THE upheavals to replace Arab monarchs with democratic regimes, erupting since January 2011, which were earlier referred to as Arab Spring are now being perceived, by many observers, as Arab Winter with the rise of Islamist parties inclined to revive fundamentalist ideals. The rise of fundamentalists in the Arab, has generated serious skepticism among women, minorities (Christians and Jews), leftists and all liberal groups, including the youth part of social media networks, who had been instrumental in sparking off the populist movements in these countries.
The ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ (MB) has now been emerging as the most powerful and important ‘international political organisation’ in the Arabic speaking world in this post-Arabic Spring era after the elections held in recent past. Salafists, the greater ultra-conservative Islamists, have emerged as the second most powerful political organisation, who do not hesitate to talk of jazia (tax levied on non-Muslims) encasing of Pharaoh Statue’s face (4,300 year old statue in Egypt) to prevent prohibited idolatry, making
hijab wearing mandatory and implementation of Sharia. Salafists are also in full agreement with the Muslim Brotherhood about the institution of a caliphate i.e. Khalifayat to direct the Muslims world over. MB’s global plans are no more a secret after the December 29, 2011 speech of Muhammed Badie wherein he is reported to have stated that the “Islamist Government in Cairo (Egypt)” would lead to a rightly-guided Caliphate that will instruct the world.
Though, the MB after coming to power in Egypt has stopped talking about its long time dream of an Islamic Egypt. But, according to observers, that might be the part of a purposive strategy as the real power is still with the military. The secular generals who took over from ousted President Hosni Mubarak 16 months ago, might not relinquish their hold on most levers of power to facilitate a theocratic rule. The military has already dissolved the 3/4th Islamist dominated Parliament, with 46 per cent Freedom and Justice Party members (the political wing of Muslim Brotherhood) and 27 per cent Salafis. The newly elected President has reinstated the Parliament, defying the military orders. But, the Supreme Constitutional Court has frozen, on July 10, 2012, the presidential decree reinstating the Islamist-led Parliament, hours after the lower house convened in defiance of judiciary and military. Now, since the MB wants to take on the generals, it cannot do that alone. It has to take liberals, leftists, women and Christians together to bolster its battle to end military rule. Therefore, ever since qualifying for the 16-17 June presidential runoff, Muhammed Morsi (the then Presidential candidate and now the elected President of Egypt), made no mention of the Muslim Brotherhood’s traditional positions, such as banning alcohol, forcing women to cover up in public, prohibiting bank interest as usury, repealing of laws that make it easier for women to divorce and gain custody of their children, etc. Having cherished these goals for 84 years since its inception, how long the MB would keep them in abeyance, once it takes over the levers of power from the military.
Women activitists have already begun to have anxiety, wherever fundamentalist are capturing power or are on rise after the fall of monarchs. Only a year and a half after they marched along side men to topple these regimes in the once called Arab Spring, the Arab women have now began to face a discriminatory wall of misogyny (dislike for women).
In Tunisia, Salafist vigilantes have turned aggressive against unveiled women and occupying universities that do not prescribe the face veil. The head of Libya’s transitional government had promised to bring back polygamy, though the early results of elections there till July 9 have been indicating victory of liberals. In Morocco, women do not feel safe on streets and markets, after a young woman was assaulted, stoned and striped of clothes and beaten on the street in a Rabat market for wearing dress which the Salafists or Ultra Conservative Islamists considered short and not conforming to Islamic standards in their opinion. The verbal and physical harassment being faced by the liberal, pro-freedom and pro-equality women has been described as heinous and horrible by Nora Al-Fuari, an activist journalist at the Al-Sahab daily. Tunisia is the first country, where Arab uprising began in January 2011, Salafis are occupying the Manouba University, demanding provision of naqab or veil for women students. Unveiled female lecturers, it is being alleged, are being insulted by shouts of whores. Syria is almost in the grip of a civil war. Yemen, has become Al-Quaeda favourite destination, after the fall of its monarch. Tunisia the country with most liberal ideals among the Arabs too is witnessing riots by religious extremists, where women are their worst targets. In Saudi Arabia succession crisis is imminent with the death of its crown prince.
However, as on date the Islamists appear to dominate except in Algeria and Libya, over the liberals, feminists, leftists and Christians and they have not cared to hide their strong conviction, as reflected in their speeches till the end of 2010 that the improvement and change Muslim nations seek, can only be fulfiled through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as enemies pursue life. But, of late the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has deliberately omitted the positions taken in Arabic, in its English language blog, to cast a moderate image, in the eyes of the west and liberal seculars at home including the military. Inspite of a moderate stance than several more militant groups, the Muslim Brotherhood has acquired an apex position in the Sunni Islamic bloc. It is in power in Egypt, in the form of Hammas it rules the Gaza strip, having received 40 per cent ballots it is in power in Tunisia and its branches dominate in Syria and Jordan, along with smaller groups being active in Libya, Lebanon, and elsewhere in all Islamic countries. The Muslim Brotherhood has become the most important group among Muslims in Europe and North America too, often directing communities and representing them in dealing with the government and non-Muslim societies either directly or by political franchising. Though, there is no centralised command and decision system nor, any deliberate efforts to coordinate the affairs of its branches in different countries. Yet, it is the lead organisation of Sunni Islamist groups of the world which can be a very powerful revolutionary organisation in Islamic world with its influence in other parts of the world. Reports have begun to appear that SIMI (Students’ Islamic Movement of India) too had links with Muslim Brotherhood.
Therefore, countries like India should tread cautious and deliberate interaction at government level with the countries wherever the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power, to ensure that the MB does not entertain the separatist groups. Besides, the secular fabric based on equality and non-discriminatory policies need to be strengthened at home, to avoid any communal polarisation as well as to promote integration of hearts and minds of people within the country.