This morning reading a short report on the demonstrations in Egypt, I came across this description of the Muslim Brotherhood written by Stephen Cook at Foreign Affairs: "The Brothers, like the Free Officers who came to power in 1952 and produced Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Mubarak, are what the Yale anthropologist James Scott calls "high modernists." High modernism, which places a premium on scientific knowledge and elites with special skills, is inherently authoritarian. It might seem a strange designation for the Brotherhood, since most observers think of it as a religious movement. But in reality, the group has used religion to advance a political agenda. To suggest that the organization's leaders are dilettantes when it comes to Islam would be an overstatement, but the majority of them are first and foremost doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, and engineers. They think of themselves as a vanguard that is uniquely qualified to rebuild Egypt and realize its seemingly endless quest for modernization...."The description reminded me of Opus Dei under the Franco regime after World War II, that is, professionals and technocrats with strong religious convictions and a mission to modernize Spain.Is this an apt comparison?UPDATE: For those interested in the current situation in Egypt, here is a detailed but relatively brief account of the major players and their strategies. "The Brother and the Others." May sound familiar to students of the French Revolution. No mention of OD!
Margaret O’Brien Steinfels is a former editor of Commonweal.