This article was originally published on The Atlantic on Monday, May 12, 2013.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil announced a cabinet reshuffle recently that included a number of new ministers from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership. This development seems to have confirmed the worst fears of the Egyptian opposition, which has raised concern over the “Brotherhoodization” of the country. Although the increased representation of the Brothers in the government is cause for alarm for Egypt’s secularists and liberals, they should be concerned about a quieter, but more worrying process — the Islamization of Egypt’s political institutions — which is likely to be far more durable than the Brotherhood’s grip on political power. This phenomenon is not just underway in Egypt, however. Islamist power and the Islamization of society are what the the future holds for Egypt, Tunisia, post-Assad Syria, and likely other countries in the region.
Given that the noticeable evidence of the Islamization in the Middle East is few and far between, the idea that Islamization is the trajectory of the region might seem misplaced. Egypt’s Muslim Brothers and Tunisia’s Ennahda have not declared alcohol forbidden, forced women to don the hijab, or instituted hudud punishments (i.e., specific punishments for specific crimes set forth in the Qur’an or hadiths).
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