Inside Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
What else has Morsi achieved as president?
Establishing civilian control over the executive is one accomplishment. From the perspective of Egyptians, being a more active player in foreign policy is another. But in terms of actual progress on domestic policy issues, there is none, and even Morsi’s foreign policy is more a matter of image than accomplishments. Egyptians are happy that he put out a plan for solving the Syrian crisis. It’s worth noting that that plan is extremely unrealistic because it calls for a coalition between Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran to solve the Syrian problem, and of course Iran is not going to be party to the solution of the Syrian problem.
What kind of people surround Morsi?
Morsi has tried to make himself look pluralistic by creating a presidential advisory team that includes women, Christians, non-Islamists and, of course, Muslim Brothers, but the fact is, his close circle comprises Muslim Brothers. His top two advisors are Muslim Brothers. They are the direct link between Morsi and the senior Brotherhood leadership, and it is very telling that during the crisis in December, the night before the Brotherhood attacked the protesters outside the presidential palace, the senior Brotherhood leadership met in Morsi’s home outside of Cairo. Morsi has women as part of his advisory team but none who are seen as being particularly influential.
How will women fare under the Brotherhood?
Egypt is not like Saudi Arabia. Women work, they drive and they’re on the streets. But there’s no question that the new constitution creates a substantial opportunity for Islamists to enforce a very restrictive lifestyle on women. The Muslim Brotherhood has an extremely intolerant view of women. For example, the Brotherhood voted against banning genital mutilation in 2008, and since winning the parliamentary election of last year, has supported repealing the ban on female genital mutilation, with one of their female parliamentarians actually being the most vocal proponent of this.
Is Egypt poised to lead the Middle East?
Many expect Egypt to be a major regional player because of the Brotherhood’s ambitions and Morsi’s very prominent acts in Gaza and Syria and his trips to Saudi Arabia. But the 800-pound gorilla in the room is Egypt’s economy. If the economy tanks, there is no chance Egypt will play a strong regional role and it will actually be a huge regional problem. A bankrupt country with 85 million people, most of whom live on a few dollars a day and most of whom are dependent on subsidized food and fuel, could create a severe strategic nightmare as well as a humanitarian disaster.
What will Egypt be like in five years?
We’re going to see an Egypt in which the Muslim Brotherhood’s primary opponent will be the Salafists who are far more radical ideologically than the Brotherhood. This new constitution will be an invitation—not for institutions of government to struggle, but for the Brotherhood and Salafists to struggle over how to properly define and implement sharia. Because we’re going to have two non-democratic groups dominating Egyptian politics, Egypt will not be a democracy, but a competitive theocracy.