Both ends of the spectrum of Political Islam have more or less collapsed.
The presence and influence of moderate Islamist political parties is in steep decline, particularly since the debacle of the Mursi presidency in Egypt, and the coup that ended it. The territorial demise of Da’esh, and with it, the evaporation of their delusional political project, as well, represent the coming irrelevance of the ideology of Political Islam in the Muslim world.
That is not to say that Islamists have renounced their ambitions for power. On the contrary, they are just as power-hungry as ever; it is just not manifesting itself in the desire for political positions so much as it is in the desire to accumulate wealth and to form business syndicates around the world.
This is not, of course, an entirely new trajectory for them. When the Muslim Brotherhood held the government in Egypt, however briefly, they articulated explicitly that the satisfaction of foreign investors was their top priority. Indeed, a contingent of government officials and businessmen from the US visited Egypt at the time, and characterized the Ikhwan as indistinguishable from the American Republican Party (historically regarded as the party of Big Business). Mursi agreed in principle to the demands of the International Monetary Fund, all of which are designed to favour multinational corporations, and generally to the severe detriment of the population. Mursi merely requested a longer timetable for the IMF reforms to be implemented.
It seems the Brotherhood has taken a tip from the AK Party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and perhaps learned from the scattered efforts of activists in Egypt against the IMF and foreign investor domination; that lesson being: real power rests in the private sector. This realization, of course, makes it inevitable that the Islamist political agenda will collide against the private business interests of party members. This was most apparent when the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt went deafeningly silent about the IMF loan agreement for $12 billion (the largest loan the institution ever offered to a Middle Eastern country), which handed over Egypt’s economic sovereignty to Christine Lagarde and her successors for the next twenty years. The country’s fiscal policy, budgetary program, monetary controls, and everything from the price of medicine to the system of taxation, were all surrendered to the IMF; all without a word of protest from the “Islamic” opposition, despite the fact that the IMF reforms would have, and are indeed having, devastating effect on the economic lives of average Egyptians.
But, you see, the Muslim Brotherhood have become not only committed Capitalists, they have joined the ranks of the Neoliberals; presumably in the belief that this will financially enrich them as an organization, and with the newfound wealth they will wield greater political influence. The paradox should be obvious. They tell themselves that they will be able to serve the Islamist agenda in the long run, by sacrificing it in the short run for the sake of making money. This is not dissimilar from their previous strategy of serving the Islamist agenda in the long run by sacrificing it in the short run for the sake of infiltrating the established power hierarchy.
Based in Turkey, they are quietly building global business syndicates, particularly in the real estate sector; and continuing to fund projects for private profit through financial contributions to their many charities by religiously motivated, if naive, believers in the Ikhwan’s advertising slogan that “Islam is the Solution”.
Their political posturing, their continued declarations about Political Islam, have become exactly that: advertising. A way to sell the Ikhwan brand, to keep revenues flowing in support of their private enterprise ambitions. Their greed, you see, is righteous, because they have high-minded future plans of how they will use their nascent economic power. Their less than exemplary actions must not be judged poorly because of their exemplary intentions. So when they call for “escalation” in Egypt, which they know perfectly well will only result in the death or detention of who knows how many young people, it is still good, because it promotes the brand. If the brand is successful, everyone wins in the end. There is, however, no guarantee that either we or their intentions will make it that far.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that the Muslim Brotherhood become completely transparent about their finances. Where does their money come from, and where is it spent? Who is profiting, how much? Or are we to believe that their private business interests do not impact their public statements (or silences), nor their political aims; because why? They say so?