Τετάρτη, 7 Νοεμβρίου 2012

Egypt-Turkey ties: Where does the Muslim Brotherhood stand?

Egypt’s president Mohammad Morsi recently attended a Turkish parliamentary meeting, fueling the speculation that Egypt is keen on forging a partnership with Turkey to more effectively influence regional politics and developments. 
 
This alliance has given rise to the formation of a new balance in the regional power structure, one which is likely to reinvigorate the pursuit of the Turkish model. But such a “special relationship” seems to be confined largely to foreign policy and economic cooperation, raising one key question: will Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, now represented by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP),follow the footsteps of its Turkish counterpart, the Justice and Development (AK) Party, which has blended a secular constitution with a pronounced socio-political Islamic identity?
 
History would indicate otherwise. Secular Turkish laws are unlikely to be entirely integrated into Egypt’s new constitution. Moreover, experts have reminded us that the hallmark of Egyptian Islamists’struggle for democratization has been their emphasis on Islamic values and the restoration of the Arab-Islamic identity—a socio-political component conspicuously lacking in Turkish Islamism. Consider, for example, secular laws in Turkey that prevent females with Islamic dress code (hijab) from entering university campuses and state premises such as government buildings.  This law runs counter to Islamic traditions and the identity of many Egyptians.  Other secular laws concerning marriage, divorce, and inheritance may complicate the enforcement of the family personal status law.  On a broader level, pursuing secular constitutional laws would complicate the degree to which Morsi could balance the amalgam of different ideological and political tasks he is confronted with.
 
In recent months, Turkey and the United States have adopted a similar position vis-à-vis Syria, condemning Bashar al-Assad and the spread of violence against civilians in the rising Syrian conflict. This is due, both in part to the fact that the Turkish government intends to establish itself as a regional power, and the repressive way in which Assad has stifled the unrest in his country.  Since 9/11 and U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has come to view Turkey as a counterbalance to Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas in Gaza (now a Turkish ally), Saudi supported Salafists, and al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad.  Both the United States and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, along with and the rest of the Middle East, recognize and welcome Turkey’s role as counterbalance to Iran.
 
This perspective, however, does not entirely gloss over the fact that external intervention and support for rebels—both inside and outside the country—have raised fears that the unrest in Syria will most likely broaden into a regional war.  Ultimately, seeking a solution to the crisis in Syria requires Iran’s active participation in any conceivable regional agreement.  Iran’s regional policies still matter—possibly more so than in the past—insofar as they support a regional consensus with Egypt and Turkey that the NATO-initiated international military intervention must be avoided.
 
Mahmood Monshipouri teaches international relations at San Francisco State University and is the author of Muslims in Global Politics: Identities, Interests, and Human Rights (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).

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