I don’t know if Egypt has ever seen as many beards with no mustaches concentrated in one area as it did last Friday when tens of thousands of ultraconservative Muslims thronged Cairo’s Tahrir Square in a massive show of force to demand the implementation of the Islamic Sharia law and speeding up of trials of former regime figures.
It was the first demonstration to be clearly dominated by religious overtones since Hosni Mubarak was forced to depart in February 2011.
Following Mr. Mubarak’s departure, Egyptians had high hopes for a democratic civilian state, and the West breathed a sigh of relief with assurances by the Muslim Brotherhoods that they would respect the transition to democracy.
But Friday’s chants in Tahrir, the cradle of the Egyptian revolution, must have made some knees shake in Washington before anywhere else across Egypt and the region.
“Islamic. Islamic. Not Western or Eastern. No liberal or secular,” demonstrators chanted. “With our soul and blood we defend you Islam.”
Islamist groups will triumph in parliamentary and presidential elections because they are the best organized political forces in Egypt today and because the will of the majority that will vote may be on their side, irrespective of whoever was the force behind the uprisings.
But taking over the legislative and the executive branches of the Egyptian political system will unlikely satiate Islamists’ undying quest for absolute power, one that can only be achieved by extending their hold onto the armed forces at some point in the future. This could be achieved through some deals with sympathetic elements of the army.
In any case, I can’t imagine what Egypt will look like 10 years down the line, should Islamists take power.
(Mustapha Ajbaili, Managing Editor of Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: Mustapha.email@example.com)