Muslim Brotherhood Deserves a Chance in Democratic Egypt

Muslim Brotherhood Deserves a Chance in Democratic Egypt

It has become conventional wisdom among U.S. and European policymakers that the Muslim Brotherhood, with its superior organizational structure, will dominate any quickly held election in a post-Mubarak Egypt. Invariably, observations to this effect are followed by warnings about the movement's beliefs and its questionable commitment to democracy. Those warnings took on ominous overtones when the Brotherhood announced Feb. 21 that it will establish the Freedom and Justice Party to participate in future elections.

Many of the Muslim Brotherhood's policy positions are indeed odious to Western sensibilities. In a democratic Egypt, however, the Brotherhood's ideas may garner popular appeal. The more important question, then, is not whether we support the Brotherhood but whether we can trust the group to be a responsible democratic actor. Looking at the movement's recent history, fears of a "one vote, one time" scenario, in which the Brothers sweep to popular power only to replace democracy with a theocratic regime, are overblown.

First, Brotherhood leaders have repeatedly declared that they have no immediate interest in ruling Egypt. Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's supreme guide, as well as Brotherhood spokesmen have clearly stated that they want no part in a transitional government, that they will not run a candidate for the presidency and that they will not compete for a majority of parliamentary seats. These are not the actions of a power-hungry, totalitarian movement.

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