Friday, November 11, 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Politics of Appeasement

Working within the system, simply does not work. As a matter of fact, it took a revolution to reform the system from within. However, the double-discourse employed by the Muslim Brotherhood seemingly misses this point.
From within, the reformist methods adopted by the Brotherhood through Parliamentary participation are justified through a strategy of incrementalism (tadaddaruj)[1]Meaning that steps are taken incrementally within the system, to reform it – with the intention of eventually taking power and transforming those elements of the establishment incommensurable with Islam.

To the Islamophobic West, the Brotherhood reassures policy makers in Washington D.C, Paris, and in London that they do not, and will not pursue an Islamic State. Not even a majority in Parliament. But only a sizable bloc in parliament as to maintain the ‘democratic nature’ of the government and to embrace values such as ‘plurality’.

Recent talks between the U.S and the Brotherhood are indicative that the West is indeed reassured that the “Islamist” are not as big of a threat they once posed, or supposedly posed for that matter. Time has shown, as volumes of scholarly and political literature shows that the “Islamist” movements have compromised much of the “radical edges” in their platform, and have both normalized and secularized their political aspirations through the effects of parliamentary participation which has had a transformative effect on the party rendering it ineffective, and pragmatic. Deeply entrenched in a multi-layered power-structures with a domesticated “Islam” eviscerated of its revolutionary principles – there is little to fear.

Their politics of appeasement however will only work for actors outside the party and its supporters. Inside, many will now question the strategy of incrementalism in light of the Military Councils recent decision to ban “Religious Slogans” during electoral campaign. An obvious reference to their “Islam is the Solution” slogan which engendered much controversy during the 2005 elections prompting Abu al-Futuh to assert that it does not“contradict with national unity” nor is it in opposition with “Christians, communists, or any other ideologies or groups” [2]

The politics and policies of this short-sighted tactic, merely serves as appeasement. Despite a revolution, which the parties youth played an essential role therein, things only seem to be getting incrementally worse in that the party must now compromise the very last indictor of anything Islam aside from the trimmed beards of its independent candidates. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt for example “are implicitly renouncing, or at least pushing back to an undetermined future, the goal of creating an Islamic state representing the entire Muslim community, the umma“.[3]

Compromise and an increasingly humiliating politics of appeasement on the part of the Brotherhood has not been met with mutual consideration with the Secular regime in Egypt which seems to only strengthen its grip on party.

What is all the more humiliating is that the overly Western discourse of the Brotherhood is adopted in an attempt to be all the more ‘modern’, is nothing short of anachronistic. Only to find themselves far behind, and starting off, where the West has left off. Speaking of nationhood, and submitting to the colonial parameters of the nation-state while the West moves into a multi-polar world diluting such borders for “universal” (Eurocentric) values. Unbridled acceptance of democracy, while the West has long pointed out the inherent destructive contradictions and paradoxes in the once god-like concept. Replacing universality for particularism, and revolutionary methodology embedded in Tawhid for the whimsical politics of parliament – the Brotherhood finds itself in an quandary amidst a regional, and inevitable global power vacuum in which the mainstream (which the Brotherhood has so keenly sought to conform to) is being replaced by radical (non-mainstream) alternatives as the world looks for a new leader.

Ali Harfouch is a student of Political Studies at the American University of Beirut and works with Islamic Organizations in Beirut, Lebanon.


[1] The alternative being revolutionary method which involves; non-system participation. Working outside and autonomously from the establishment – towards a complete paradigm shift, in that the establishment is completely removed and the socio-political foundations of a society are transformed. A reformation on the other hand is not as radical, nor does it involve in a transformation or overhaul of axiomatic principles governing a society.
[2] The Egyptian Movement for ChangeIntellectual Antecedents and Generational Conflicts
[3] Getting to Pluralism: Political Actors in the Arab World Marina Ottoway and Amr Hamzawy

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