November 8, 2011
by Avi Melamed
One of my observations was that these events marked the beginning of an era of new slogans in the Arab world and a departure from the old ones.
One of the slogans I discussed was “Islam is the Solution” – the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood movement since its establishment in Egypt in the late 1920’s. You can see this phrase written on walls, printed on bumper stickers and plastered on street signs all over the Arab world.
Following the downfall of the Mubarak government, the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt formally established itself as a political entity, created a political party and called it “The Freedom and Liberty” party. It is predicted that that this new party will do very well in the upcoming elections to the Egyptian Parliament and that it will become a major player in the political landscape of Egypt.
Interestingly enough, on the verge of its biggest political achievement, the Muslim Brotherhood formally announced their election campaign slogan for their newly-formed political party: “We Will Do for Egypt’s Welfare.” The movement’s old slogan – “Islam is the Solution” – was completely abandoned.
The change of the slogan is not a complete surprise; the young leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood had been advocating for changing it since 2010.
However, the decision to change the wording is not only a cosmetic one; it also reflects the Muslim Brotherhood’s choice to take a politically-pragmatic path.
First and foremost, the changing of the slogan stems from the Muslim Brotherhood’s understanding that the events in the Arab world reflect people’s demand for a better future, for a better life, and for real answers to their real problems. The movement’s old slogan is no longer relevant and could even backfire on them, because Islam itself cannot really offer concrete answers for the enormous challenges that Egypt is facing. *
There is another practical reason for the change of the slogan. In the not too distant future, it is likely that the Muslim Brotherhood will have to establish a political coalition that will include other political factors who stand for different, even contradictory, ideology — such as the Liberals. Building such a coalition requires political pragmatism and compromise.
The Arab world is in flux and the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, is now in unfamiliar territory – they are finally in the driver’s seat. Therefore, they will have to bridge the gaps between their ideology and the need for pragmatism.
That pragmatism will also call for a practical dialogue with the West. Egypt stands little chance of facing its challenges without the support of the West. That support has a price.
The West will closely watch the policy and the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood regarding different issues including: treatment of ethnic and religious minorities; women’s rights; human rights; commitment to the Peace Treaty with Israel; and much more.
However it should be clear. The choice of the Muslim brotherhood to adopt a pragmatic policy does not reflect a change in its ideology:
- The core of Muslim Brotherhood basic ideology is anti-secular. In its view, there is only one right way for people to live – according to the Islamic religious codex known as Sharia’a – because that is the manifestation of Allah’s will. All other ideologies are man-made; therefore, they are totally rejected and ruled out since they defy Allah’s will
- The Muslim Brotherhood ideology will never stand for liberal and western style democratic values
- The Muslim Brotherhood will remain anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and of course, anti-Israeli and anti-Western
As I have said, the Muslim Brotherhood benefits from the“Arab Awakening.” At the same time, that new status presents a major challenge for them, because eventually they will be evaluated not only by slogans, but by their ability to provide practical solutions.
I think it is quite reasonable to assume that the policy of the Muslim Brotherhood will be characterized by a permanent inner-tension that stems from their need to bridge their rigid ideology and their need for pragmatism. And it is likely that this tension will create turbulence that will inevitably impact the region.
*To read more on the subject please see my article “Is the Israeli –Egyptian Peace Treaty in Jeopardy?“). In this article I emphasized that any new political leadership in the Arab world will have to meet the needs and demands of its civilians. The days that Arab leaders could avoid accountability and responsibility by using shallow and hollow slogans are over.