Egypt under the new Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, could end up looking very different than the Egypt the world knows. Morsi may be the Arab world’s first elected leader, but he is being pressured, and even expected by some, to follow the militant Islamic vision. It may be very wishful thinking to say that democracy is coming to Egypt.
In Timbuktu, militant Islamists destroyed two ancient tombs that were classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Other ancient mausoleums in the city viewed by the militants to be “idolatrous” have also been destroyed. This wanton destruction of religious and historic landmarks, condemned by much of the world, is being desired by some in Egypt.
There have been recent reports of prominent Muslim clerics calling for the destruction of Egypt’s Great Pyramids because they, too, are “symbols of paganism”. Sensing that the time may be ripe for further changes because of a Muslim Brotherhood president, calls are also being made to legalize Islamic sex-slave marriage and to institute “morality police”.
Egypt’s Tourism Minister, Muneer Fakhry Abdul Nour, seems to be deaf to those calls. With the country’s tourism industry already suffering badly, he says he is very optimistic, expecting an “unprecedented” increase in tourists in the second half of this year. Perhaps tourists would actually come to watch the difficult task of destroying the pyramids, but militant Islamists running wild and morality police on the prowl would tend to dampen that attraction.
Change in Egypt may come swiftly, but change for the better is an entirely different matter. The Islamic militant’s idea of progress hinges on a nostalgic look backward. That past era of repression has no place in today’s world, but that doesn’t stop the militants from trying to carve out a place for it using violent force. Unfortunately, Egypt may have become ripe for carving.
David J. Hentosh