I attended the presentation given by the Freedom and Justice Party’s delegation to the U.S. at Georgetown University sponsored by the Al-Waleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding last Wednesday. The FJP advocates on the panel spoke well and for the most part presented an inspiring vision for Egypt’s future. They spoke of the centrality of freedom, dignity, justice, democracy, and rule of law to a free and prosperous Egypt in which civil society and a free market as well as democratic government would flourish and in which inspiration of its Islamic and Egyptian heritage would embrace rather than constrain the role of Christians and women in society, including politics. They denounced the policies of the old regime that had placed obstacles in the way of Christians renovating their churches and prevented them from building new ones.
I was disappointed in one major respect. They failed to appreciate that by breaking their promise not to run a candidate for president, they have undermined their own credibility. Why should Coptic Christians, women, liberals, and secularists believe their beautiful promises if they themselves have no respect for their own promises?
They had an explanation for their change of heart. (Politicians always do.) Circumstances have changed since the Muslim Brotherhood expelled Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh for violating their pledge that no member of theirs would run for president. Back then, they said, they would be satisfied to have the pluarality in the parliament and let others dominate the executive branch, but since then, they complain, the military has made it clear that it will not let them form the government to which their parliamentary victory entitles them I don’t buy it. If they didn’t have the foresight to see that the ,military would stubbornly cling to power and Aboul Fotouh did, why can’t they simply forgive Aboul Fatouh and support his bid rather than run another candidate and split the moderate Islamist vote leaving the field open for a “Salafi” candidate or for a member of the old regime like Mubarak’s torturer-in-chief Omar Suleiman to become the new pharaoh?
Of course, there is nothing new about politicians breaking promises. We joke about it in America: “How do you tell when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.” Perhaps it is inevitable that democratic politics requires people to sell out. But it is very sad indeed when people sell out before the democracy has even been established.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute