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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST:

But, first, here’s my take. Let me tell you what worries me most about the events in Egypt. The greatest blow to Islamic terrorism in recent years came not from the killing of Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, but rather from the Arab Spring.

When millions of Arabs went out into the streets in protest against their dictators, the world saw that they were asking for freedom and justice, not an Islamic state.

Indeed, perhaps the sharpest blow to the jihadi world view was to see Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamist organization in the Arab world, join the 2011 mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square to ask for elections, not Sharia law.

The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, an Egyptian, certainly saw the danger and he denounced the Brotherhood for participating in the democratic process.

Now, Morsy’s government, a disaster in many dimensions, was almost certain to be roundly defeated in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Had it failed politically, electorally and democratically, that would have been a huge boost for the forces of liberalism and reform in the Arab world. It would have sent the signal that political Islam may be a heartwarming, romantic idea, but it is utterly unsuited to governing; that mullahs can preach, but they cannot manage an economy.

Instead, the great danger of what has happened in Egypt is that followers of the Muslim Brotherhood will once again become victims, gaining in stature as they are jailed, persecuted and excluded. And some of them will decide that democracy is a dead end.

The most important debate in Egypt since the July 3 ouster of the democratic government is taking place behind closed doors and on websites and chat rooms, and it revolves around this question: How will followers of political Islam respond to the Brotherhood’s ouster?

For decades there has been a dispute among these groups on whether to embrace democracy or work through underground means and methods. The Brotherhood has renounced violence for some 40 years ago and chose to work though social and political organization since then, pressing for democratic change.

This stance was actively criticized and opposed by the many of the more extreme Islamist groups in Egypt and beyond, like al-Qaeda which advocated violent struggle as the only way forward. These groups now feel vindicated.

Somalia’s al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab movement weighed in with a series of tweets. Yes, it has a Twitter account. They went like this, “When will the Muslim Brotherhood wake up from their deep slumber and realize the futility of their efforts at instituting change?”

And, “It’s time for the Brotherhood to revise its policies, adjust its priorities and turn to the one and the only solution for change, “Jihad.”

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood ruled terribly, even unconstitutionally. Were I an Egyptian, I would never vote for the party, but it did win at the polls three times.

It won in the parliamentary elections, in the presidential election and then in its referendum for the new constitution, which passed with 64 percent of the vote.

And what came of all that? Well, last year a judge dissolved the lower house of parliament, and now the constitution has been suspended and the former president is in jail.

Egypt does have a second chance. The military has done some things right since the coup, quickly scheduling elections and the drafting of a new constitution.

But the central challenge it faces is to bring the forces of political Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood, back into the political process. Remember that they still represent millions and millions of Egyptians. The Muslim Brotherhood has to be allowed to compete in elections at every level otherwise Egypt will be neither democratic nor even stable in the foreseeable future.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1307/14/fzgps.01.html

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