Last month, Egyptians went to the polls to vote on a referendum for constitutional amendments that would pave the way for free elections later this year. Since Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11th, Egyptians have witnessed a wave of political activity. Various groups are trying to mobilize to be prepared to participate in the parliamentary and presidential elections. In this new atmosphere, there continues to be fear of an Islamist take over.
The Muslim Brotherhood, repressed under the Mubarak regime, is traditionally the group that has received the most negative attention. However, a new Islamist group has also emerged: the Salafis, ultraconservatives who subscribe to a Wahhabi-like interpretation of Islam. This group, unlike the Brotherhood, is the one that is calling for things like modesty police.
But even if more of these groups participate in the upcoming elections, does that mean that Islamists will take over the revolution? According to Major General Mukhtar al-Mallah, a member of the military’s Supreme Council, which has been ruling the country since Mubarak’s departure, no extremist groups will be permitted to take over Egypt. Also, it is important to keep in mind that there are numerous movements that have different interpretations of Islam all vying to participate, which lessens the chances of takeover by any one group. Moreover, within each group, there are different trends. For example, within the Muslim Brotherhood, the youth are calling for change. In the end, the only way that any group can win is if they convince the Egyptian population of their position and get their vote.
The revolution that brought all segments of the Egyptian population together for the common cause of removing an authoritarian leader was not started or maintained by religious groups. So, I would argue that the chances that a religious group will take over power now is slim. Will they participate? Yes. But take over? Probably not. Moreover, Islam is not what should be feared, but abuse of power. Mubarak held Egypt with an iron-grip for 30 years and Islam was not a part of his platform.
Do you think Islamist groups will take over the elections? Do you think that the Egyptian people want an Islamic state? Should every group be allowed to participate? Please share your thoughts below.