Trusting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

One of the big questions during Egypt’s democratic elections following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak was whether they would be the country’s last.

Muslim fundamentalists do not have a strong record as far as political tolerance goes¸ and there were widespread concerns among secular liberals and the minority Christian community that if elected, the predominant Muslim Brotherhood movement would stifle dissent.

The counterargument was that the MB in Egypt were pragmatists who could be trusted. But in recent days, there have been troubling signs from President Mohamed Morsi, who came from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. Two leading journalists working for private media outlets are to be put on trial for insulting the president. Meanwhile, state-run media are being stuffed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters, much in the same way the old regime kept its critics at bay.

ADVERTISEMENT
Morsi took on unprecedented powers on Sunday when he retired the most powerful military officers in the country, including the leader of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which ruled Egypt after Mubarak was deposed. In a move that was largely welcomed as the restoration of civilian rule, he took back from the military the power to legislate, seized by the SCAF, which dissolved the parliament in June.

Another trial balloon was flying this morning, with an Egyptian daily, Al Masry Al Youm, suggesting that Morsi was weighing amendments to the 1979 Camp David treaty with Israel in order to give Egypt full sovereignty over Sinai, following a crackdown on terrorists there.

And so the list goes on. It is time for Morsi to prove his democratic credentials. But MB’s actions since the Mubarak ouster are not encouraging. They have flip-flopped on commitments to Egyptians over the past 18 months. Everybody understands the huge economic challenges facing Egypt, but Morsi should move to reassure the country’s population and its allies that the ouster of a dictator in February last year was not in vain. Committing to a new constitution and the democratic election of a new parliament as soon as possible should be his top priority. Only then will we see that the Muslim Brotherhood can be trusted.