An American journalist friend of mine got in touch with me just after the 2011 Egyptian parliamentary elections when the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists won a majority of seats.
Were the Muslim Brotherhood extremists? he asked.
He was hearing this and similar things from friends and the media and told me that this was not his understanding. He asked for my insight on the matter.
I sent him a long answer. Here are two short excerpts:
“They are not the type of group that would force women to wear the head scarf or force people to practice a certain form of Islam. My expectation is that they will focus on building the country rather than on building a religious society.”
“…in my opinion it’s not a disaster. I would have liked to see a wider representation of society [in parliament]. I’d like to see Egypt becoming more liberal. The liberals and secularists in Egypt are not strong. They are not united. They have very small followings. And very little experience on the ground with charitable services and politics. It’s going to take time for political parties to grow and have an impact so that they do get followings. We just need to give it some time.”
In the 20 months since that exchange of emails, much has changed, including my own perceptions. (more…)