The overthrow of the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, by the military after popular protests demanding his ouster, is being described as a setback for Islamic radicalism. Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a party that has done much to popularize political Islam throughout the world. So should we be glad about the coup as a defeat of our Islamist enemies or oppose it as a setback for Democracy?From the Washington Post:
The ouster on Wednesday of Egypt’s elected Muslim Brotherhood government barely a year after it took office represents a significant setback for the Islamist movements that have proved the biggest beneficiaries so far of the Arab Spring revolts.
From Tunisia to war-torn Syria, anti-Islamist activists have begun expressing unhappiness with the religious parties empowered by freedoms the turmoil unleashed. That the backlash has crescendoed in Egypt — the Arab world’s political and cultural trendsetter and the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood 80 years ago — is likely to resonate far beyond, perhaps most forcefully in Syria.
“What happens to the Islamists in Egypt will determine their status in the remaining countries of the region,” said Jordanian political analyst Labib Kamhawi. “This is making them nervous because they know that if they lose in Egypt, they will end up losing everywhere.”It is far too early to write off political Islam as a force in the region, and the Egyptian army’s role in forcing President Mohamed Morsi’s departure sets a potentially worrying precedent for the future of democratically elected governments.
Islamist extremists, in Egypt and elsewhere, may argue that what many are calling a military coup validates the use of violence to achieve their aims. The regimes and monarchies still holding at bay the clamor for greater freedoms will cite the example of Egypt as evidence that elections that empower Islamists will lead to chaos, perhaps braking further progress toward political reform.
But there can be little doubt that the specter of the Arab world’s most populous nation rising up in seemingly unprecedented numbers against an Islamist leader has tainted the Brotherhood’s long effort to present itself as a viable alternative to the region’s mostly repressive regimes, in ways that it may find hard to redress.
“This is one of Islamism’s biggest crises in recent memory, indeed in decades,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar.