PEORIA -- Since the Middle East could explode into war at any time, knowing the players might be worthwhile, even if they are on the other side of the globe.
A speaker at Bradley University on Nov. 15, an author, scholar and expert on the Mid-East enlightened his audience in a fascinating, well delivered talk sponsored by the Peoria Area World Affairs Council.
He was Nathan J. Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, a Carnegie Scholar and Woodrow Wilson Fellow, too smart but without enough bombast to be a regular on TV talk shows.
But after listening to Brown for an hour, I felt my mind expand as he put the Muslim Brotherhood, the group now running Egypt, into perspective.
This is the largest and oldest Islamic political movement in Egypt, dating back to 1928, he said. Its world view comes from the 19th and 20th centuries, and is not so different from the USA at that time.
Then the USA was dominated by Christians, and though the government was officially neutral, and didn't fund religion unless you count the tax breaks religions receive, Christians dominated its politics and laws.
Today, the Muslim Brotherhood has taken control of Egypt, and its Islamic world view is law. There's no fake talk about separation of church and state there.
"Islam is a total religion and governs all human affairs," he said.
In Egypt, the group is supreme, Brown said. Christians, about 10 percent of the population, "have communal autonomy, and their own laws about marriage and divorce. Individual freedom of conscience is fairly weak."
Rights go to the community instead of the individual, he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood's slogan is -- of all things -- "be prepared," he said, because one of its founders was aware of the Scouting movement.
Brown traced the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, which ran hospitals and schools but was suppressed and made illegal when it became a threat to the regime in power.
When revolution occurred, on Jan. 25, 2011, its participation was vital in ousting Mubarak, and the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood was soon elected to rule.
Its political leaders are "expected to follow the party line," he said.
He compared the Muslin Brotherhood to Christian Democrats of the 19th century, more conservative than the Social Democrats on the left.
The Muslim Brotherhood's challenge is to govern after a quick rise to power and no countervailing power to check it, he said.
Secular liberals in Egypt write great op-ed columns but don't really do politics and have no numbers to support them politically, he said.
Women likely will "do no better or worse" under the Muslin Brotherhood, he said. Women support the MB as it advocates supporting women in their primary roles as mothers.
Egypt is a "gendered society of roles," and like the US political parties of the 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood is socially and religiously conservative and wants no alcohol or pornography in the nation, he said.
And what about the US response to the Egyptian revolution? "We have played US policy right. The US needs to find policies toward Egypt as with other Democratic societies, and build relationships there," he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood now wants economic development with free trade, he said, but is not really strong enough to run the economy, which is in poor shape.
As for the Israel-Palestine issue, Brown said, how Egypt will address that is unknown.
Given the grave news from the Mid-East just now, we may find out soon.
-- Elaine Hopkins