Religious Radicalism and Military Power in Absence of Democracy

08 June 2014 | 12:42 Code : 1934001 Review General category
An essay by Hojjat-ul-Islam Davood Feyrahi, an Islamic scholar and professor at Tehran University
Religious Radicalism and Military Power in Absence of Democracy

One needs to know the ideological and internal problems of the Muslim Brotherhood, on one hand, and regional issues, on the other, in order to write about them. It cannot be said that all of the problems which exist in Egypt and with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood are caused by foreign and even security policies. During recent years, the western countries, particularly the US, did not view the Middle East as a political society. They instead looked at this region for their people. That is why the fate of the people of the region was not significant for these countries. The important thing was the stability of this region, even through suppression, and that is why there was no problem with the suppression of the people to maintain stability. Therefore, the presence of the military powers in the region was also useful for the western countries. But under the present conditions, this is not useful for them anymore. Firstly, the world is moving towards globalization and the Middle East participates in this process. At the same time, a great number of Middle Eastern immigrants propose the idea of democracy and humanitarian issues in American and European universities; on this basis, the West cannot be indifferent with regard to democracy in the Middle East. This is the result of two issues: one is their view of democracy as a value and encouraging countries to establish it, and the other is that they believe that democracy is the only way of bypassing radical Islamism. The West has also pursued a specific path in this regard like what is seen in Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Wherever democracy is present, radicalism would be gone. That is why the western countries do not ignore this equation and will keep the issue of democracy in the Middle East.

If democracy does not exist in the Middle East, either radical Islamism, radicalism and jihadi wars will spread or secular military power will be reproduced. Experience has shown that wherever military men have grown, conflicts have reappeared. This can be seen in Afghanistan and Syria. That is why the western countries are bound to turn to democracy and support it. If they decide to support democracy, their only option would be the Muslim Brotherhood because the secularists are not very popular in the Middle East. On the other hand, the secularists cannot compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood. It can, thus, be said that the Muslim Brotherhood, as suitable Islamists and an alternative for the West, is important for them and cannot be ignored in the region.

It is true that the present situation in Egypt is returning to the past but this return will not last long and it would seem impossible that the past would reappear because all of the military men are involved with their own internal problems. The most important point is the chance of the Muslim Brotherhood in the future atmosphere which will be democratic. The democratic atmosphere would be to Iran’s benefit as well provided that certain reforms would be made inside the country. Our domestic movements can work with the Muslim Brotherhood especially with regard to the idea of moderation which is now pursued in Iran.

Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood is faced with internal problems and their mentality and interpretation. The existence of three issues is important for the establishment of democracy in any part of the world: the idea of democracy, groups supporting democracy and democratic institutions.

But the point is that there are no democratic institutions in Egypt. The election which was held was not based on a democratic institution.

On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood does not have a clear understanding of democracy. Their only experience is in Tunisia and Turkey. In their view, democracy is reduced to councils; councils which are limited only to Muslims where others are not included. The Muslim Brotherhood could not compromise with the Copts and the seculars. That is why they are faced with ideological challenges inside their own group. They reduce democracy to the existence of councils and that is the place for dialogue amongst themselves and no reconciliation with others. That is why I believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is involved with its own internal problems and not the pressures exerted by the US, Saudi Arabia and other western countries. If the Muslim Brotherhood succeeds in removing this challenge, it could easily create dialogue with the youth and part of its society. Apparently the responsibility of democracy in the Middle East is on the shoulders of the Muslim Brotherhood but it is now ignored. The US also has doubts about this issue. The US is placed between two governments; one, a government which accepts democracy but reduces it to councils and brings out its own constitution from within tha,t and the other, a government which takes democracy to military and ceremonial issues. That is why the US intends to find out which government would pursue democracy. Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood needs to rethink its idea of democracy. This can be seen in the meetings of the Muslim Brotherhood held in Cairo and Istanbul.

These issues cannot always be referred to the outside forces, because the outside forces have, in many cases, lost their control over the issues. Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia have all sometimes lost their control over different issues. The problem is that those who were involved with these issues were not capable of handling them.

On one hand, the Egyptian youth does not have a clear understanding of what it wants. They only imagine democracy; meaning the elimination of the existing situation. But they neither have the art of political activities nor a correct understanding of democracy. This would cause them to always be used by the opposition. The Egyptian youth cannot be attracted by the army, thus, I believe that this time they will become the tools of the Muslim Brotherhood. The late Iranian Prime Minister Bazargan made a statement with regard to the Iranian youth that an unripe fruit is the food of the animals. Now the literature used by the Egyptian youth is unripe. Their purpose of democracy is saying no to the “present situation”. The “present situation” might be the Muslim Brotherhood, or the army or General al-Sisi.

tags: muslim brotherhood egypt