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In Egypt, The Devil You Know Is the One to Fear

Author: Thalia Beaty
January 27, 2012


Much attention has been given to the success of "Islamist parties" in Egypt's recently completed parliamentary elections. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FPJ) achieved overwhelming success garnering 45 percent of the vote, while the Salafist parties came away with a combined 25 percent of the vote. Together these victories give the "Islamists" an absolute majority of 70 percent of the 498 parliamentary seats. The Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood are not, however, natural allies. In fact, the Salafists threaten the Brotherhood's seasoned social, and now political, organization by claiming the higher religious ground. While the Brotherhood would prefer to focus on economic, trade, and development policy issues, it will be forced, at some point, to address Salafist calls for the immediate applications of Sharia law, which would define national identity in terms of religion rather than citizenship.

While the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to ally with the Salafist parties, both will pursue changes in Egypt's social policies, although with different degrees of alacrity and depth. For many Egyptians, the specter of Salafist conservatism elicits a sense of fear and panic.

Military Authoritarianism

As a result of this fear and panic, some welcome the military's continued control over the political sphere. They view the military as a strong antidote to extremism, and are willing to sacrifice individual freedoms and government accountability for the predictable brutality of the regime. For these individuals, the electoral success of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists poses a greater threat to their way of life and their future than military authoritarianism.

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