2011 saw the rise of political Islam across Northern Africa. Arab Spring revolutions which were typically led by secular modern youth, gave way to veteran religious Islamic leaders which gained political power.
In Egypt, the Muslim parties won 2/3 of the seats in Parliament. Top parties in Egypt’s incoming parliament have agreed to select an Islamist politician as house speaker for the first time in decades.
The main function of the new Egyptian parliament is to pick a 100-person commission to draw up a new constitution for Egypt. Considering that the majority of those who influence this decision are Muslims, with a more or less radical approach, you could guess that the new constitution would be Islamic in nature. The secular generals who still control Egypt may try to cast their power over the constitution but as the people object to the long term transition in Egypt, the generals are not likely to make an impact.
But Egypt is just the start. Tunisia is now led by Islamic government as well. In central Africa’s major countries like Uganda and Nigeria are battling increasingly strong al Qaeda influenced radical Islamic groups.
Since Islam is not a tolerate religion, Christians are increasingly feeling the heat. The Nigerian church bombings, wherein the Islamic group Boko Haram killed over 40 people celebrating Christmas mass, is just the most obvious example of anti-Christian sentiment in December. In Egypt, the Coptic Church is being threatened with a repeat of “Nag Hammadi,” a drive by shooting attacks on Christians leaving churches. In Uganda, Muslims threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve shortly after a revival at his church, leaving him with severe burns that have blinded one eye and threaten sight in the other.
The Obama administration is trying to come to terms with the new leaders of this Islamic world. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met recently with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the highest-level contact between the United States and the Egypt’s largest Islamic group. Burns’ message to the Brotherhood was “we want to work with your government. We want a meaningful partnership that fully accepts your government and we want to work with you on your primary goal, which is economic development as long as we feel you are building a democracy that respects human rights and freedom and supports regional peace.
The problem is that Islamic leaders often speak in 2 voices – one aimed at western ears and one at their local followers. So while US official claimed the Brotherhood leaders gave assurances that they will not jeopardize the peace treaty with Israel, the same leaders denied those claims saying that the fate of the peace treaty will be decided by the people in the new constitution.
President Barack Obama’s view of the Muslim Brotherhood is based on his — and his advisors’ — apparent rationale that the Islamist group is reformed and much more like the American and European models of pluralistic societies.
However, experts on Islam and terrorism claim that the Muslim Brotherhood’s — and the radical Salafists –dominance of the Egyptian government will eventually lead to the imposition of Sharia law on Islamic Arabs and jihad against infidels.
Time will tell which way this tide will turn. 2012 is bound to be a crucial year as Islam spreads all over Africa. Western leaders should be prepared to stand side by side with African leaders and fight radical Islam.
Roni Drukan is the co-founder of Giyus.org, a pro Israeli online diplomacy group. A contributor to several news sites, she is also known as Israeligirl to her blog readers and social media friends where she shares news and views about the Middle East and the war between moderates and radicals that’s impacting us all. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.