only that, the president, who resigned from the Islamist Movement once taking office, has been appointing only, or largely, Islamist figures, running his country’s affairs by an Islamist-oriented administration.
This is the exact opposite of the revolution’s goals that were centered around achieving social justice and pluralism and ending totalitarianism.
Egypt is too big to rescue and Mursi can’t logically solve its woes in just two years, but his administration has been also marked with “obscurity and immaturity” in addition to hesitation and the exclusion of rivals.
How can it be logical and accepted that Mursi okayed the appointment of a new governor to Luxor, the city yearly visited by millions of tourists, who had been a member of, or close to, a hard line Islamist group whose associates carried out terror acts in 1997?
As a result of Egyptians’ weariness of the Brotherhood and Mursi’s unsuccessful administration and his inability to bring about change, people in other smaller Arab states have also grown weary of the Islamist movements in their country, preferring now the leftists or liberals as in Tunisia or the conservatives as in Jordan more than the Islamists.
The Islamists caused “Islamophobia”
The hard line attitude showed by the Brotherhood and the Islamists’ “exclusion style” manifested in the slogan, “Either only us or no one” has made people in the Arab world, where Christian citizens have been living in peace and harmony with their Muslim peers, have deep concerns about “political Islam” of the Islamists or at least the type of ideological rule promoted by the group.
The Brotherhood, when in power, has failed to promote the concepts of moderation, co-existence and mutuality that lie at the heart of the true Islam to the point in which the group is now widely termed as “radical, fanatic and extremist.”
As a result of the radicalism of the Brotherhood and not Islam, secular parties are now gaining more popularity in the Arab world or the centrist Islamic powers, whose motto is moderation as opposed to the brothers’ hard-line attitude.
For many now, the Brotherhood, whose long-time slogan has been “Islam is the solution” is no longer the embodiment of Islam.
So much related to the growing antagonism around the Brotherhood in the Arab world now is the presence of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.
The group, which is historically an offshoot of the Brotherhood, has no doubt led to the emergence of Islamophobia, or fear of the political Islam promoted by the radical Islamists, both inside and outside Syria.
Let the Brotherhood be angry, its image in the Arab world is not that positive at all. The majority of people now are weary of the group’s rule with established stereotypes about the Islamists as “opportunist,” “radical,” “malignant,” “lacking experience,” “immature politicians who came to power with the help of the Americans who deserted them.”
At later stages, people will not commit the same mistake they committed before and will definitely think twice before giving their votes to a Brotherhood member. The Arab Spring was the rise of the Brotherhood and its end will witness the group’s collapse or its alienation.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English.