As Egypt marks the first anniversary of Mubarak’s fall, where are Egypt’s secularists? As Ed Husain, one of Britain’s foremost commentators on the Arab Spring has written, liberals must be asking themselves how they lost the revolution they helped trigger.
Social enterpreneurs who make up the Brotherhood actually have more in common with America’s Republican Party than with al-Qaida. As Avi Asher-Shapiro writes in Salon,
The Brotherhood is a free-market party led by wealthy businessmen whose economic agenda embraces privatization and foreign investment while spurning labor unions and the redistribution of wealth. Like the Republicans in the U.S., the financial interests of the party’s leadership of businessmen and professionals diverge sharply from those of its poor, socially conservative followers.
Although the Brothers do draw significant support from Egypt’s poor and working class, “the Brotherhood is a firmly upper-middle-class organization in its leadership,” says Shadi Hamid, a leading Muslim Brotherhood expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Not surprisingly, these well-to-do Egyptians are eager to safeguard their economic position in the post-Mubarak Egypt. Despite rising economic inequality and poverty, the Brotherhood does not back radical changes in Egypt’s economy.
The FJP’s economic platform is a tame document, rife with promises to root out corruption and tweak Egypt’s tax and subsidies systems, with occasional allusions to an unspecific commitment to “social justice.” The platform praises the mechanisms of the free market and promises that the party will work for “balanced, sustainable and comprehensive economic development.” It is a program that any European conservative party could get behind.
Ed Husain concludes that the one victory secularist liberals can claim is that they have moulded today’s Muslim Brotherhood. It is because of the secularist influence that the Brotherhood has evolved,
from assassinating Egypt’s prime minister in 1948 and creating jihadi training camps in the 1940s, to now embracing parliamentary democracy. The Brotherhood’s increased pluralism is, in large measure, a testament to the influence of Egyptian liberal secularism over the last six decades.