Although the Muslim Brotherhood stated that it will support and defend civil and minority rights, it remains to be seen whether this will happen in practice. The first test will come over the formation of a new government and whether Freedom and Justice, the Brotherhood’s party, will reach out to all sectors of society. There is growing concern among Copts that they may be subject to increased restrictions and even special taxes. More worryingly, the Islamist-dominated parliament has debated measures that appear to attack women’s rights, including reducing the marriage age for women to 14, and restricting a woman’s right to end abusive and unhappy marriages. There have also been calls for women to dress modestly in public, particularly in tourist hot spots. The tourism sector has expressed concern, given the negative impact that this could have on Egypt’s main source of foreign currency revenue.
Samer Libdeh is senior research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not our friend. We do not share its values on the rights of women or religious minorities, or on foreign policy. But it is a peaceful group, with little interest in recreating Iran-style theocracy or sheltering terrorists. Despite facing rigged elections and blatant repression, it abandoned violence decades ago. Its members have been running for elections since 1985. Since then, the party has learnt that voters want to focus on growth and inflation, not just criticism of Israel. A new generation of pragmatists and young reformers is attempting to moderate its position, and the tussle of party politics will surely accelerate that process. Above all, even if the Brotherhood did attempt to overreach, there remains a large and powerful army breathing down its neck. All it has won this week is an emasculated and mostly symbolic presidency.
Shashank Joshi is a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.