State Department and Administration myopia leads to an increase in religious rhetoric in Egypt’s elections. Nice going, folks. “In Egypt vote, Islamist influence grows,” from the Christian Science Monitor, with thanks to Sr. Soph:
CAIRO – In electoral districts throughout Egypt, campaign posters reading simply “Islam is the solution,” urge voters to choose Muslim Brotherhood candidates for parliament when they go to the polls Wednesday. Ahmed Omar, a literature student, will heed the call.
“I’m not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood but I’m voting for them,” says Mr. Omar. “They have values, morality, and wisdom and they hold the word of God above all else.”
He is not alone. With the opposition group expected to at least triple its numbers in parliament, a significant shift in the country’s political dynamic is afoot. Today, for the first time in decades, not a single Muslim Brother sits in jail, and candidates are campaigning openly as Muslim Brothers.
These parliamentary elections, more so than the country’s first multi-candidate presidential poll last month, are seen as a test of the government’s commitment to reform.
The incorporation of the Muslim Brotherhood into Egyptian politics is a step forward for US democratization efforts in Egypt, and may in fact be a direct response to US pressure.
If it is, the State Department policy wonks responsible should hang their heads in shame. The Muslim Brotherhood is the direct forefather of Hamas and Al-Qaeda, and holds to the same ideology of caliphate and Sharia. That is an ideology that denies essential freedoms — freedom of consequence, equal rights for religious minorities and women — and the U.S. has no business promoting it.
The Islamist group’s rise, however, has led traditionally secular political parties to place added emphasis on religion in order to compete. The result is that women and the country’s 10 percent Coptic Christian minority are being squeezed out of politics.
When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came to Cairo last June and told audiences that “fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty,” many here interpreted it as a call for the Egyptian government to lighten up on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Unlike past parliamentary elections in 1995 and 2000, when thousands of the group’s members were imprisoned, the officially banned Islamic organization is campaigning free of government harassment….
In the Cairo electoral district of Nasser City, the Muslim Brotherhood’s lone female candidate, Makarim Eldeiri, is focusing on family values and, of course, Islam in her campaign.
“Our message is that Islam is the solution, and this is a complete program for all aspects of government and family life,” she says.
While it’s no surprise that a Brotherhood candidate would stress Islam, what is worrying to many is the affect that her campaign has had on her opponent. Faced with a strong challenge from Ms. Eldeiri, the ruling party incumbent has responded by adopting “The Koran is the solution” as his slogan.
The phenomenon has repeated itself in other districts.
The ruling National Democratic Party nominated just two Coptic parliamentary candidates out of a total of 444 this year….
“There is no desire to give the Copts representation in parliament and this is among the reasons that the Christian feel oppressed,” says Milad Hana, a secular Coptic writer. “There is more and more a sectarian air within the ruling powers in Egypt.”
The situation for women is equally grim, say women’s rights activists. Though President Hosni Mubarak repeatedly stressed the empowerment of women during his reelection campaign earlier this year, his party has nominated just six women to compete for parliament. The alliance of opposition forces has nominated just seven. Both those numbers are down from 2000, when 11 women ran from the ruling party, and 22 from the opposition.
Thanks, apparently, to the U.S.A.