Pourquoi des villageois égyptiens votent-ils pour des islamistes?

L’approche de l’islamisme politique est tantôt marquée par une spéculation métaphysique, tantôt par l’imprécation éditorialiste, ou encore par une enfilade de poncifs et lieux communs. L’islamisme est perçu comme un phénomène désincarné, idéologique, philosophique, émotif ("la haine", "le fanatisme") insusceptible d’explication rationnelle ou sociologique. D’où l’intérêt de lire cet article – "Who do Egypt’s villagers vote for? And why?" – d’une anthropologue égyptienne à Cambridge, Yasmina Moataz Ahmed.

Why do rural dwellers vote for Islamic parties? Do they vote through coercion or incentives? Do they differentiate between different religious groups — in that case the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis? Or do they just follow what their sheikhs dictate to them prior to the elections, or what people tell them in front of the electoral ballots? How come a few-months-old political party (Nour) gained half the seats acquired by the 80-year-old Brotherhood?

What I aim to present here, on the basis of ethnographic data from the 2011-2012 parliamentary elections in a village in Fayoum governorate, are some answers to these questions, in order to understand how Egypt’s rural dwellers make political choices.

My overall argument is that when people choose to vote for an Islamic political party, they base their positions on a complex web of relations with power, authority and indeed, religiosity. I highlight some of the common arguments that my interlocutors articulated when they compared between the Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafi Nour Party — the only two visible groups in the village.

Ainsi, contrairement à l’idée reçue selon laquelle le FJP (parti des Frères musulmans) serait plus modéré que les salafistes de Hizb al Nour, les villageois du côté de Fayoum (pas loin du Caire) sont d’un avis contraire:

Despite the common perception that Salafis are strict followers of Sharia compared to the Muslim Brotherhood, many of my research participants often talked about Salafis as religiously less strict than the Ikhwan. From the work of Ikwani leaders in the village, the villagers have noticed the strict hierarchy that informs the work of the Brotherhood members on the ground. In other words, the villagers understood the Brotherhood’s adherence to the dictates of the Guidance Bureau, or the Murshid, as an orthodoxy that made the Brotherhood stricter than the Salafis. They often said to me: “How come Ikhwan grassroot leaders all agree on the same things?” An incident that they often referred to is the insistence of Muslim Brotherhood members to force people to pray outside of a mosque, not build by the Brotherhood, during the Eid al-Fitr prayer last September.

Salafis, on the other hand, are seen as religiously flexible. “Aren’t we all Salafis?” many Nour supporters often repeated to me. For them, Salafis represent a religious understanding that seeks to closely follow the times of the Prophet and his followers — the Prophet was married to a Coptic woman, his neighbors were Jews, he dealt with each situation on a case-by-case basis, hence the perception that Salafis are, believe it or not, lenient. This was reflected on the ground; Salafis, at least in the village where I worked, appear to be more laid-back compared to the Ikhwan, and hence, more sensitive and open to the local context.

Et encore une fois, lors de ce printemps arabe marqué au moins autant par la question sociale que par le rejet de la dictature, la question de classe est présente, et les salfistes paraissent moins lointains, socialement parlant, que les Ikhwan:

Class was also a factor that often worked against the Brotherhood’s candidates. Due to being the most educated cluster, Ikhwani leaders are strongly present in professional occupations in village-level bureaucracies; they are the teachers, the lawyers, the engineers, and more importantly the personnel of the most funded NGO: Al-Jam’eya al-Shar’eya. Ikhwan leaders often use their positions, particularly in the NGO, to promote the Freedom and Justice party through coercing the poorest of the village into long-term charity and debt relations; they fund kidney dialysis operations, pay monthly stipends for orphan children, and distribute money and goods for ad-hoc lists that they prepare once they get orders from their leaders in Cairo.

Although these services seem necessary in the absence of a state-service provider, many rural dwellers (even ones who receive support from the NGO) see this relationship of indebtedness to the NGO as unhealthy. This informs why many villagers are weary of voting for the Ikhwan’s party. “We need a government that recognizes our rights as citizens, not as recipients of aid! We need people that would help us get our stolen rights. If the Muslim Brotherhood come to power, they will be both the mediators and the government.”

Although Salafis undertake charity activities, their work is more discrete, and their visible focus is on preaching (da’wa), which is often seen as an apolitical practice that does not particularly aim to recruit voters.

S’agissant d’une zone rurale, la question de classe passe aussi par la question de la propriété et de la terre: les Ikhwan paraissent aux électeurs ruraux comme acquis à la libéralisation de la politique foncière lancée par le régime de Moubarak dans les années 90.

Finally, agrarian policies were implicitly a matter of concern for many of my interlocutors prior to the elections. The Brotherhood members were great supporters of the liberalization of the agrarian sector promoted by Mubarak, particularly Law 92 in the year 1996, which led one million farmers to lose secure tenancy and their main source of food security. After the revolution, many farmers tried to re-acquire some rights that they had lost with the liberalization policy. They started to protest the law through going on strikes in front of government offices in Fayoum, and later in front of Parliament in Cairo. The main Brotherhood MP from the village promised to work on their file once he won. This not only did not happen, but also the MP turned his back on them when he saw them protesting in front of Parliament. This, for them, was a sign of great deception. Again, here, Salafi leaders won the villagers’ trust. The Salafi MP met with the villagers and took their file to Parliament. Even more, one of the Salafi grassroots leaders is the head of the small farmers syndicate.

On peut être pauvre voire même rural, et avoir une conscience de ses intérêts – de classe disait-on autrefois. Une leçon pour la gauche, y compris marocaine?

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