CAIRO: Islamists across the Arab world have taken heart from the Muslim Brotherhood’s strongest ever showing in the Egyptian elections, saying this could weaken the appeal of violent ideologies.
Islamists from Tunisia to Syria see the gains in the elections as a victory for the Brotherhood’s strategy of gradual and peaceful steps toward their view of a more Islamic state and society.
They also say the showing should encourage the U.S. to recognize the influence of political Islam across the region.
Militant ideologies that have inspired groups such as Al-Qaeda hold Arab governments are infidel and can only be changed through force, at odds with the Brotherhood’s belief that it is possible to bring about change from within the system.
“This gives very strong momentum in the region – that the method of patience and endurance is not a dead end, as some claim. That in the face of despotism, the armed solution does not work, said exiled Tunisian Islamist Sayyed Ferjani.
Along with other opposition groups, Islamists have had few, if any freedoms, in most Arab countries.
Tunisia banned Ferjani’s Islamist Nahda Party in the early 1990s, the Brotherhood is still officially banned but tolerated in Egypt and membership of the group in Syria is punishable by death.
Islamists who share the Brotherhood’s approach say governments must give them more space to marginalize militants.
“Arab regimes should deal transparently with the Islamic movement and deal with it in a way that allows it to shield society from radical views, said Abdel-Majid Thunaibat, head of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The current U.S. administration supports the Egyptian government’s ban on the Brotherhood and has exerted little public pressure on Cairo over the arrests of Islamists during the elections.
“It wants to see democracy, although it likewise wants the democrats who win not to be Islamists, Ferjani said.
But the Brotherhood’s showing in Egypt adds weight to the argument that political Islam is a force the U.S. must come to terms with across the Arab world, where Islamists have shown their electoral strength when given the chance.
Algeria’s army canceled an election which Islamists looked set to win in 1992 and the country descended into civil war.
As in Egypt, the Brotherhood in Jordan is the country’s strongest opposition force. Hamas is expected to mount a strong challenge to the ruling Fatah faction when it contests its first Palestinian parliamentary elections in January.
“It is in the interests of all, including the U.S., not to be the cause of the oppression of the Islamic movement and not to support tyrannical leaders who oppress this movement, said Ali Bayanouni, the exiled head of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Sudan’s Hassan al-Turabi, one of the Muslim world’s most prominent Islamist ideologues, said the Brotherhood’s success in Egypt would give hope to Islamists.
Turabi, once the ideological force behind Sudan’s Islamist government said militancy would “gently wither away if more political freedoms were accompanied by withdrawals of U.S.-led forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.- Reuters