Despite the military’s hold on power, Egypt has become an Islamist state, David Schenker writes for the Los Angeles Times.
By David Schenker
7/9/2012 Egypt (Los Angeles Times) – The election of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s president temporarily puts to rest the debate about whether the nation will be secular or Islamist. Egypt is an Islamist state.
Not only does a member of the Muslim Brotherhood hold the nation’s highest post, nearly 75 percent of the legislature’s seats are held by Brotherhood members or by their harder-line Salafi cousins — or at least they were held by the Islamists before the dissolution of the People’s Assembly by the ruling military council last month. Though headlines will remain focused on the struggle for supremacy between the Islamists and the military, the more important political battle in Cairo will be over what kind of Islamic state Egypt will become.
Within this new competitive theocracy, many of the differences are in degree and not in kind. Both the Salafis and the Brotherhood, for example, support the imposition of the hudud: the Islamic prescription to cut off hands of recidivist thieves. The disagreement is over how soon the penalty should be imposed.
Competition between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis is not new. Indeed, according to a diplomatic cable written by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and published by WikiLeaks, Brotherhood leaders have been uncomfortable since at least 2009 watching its younger, more rural members “becoming increasingly Salafi-oriented.”
It takes years to become a full member of the Muslim Brotherhood. To become a Salafi, one needs only to commit oneself to the cause and grow a beard. It’s little surprise the Salafis are nipping at the heels of the old-school Brotherhood.