Six months after a coalition of activist groups in Egypt toppled Hosni Mubarak from power, many in the West are once again raising alarms that the so-called Arab Spring is merely the harbinger of an Islamist takeover of the Middle East.
The latest salvo comes in response to a rally held in Tahrir Square last Friday that was dominated by Islamist and Salafist (ultra-conservative Muslim) groups, many of them associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The sheer size and strength of the demonstration was, for many, a sign that the dream of democracy in Egypt may be giving way to the reality of theocracy. The Washington Post wrote that the Islamists’ presence at the rally “was a stunning show of force that left the liberal pioneers of Egypt’s revolution reeling.”
It is true that Islamists comprised the largest and most vocal of the more than 25 different Egyptian organizations, most of them labor and youth groups, who organized last week’s mass show of unity against the country’s military rulers. But that is a reflection of their superior organizational skills and their ability to mobilize their members, and not of their political clout or their national support.