You have to hand it to the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. They know how to play power politics. They know how to acquire power. And they know how to use power.
Last Friday, the day before voters by most accounts elected the Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Morsy to serve as Egypt's next president, The Wall Street Journal published a riveting account by Charles Levinson and Matt Bradley of how the Brotherhood outmaneuvered the secular revolutionaries to take control of the country's political space.
The Brotherhood kept a very low profile in the mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square in January and February 2011 that led to the overthrow of then-president Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood's absence from Tahrir Square at that time is what enabled Westerners to fall in love with the Egyptian revolution.
Those demonstrations led to the impression, widespread in the US, that Mubarak's successors would be secular Facebook democrats. The role that Google's young Egyptian executive Wael Gonim played in organizing the demonstrations was reported expansively. His participation in the anti-regime protests - as well as his brief incarceration - was seen as proof that the next Egyptian regime would be indistinguishable from Generation X and Y Americans and Europeans.
In their report, Levinson and Bradley showed how the Brotherhood used the secularists to overthrow the regime, and to provide them with a fig leaf of moderation through March 2011, when the public voted on the sequencing of Egypt's post-Mubarak transformation from a military dictatorship into a populist regime. The overwhelming majority of the public voted to first hold parliamentary elections and to empower the newly elected parliament to select members of the constitutional assembly that would write Egypt's new constitution.
As Egypt's largest social force, the Brotherhood knew it would win the majority of the seats in the new parliament. The March 2011 vote ensured its control over writing the new Egyptian constitution.
In July 2011, the Brotherhood decided to celebrate its domination of the new Egypt with a mass rally at Tahrir Square. Levinson and Bradley explained how in the lead-up to that event Egypt's secular revolutionaries were completely outmaneuvered.
According to their account, the Brotherhood decided to call the demonstration "Shari'a Friday." Failing to understand that the game was over, the secularists tried to regain what they thought was the unity of the anti-regime ranks from earlier in the year.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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