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Arab world cannot ignore hunger for democracy

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Arab world cannot ignore hunger for democracy


From Tunisia to Egypt, we are seeing major changes in the Arab world although we are still to see what exactly will emerge from these events.

Joining us from Paris to discuss the Egyptian political crisis is Gilles Kepel, a professor of Islamic studies.

Laura Davidescu, euronews:

In a recent essay, you say this Egyptian Intifada lacks the characteristics of a real revolution capable of toppling the regime.

Is this a revolution or a revolt?

Gilles Kepel, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris:

It’s not a revolution in the sense that there are different social groups, which are not capable of uniting to bring down the government.

The protesters are still calling for Mubarak to go, but he’s not stepped down yet.

Vice president Omar Suleiman has opened talks on a transition of power, taking into account some of their points of view.

It’s not a revolution as the one we saw in Tunisia when the young urban poor joined the middle class in the streets to tell President Ben Ali to quit.


Vice President Suleiman recently said that Egypt is not ready for democracy.

There is talk of transition but has it really started?

Gilles Kepel:

What’s very striking is that the tone has changed.

From now on, Arab world politics cannot ignore this great hunger for democracy, a homegrown hunger for democracy inspired by the events in Tunis and Cairo.

That’s a problem for both the old guard of the Mubarak regime but also for the Muslim Brotherhood, who don’t really know how to play this.

They’ve entered the negotiations for fear of being sidelined by the rest of the opposition movement and rendered obsolete.


Is the Muslim Brotherhood a real threat today?

Gilles Kepel:

The Muslim Brotherhood is an important social player.

They can get people out into the streets. When they called on Egyptians to protest, there was a swelling in the number of demonstrators.

Now the question is whether they can convert their social and religious influence into political power and impose their own agenda.

I regularly read their statements in Arabic and their tone of voice has shifted. They talk about a popular revolution, a democratic revolution.

I think that they don’t want to be marginalised by the rest of the opposition.

They model themselves on Turkey’s AK Party, who participated in power-sharing then gained control.

In so doing, they had to wed themselves to the language of democracy.


Do you think the Muslim Brotherhood really believes in democracy?

Gilles Kepel:

I believe the Muslim Brotherhood is very much divided.

Some of its younger members aligned themselves with other opposition groups during the protests and have refused to take part in negotiations where its veteran figures are involved.

Some want Egypt to be an Islamic State and don’t want to get their hands dirty with these talks. Others are willing to negotiate.

It’s similar with Turkey’s ruling AK party. Younger party members don’t wear a veil and wear mini-skirts and drink alcohol, while there are some senior members who support Sharia law.

All of this is going to depend a lot on Egyptian society.

We should not see the Muslim Brotherhood as a manipulative force.

They have to adapt to society’s needs.

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