Extremists Threaten Egypt's Delicate Democracy

Blogger Adam Serwer assesses whether al-Qaida will rise in Egypt during the country's march toward democracy.

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Egyptian Salafi demonstrators attend a rally in downtown Cairo (Getty Images)

Egypt must address post-Arab Spring disillusionment to protect its fledgling democracy, Adam Serwer argues in his blog on the American Prospect.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has a sobering analysis of al-Qaeda's strategy for exploiting popular discontent in the wake of the Arab Spring:

"We haven't seen Islamic law implemented or a caliphate established, of course, but al Qaeda probably sees a more fertile recruiting environment. The Arab Spring is not just about the desire for democracy. It is also about unemployment and skyrocketing food prices. Will material needs be met? The unemployment rate in Egypt has in fact increased rather than decreased since Mubarak was overthrown. Historically when you have sky-high expectations -- as you've had with the Arab Spring -- that go unfulfilled, extreme ideologies can take hold." 

I'm slightly more optimistic than Gartenstein-Ross, for a couple of reasons. Extreme ideologies can take hold during periods of economic misery, but I think they also flourish through repression. Part of how the Muslim Brotherhood drew support during the Mubarak era was because they were one of the few fonts of opposition -- in a more open marketplace of ideas, I think extreme ideologies have less appeal, and the Brotherhood itself hasn't seen its popularity rise despite ongoing discontent in Egypt.

Read Adam Serwer's complete blog at the American Prospect.

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