Muslim Brotherhood

Politics rules the news cycle on Islam and the Middle East. Given the colonial history of the region, there have been numerous puppet leaders installed or allowed to dangle over the years. But the latest puppet regime in Egypt, which has had its share, centers around a cosmetically enhanced widow matron that lolls around in a negligeé and talks about sex. Her name is Abla Fahita and she is a puppet in a new Egyptian tv series. She is turning heads in post-Brotherhood Egypt; if Morsy was still in power, it might very well be her own head that would have been in cinematic danger, although she has been on Youtube for several years and made an appearance on Bassam Yousif’s show. She even has her own MTVish video.

Humor has never been in short supply in Egypt, so even if her Friday night show is censored off the air, other puppets will appear. But in the meantime, if you want to laugh along with a lot of Egyptians, who are in need of something to laugh about beyond politics, just put “Abla Fahita” into Youtube, sit back and enjoy.

At a juice bar in Cairo, two men posed by a photograph of Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi. The general has become a popular figure among many Egyptians; Narciso Contreras for The New York Times

The future of Egyptian democracy: Islamism beyond the Muslim Brotherhood

by Yasmin Moll, The Immanent Flame, August 29

A few weeks after the ouster of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the New York Times ran this headline: “Egyptian Liberals Embrace the Military, Brooking No Dissent.” The accompanying photograph showed a man with a full beard and shaved moustache in the Salafi style, a prominent prayer mark (a “raisin” in the Egyptian vernacular) on his forehead. Behind the man is a wallpaper of Muslim pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba in Mecca. A framed portrait of then-general and coup master Abdel Fattah el-Sisi leans against beige tiles stickered with several Qur’anic verses. The headline limits the military’s support base to (secular) liberals, while the image shows us it actually extends beyond this narrow stratum.

With some exceptions, such as analyses published in this series, most scholarly accounts dovetail with media framings of Egypt’s fraught political scene since the 2011 revolution as primarily a struggle between secularism and Islamism. But the “secularism versus Islamism” narrativ­e is a political one—it performs important legitimizing labor for a plethora of social actors in Egypt, from the Brotherhood­ to deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak’s allies and both liberal and leftist activists alike. It is, however, of very limited analytical utility in making critical sense of what is actually at stake in the current impasse for the many Egyptians who do not subscribe to a secularized conception of government, yet whose religiosity cannot be conflated with the Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood. (more…)