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International Political Economy Zone (Blog): Egypt's Beer- & Bikini-Approving Muslim Brotherhood

There is an up-and-coming generation that is more realistic about what needs to be done to bring in the tourists from abroad.
19.02.12 | Interesting article at International Political Economy Zone (Blog)

I suppose that attracting tourists is generic task for governments the world over nowadays. There is also a certain amount of homogenization involved in tourism with providing amenities that punters now expect unless you're offering ecotourism or frontier tourism options where roughing it out is part of the attraction. At the current time, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is facing pressures too familiar to troubled nations in terms of generating funding during a time of crisis. It has already (cautiously) approached the IMF in search of a (highly improbable) conditionality-free loan.

However, aside from being made to comply with the strictures laid down by foreigners alike IMF officials, a Muslim fundamentalist organization also needs to deal with...moral impediments to spinning cash. Tourists in particular are a noisome lot, prone to binge drinking and displaying much flesh in public--strongly disapproved of by religious authorities perhaps, but whose foreign exchange is most welcome especially at this point in time.

Accordingly, the WSJ has an interesting feature on the bourgeoisification of the Muslim Brotherhood. While there are certainly lots of old school elements in positions of leadership keen on introducing the hardline on this sort of moral decay, there too is an up-and-coming generation that is more realistic about what needs to be done to bring in the punters from abroad. Meet the Arab world's version of Clinton's dictum that it's the economy, stupid:
Hard reality is steering that transformation. Confronted with a badly sinking economy, the Brotherhood doesn't have the luxury of harping endlessly about Zionist conspiracies, American hypocrisy, or bikini-clad tourists—not if it wants to put Egypt back together again.

Tourism revenue dropped by at least one-third since the uprising, according to government statistics. And billions of dollars of annual foreign investment—which peaked at $13.7 billion in 2007—were almost entirely choked off. "Egypt is running smack into an economic wall," said Karim Sadek, a managing director at Citadel Capital, a Cairo-based private-equity firm.

A Gallup poll conducted between April and December of last year showed 54% of Egyptians placed jobs and economic development as their top priority, while less than 1% cited implementation of Islamic law. The results were consistent across all political parties, even Islamist ones. "Their supporters want the economy fixed, not religious solutions," said Dalia Mogahed, head of the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, which conducted the poll.
And whom else would they talk to other than representative of global capital:
The Brotherhood has received multiple delegations of foreign investors, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley. The Brotherhood is meeting with executives from leading U.S. corporations that operate in Egypt, including oil and gas producer Apache Corp., Coca-Cola Co., General Electric Co. and General Motors Co. The meetings are part of a broad, tentative rapprochement between the West and the Islamist forces coming to power as part of the Arab Spring.

Advocates of engagement with the region's Islamists have maintained that integrating these movements into politics is the surest means of moderating them, and now that thesis is suddenly being tested on a broad stage.
As the post title mentions, the morals policing squad has been muzzled for now by the dictates of attracting foreign exchange:
One concern was what the Brotherhood's Islamist agenda might do to tourism, an industry worth $13 billion a year to Egypt and employing 11% of the work force. During the recent campaign for parliament, some Brotherhood candidates advocated banning alcohol sales and forcing Western tourists to cover up on Egypt's beaches.

When Essam el-Eryan, a member of the movement's leadership bureau, met with an influential Egyptian business association in January, he was bombarded with worried questions about the future of tourism in Egypt, according to several people present. A few weeks later, in early February, Mr. Eryan met with tourism operators. He had a surprising message: "He said very clearly: beer and bikinis are OK," a businessman who attended recalled.

Mr. Eryan couldn't be reached to comment. No one believes the Brotherhood is suddenly pro-bikinis and beer. But it is hard to find a member willing to publicly denounce such vices nowadays. "We can't tell people how to dress when they can't put food in their stomach," said Mr. Haddad.
Elsewhere this article discusses whether this compromise is temporary. That is, if and when Egypt regains its financial footing, will concessions to Eurotrash and other denizens of beach culture be curtailed? At the moment, though, let the fat guys in Speedos (and their female equivalents) be on Sharm el Sheikh.