For a guy at 82, Hosni Mubarak is an impressive athlete. He's racing to the dock faster than an Olympic rowing team. While the world waits for him to get a fake passport and a villa in Argentina, the question at hand is: what comes next? Democracy, one presumes, but a democracy established on the volatile remains of a scarred collective Egyptian psyche. And no group stands to benefit more from that than the ominously quiet Muslim Brotherhood.
A useful rule of thumb: when former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim says, "Don't worry," it's a good idea to start worrying. Journalist Claire Berlinski has been detailing Anwar's ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and his affinity for Sharia Law. And while it's impressive that the Malaysian ex-con had time to pen a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed between prison stints and anti-Semitic speeches, he's hardly the voice of the people. Or so we should hope.
The Muslim Brotherhood could seize power in what would potentially be the first and final election of the new Egypt. It is well organized, with a good reputation on the street. The group is media savvy, with a global record of electoral success. It's no stretch for would-be voters to empathize with the organization. Egyptians have been oppressed for thirty years; the Brotherhood has been outlawed for fifty. (Of course, assassinating the prime minister, and later the president, will get you that kind of treatment.)
But once in power, one needs look no further than Hamas - a branch of the Brotherhood - to see their policymaking in action. Indeed, enumerating the Muslim Brotherhood's crimes against humanity would span enough columns to fill the Britannica, if not the Internet. Their allies through history would be comical if the results weren't so tragic. Not many groups can honestly claim to have aided the Nazis, the Soviets and al-Qaeda; to be devoted to the common man and defend slaughtering civilians. And they can mount a pretty spirited defense of beheadings, if asked.
Be a man and support the Brotherhood, some say. That's not rhetoric - if you support the aims of the Muslim Brotherhood, you'd better be a man. Because these guys are all about Sharia Law, and we've seen that before. The Taliban's philosophy wasn't so different. Sure, they ended the drug trade in Afghanistan, and then they pulled women from schools, locked them at home and wrapped them in burkas. Noisy shoes or showing ankle meant a public beating. (And this isn't neoconservative hyperbole. This is as reported by the National Organization for Women.)
After sufficiently terrorizing women, the ruling class turned to art, deemed incompatible with Sharia Law. Music, dancing, chess, television and pictures - all gone. When that wasn't enough, they blew up the ancient Bamiyan Buddha statues carved into the side of the Hindu Kush, possibly the only tourist attraction in the whole of the Mad Max wasteland.
So one has to wonder: if an organization founded and devoted to Sharia Law seizes power in another ancient land, how long before the polished smiles on CNN fade and words like "moderation," "democracy" and "reform" disappear? How long before plans are unfurled to implement an unbridled, primitive barbarism in keeping with their code? If you hate art, I can think of 138 limestone polyhedrons and a winged lion-man that will simply have to go.
That's the Muslim Brotherhood. They're reformed for the cameras, but their core beliefs remain unchanged.