What Does Morsi’s Ouster Mean for Islamist Movements in Other Nations?

BY Larisa Epatko  July 4, 2013 at 3:18 PM EST


A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds up his picture in Cairo on Thursday, following Morsi’s removal from office. Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images.

What does Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s swift removal from power at the hands of the military on Wednesday mean for Islamist movements in other countries? Two analysts, regulars on the PBS NewsHour, said the action might lead to more violence by those disenchanted by the political process, and shows that what made them effective as opposition movements didn’t translate so well into governance.

Michele Dunne, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said former presidential adviser Essam al-Haddad said it all in his July 3 Facebook post: “the message will resonate throughout the Muslim World loud and clear: democracy is not for Muslims.” Said Dunne:

“Many Muslims and in particular Islamists will see the military coup against Morsi as further evidence that the world will not tolerate Islamists winning elections, following the episodes of Hamas facing an international campaign against its 2006 electoral win in Palestine and the interruption of Algerian elections in 1991. The coup will allow Islamists to ignore Morsi’s abysmal failure as a president and his many undemocratic actions, which engendered enormous demonstrations and a campaign that gathered more than 20 million signatures for early elections.

“If only Morsi had been defeated in an early election; if, for example, the military had persuaded him to call for a referendum on his presidency, which the constitution allows. But no, neither the army nor the demonstrators had the patience for that. They just wanted Morsi gone. And now they will have to live with the consequences, which might well include anti-government violence by Islamists. The military and transitional government will have to be much wiser and more inclusive than Morsi was in order to minimize Islamist bitterness and get Egypt back on a democratic path.”

Hussein Ibish, commentator on Middle Eastern affairs, said Morsi’s forcible removal has major implications for Islamists throughout the region:

“It should put to rest any notion that because most of the peoples of the Middle East are devout Muslims, they are therefore either Islamists or easily won over by an Islamist appeal. The nearly unanimous rejection of continued Muslim Brotherhood governance in Egypt after only one year under President Morsi demonstrates this irrefutably for anyone who has not yet understood it. That probably included a lot of Islamists in the Arab world and Turkey, but also a lot of analysts and policymakers in the West. So it should be clearly understood that even in fairly conservative Arab Muslim countries like Egypt, people do not naturally and reflexively gravitate towards Islamists if they are missed governing the country or mismanaging their responsibilities.

“It certainly undermines the claim regional Islamists have not only to represent religious, ideological and cultural ‘authenticity’, particularly in the Arab world. But more importantly, it undermines the notion that they are likely to be effective at governance. The kind of stridency, party discipline and ideological rigor that has made them so effective as opposition movements did not translate well into governance. Ruling large, diverse and heterogeneous countries, even with the enormous powers of the disposal of the Egyptian president, requires compromise, conciliation, consultation and cooperation.

“The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in general, and President Morsi in particular, proved either unwilling or unable to engage in any of those practices sincerely. They broke their word at almost every stage to every partner they had, with the possible exception of the military, which clearly intimidated them. And, most often, they simply acted in an arbitrary and heavy-handed manner.

“Since the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is regarded as the ‘mother’ of the movement throughout the Middle East, and is the oldest, largest and best organized of the groups, it raises serious doubts about the ability of similar organizations to perform well in office if elected or otherwise empowered.

“It’s a significant victory for the governments and non-Islamist movements in the Arab world that wish to restrain the Muslim Brotherhood movement and other Islamists and thwart their efforts to dominate national and regional politics. The bitterness of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers cannot be overstated. They seem to genuinely believe the narrative laid out in Morsi’s June 26 and Tuesday evening speeches which passionately argued that they are the vanguard of the revolution and ‘the real revolutionaries,’ that they were legitimately elected and therefore their authority cannot be questioned, and that the vast and amazingly diverse coalition of other social and political forces in Egypt calling for the end of their rule were simply ‘remnants of the old regime, traitors, hooligans, scofflaws and agents of foreign powers.’

“There is every reason to think this is how many Muslim Brothers, not only in Egypt, but in the rest of the Arab world, actually view the situation. From this point of view, repression and subversion have defeated democracy and legitimacy. The temptation may not only be to outrage but to consider, again, using violence rather than normative political means as a primary tactic. If this is the case, either in Egypt or anywhere else, the movement will damage itself even further.

“All of that said, the Brotherhood in Egypt is by no means a spent force, and irrelevancy or anything of the kind. They retain a huge constituency and one of the most difficult challenges facing both the new order and the Brotherhood is how they can reintegrate themselves politically into an emerging arrangement which they find illegitimate, abusive and outrageous.

“Both sides are going to have to avoid pressing temptations. The non-Islamist groups must not seek to crush or eliminate the Brotherhood as a social and political movement, and the Brothers must not turn to violence in an effort to reverse their fortunes. Both are prescriptions for open-ended conflict. The lessons of Algeria — in which Islamist forces battled the state for almost a decade leaving countless innocent people brutally and killed the country in ruins — must be remembered by everyone in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.”


Related Resources


Reporter Nancy Youssef and analysts Michele Dunne and Samer Shehata look at the fallout in Egypt.

We’ll have more on the fallout in Egypt on Thursday’s PBS NewsHour. View all of our World coverage.