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Through the Egyptian Looking Glass: Al-Ihss in Muslim Brother Land

COMMENT: Well, when Mubarak, Ali (Tunisia) were oust­ed amid emphat­ic utter­ances that a New Dawn was break­ing in the Mid­dle East and that democ­ra­cy, enlight­en­ment, etcetera, would be forth­com­ing like water  from a foun­tain, the view here was that we would see the ascen­sion of the Islam­o­fas­cist Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

That is evi­dent­ly turn­ing out to be true with a remark­able wrinkle–as the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, the State Depart­ment and mem­bers of Con­gress cozy up [1] to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, con­tin­u­ing a rela­tion­ship begun dur­ing the Bush admin­is­tra­tion [2], the Broth­er­hood are cast as “mod­er­ates” in con­trast with the resur­gent Salafist Nour Par­ty.

The “mod­er­a­tion” of the Broth­er­hood cen­ters on their stat­ed desire to hon­or the peace treaty with Israel and their com­mit­ment to free mar­kets.

A num­ber of thoughts come to mind in this con­text:

“In Egypt­ian Hard-Lin­er’s Surge, New Wor­ries for the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood” by David Kirk­patrick; 4/1/2012. [16]

EXCERPT: Hazem Salah Abu Ismail is an old-school Islamist.

He wants to move toward abol­ish­ing Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and cites Iran as a suc­cess­ful mod­el of inde­pen­dence from Wash­ing­ton. He wor­ries about the mix­ing of the gen­ders in the work­place and women’s work out­side the home. And he promis­es to bring extra­or­di­nary pros­per­i­ty to Egypt, if it turns its back on trade with the West.

He has also surged to become a front-run­ner in the race to become Egypt’s next pres­i­dent, recon­fig­ur­ing polit­i­cal bat­tle lines here. His suc­cess may help explain why the Unit­ed States offered signs of tac­it approval over the week­end when the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, Egypt’s largest Islam­ic group, broke its pledge not to field its own can­di­date.

With a first round of vot­ing set for late May and a runoff in mid-June, the first pres­i­den­tial race here since the ouster of Hos­ni Mubarak last year is shap­ing up as a bat­tle among Islamists.

The Broth­er­hood, which leads Par­lia­ment, had pledged not to seek the pres­i­den­cy for fear of pro­vok­ing a back­lash from the Egypt­ian mil­i­tary and the West. But Mr. Abu Ismail’s surge rais­es the prospect that the win­ner might not be a more sec­u­lar or lib­er­al fig­ure, but a stri­dent Islamist who oppos­es the Brotherhood’s prag­mat­ic focus on sta­ble rela­tions with the Unit­ed States and Israel and free-mar­ket eco­nom­ics.

Mr. Abu Ismail pos­es a sub­tler threat, too, chal­leng­ing the Brotherhood’s sta­tus as the main voice of Islamist pol­i­tics in Egypt and threat­en­ing to under­mine its cam­paign to set aside West­ern fears of polit­i­cal Islam. The Broth­er­hood is tak­ing a con­sid­er­able risk in run­ning its own can­di­date against him, since its vic­to­ry is by no means assured.

And so, in a remark­able inver­sion, Amer­i­can pol­i­cy mak­ers who once feared a Broth­er­hood takeover now appear to see the group as an indis­pens­able ally against Egypt’s ultra­con­ser­v­a­tives, exem­pli­fied by Mr. Abu Ismail. . . .