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This report from yesterday’s New York Times does not bode well. Here’s a key extract:

Cairo:  In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”

It is possible to understand the interim government’s motives, but Egypt’s military is playing a dangerous game. One of the characteristics of the Mubarak regime was the amount of space he ceded to religious hardliners in the religious and cultural spheres, a terrible mistake that did nothing other than store up trouble for the future. Now it seems that the retreat will begin from the political arena as well.



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