Is Egypt in danger of becoming another Iran, or not? That depends upon whether or not any force will prove to be powerful enough to thwart the aspirations of the Muslim Brotherhood. If the regime falls, it will be hard to find such a force. “Black Friday: The first round of Egyptian protests was liberal. The second will be Islamist,” by Eric Trager in The New Republic, January 28:
[…] The regime views Islamists, correctly, as its foremost domestic challenge: Islamists provide a coherent, if uncompromising, ideology that contrasts sharply with the regime’s non-ideological demeanor, and they have further recruited millions of followers through intensive interpersonal networking and the provision of social services.
To some extent, the greater involvement of Islamists will be a gift to the regime. Since Tuesday, state-run television has defended the government’s brutal crackdown by portraying the protests, inaccurately, as the work of the Brotherhood. The actual involvement of Islamists tomorrow will make the regime’s case more convincing to international and domestic audiences that fear Egypt becoming “another Iran.”
Islamist groups seem to be aware of this. While expressing their support for the protests, they have insisted that their followers will be participating as citizens, rather than as members of specific Islamist organizations. “Muslim Brothers are among the people,” said Brotherhood official Mohamed Morsi. “They will move with others to the mosque and make demonstrations with the others.”
Whatever happens, the linkage of prayer and protest–and the fact that the protests will originate from such a wide variety of locations–promises to make this the most consequential day of the current standoff. And if the regime prevents people from praying or interferes too overtly in their day of worship, the gloves will surely be off. If Cairo is quiet tonight, it is likely a misleading calm before the storm.