Those who thought that political Islam coming to power in a number of Arab countries would mean radical change in the manner of governing and the method of dealing with political, economic and social issues, as compared to the autocratic and oppressive regimes that had prevailed there, as well as those who sought for Islamist movements led by the Muslim Brotherhood to be given the opportunity to express themselves and prove that their programs were different, were certainly greatly disappointed, after the failed performance with which these movements began their mandate in each of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya… and later of course in Palestine and in Syria, where the same parties ambition to seize control of the decision-making process.
Indeed, in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood has formed a militia no different from the one that had appeared at the end of the Mubarak era and played a role in attempting to stifle the Revolution, the Islamist President is taking decisions that do not distinguish him much from his predecessor, in jail for his dictatorial rule, and is issuing decrees in the name of the “majority”, which considers that the “minority” should submit to it, in a caricature-like understanding of the principles of democracy, and far from the notion of participation for which the popular uprising took place.
Mursi has even surpassed the Iranian “pioneers” in how swiftly he turned against his revolutionary comrades and revealed his organization’s intentions in terms of monopoly, autocracy and excluding the opposition. He has, from the moment he assumed his powers, moved forward in gradually “Brotherhoodizing” the state, by starting separate battles with the army, the judiciary and the administration, a process of which the current confrontation over the constitution and absolute presidential powers is only the latest chapter.
All of this comes accompanied by a state of intimidation imposed by the Brotherhood, which is accused of “stealing” the Revolution, on ordinary citizens in order to change social practices. Thus, an investigative report carried out by the BBC, to be broadcast soon, reveals that the spread of the phenomenon of harassing women in the streets of Cairo and major Egyptian cities is the result of a deliberate policy adopted by the Islamists in order to “discipline” Egyptian women and drive them to wear the veil.
In Tunisia, where the first spark of the Arab Spring was ignited, clashes between security forces and workers, with hundreds falling wounded, reveal that the country is being run after the Revolution with the same oppressive mentality that had characterized the former regime, and that it remains far from stability, after the Islamist government began its mandate by issuing laws that restrict freedoms and by refusing to listen to the demands of labor unions. In fact, the ruling Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) Movement has formed a militia, dubbed the “National League for the Protection of the Revolution”, which it uses to “enforce security” and attack protesters. Thus, the headquarters of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT – Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail) was subject to an attack by its members, leading it to call for a general strike, while President Moncef Marzouki is threatening to resign due to the government ignoring his recommendations.
The situation in Libya, which has tuned into the main reservoir of weapons for Arab Islamist movements, remains hostage to the struggle between Islamist movements amongst themselves, and between them and Liberal movements, with security unrest repeatedly erupting in the capital Tripoli and other parts of the country with the spread of armed militias out of all control.
Gaza’s Palestinian Islamists do not depart from the rule, as repeated Israeli offensives against the Gaza Strip are used as a pretext to prevent criticism of the authority held by Hamas, which has turned the Strip into a large prison by imposing restrictions on freedom of expression and of dress. And in Syria, the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is embracing extremist organizations, within the framework of the uprising against Assad, is preventing Western countries from taking the initiative of supplying the rebels with weapons, out of fear that they might reach the hands of those who would later use such weapons against them.
Much was said at the beginning of the Arab revolutions on the necessity of abandoning “preconceptions” about Islamists, and the importance of giving them a chance to break the stereotypes that were ascribed to them by regimes against which they fought. Yet they themselves have proved after a short time the soundness of most of what had been said about them, and that they are of the same cloth as the fading dictatorships, even if in different colors.
Hassan Haidar is a columnist at al-Hayat newspaper, where this article was published on Dec. 13, 2012.