Islamists will not be able to retain power long in places like Egypt, a native of that Arab republic told students Saturday.
Youssef Ragheb, who served as a physician in the Egyptian Army during the 1967 war with Israel, made his prediction during a weekend seminar on Israel-related issues at the Hillel Jewish University Center in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood.
Dr. Ragheb was one of eight speakers who took part in the annual program, known as the "Israel Shabbaton." Organizers made a special effort to assure that students heard from a variety of viewpoints, Aharon David said. A veteran of the Israeli Army, he is the university center's Israel Fellow.
About 60 students from as far away as State College and Cleveland signed up for the event. The seminar was aimed primarily, but not exclusively, at students who are Jewish, Mr. David said.
Most people who participated in the Cairo street demonstrations in January and February 2011 that ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak were not interested in replacing his rule with a conservative Islamist state, Dr. Ragheb said. Young Egyptians recognize that the Arab Spring, the name given to grass-roots efforts in multiple Arab countries to overthrow dictators, was being sabotaged by hardliners. "Sharia law won't work in Egypt," he said. Sharia is a religious legal system based on the Koran and interpreted by Islamic judges.
Rule by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidates won the Egyptian presidency this year and a majority in its parliament, was proving increasingly unpopular, he said. The party would lose the next round of elections, he predicted.
Dr. Ragheb, whose family is Coptic Christian, came to the United States in 1976 after working for several years in Britain. He is a retired obstetrician and gynecologist who lives in the Natrona Heights neighborhood of Harrison. He also teaches Arabic at the University of Pittsburgh.
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 in Egypt, had succeeded in initial electoral contests as dictators fell in Arab states, because it was the best organized of the new political parties, Ibrahim Faris said. Mr. Faris, a Palestinian who worked as a lawyer in the West Bank, is a graduate student at Pitt's School of Law.
As the Muslim Brotherhood gains major influence or control of governments in Libya, Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt, relations between those countries and Israel will worsen, he predicted.
The Arab Spring also represents a setback in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Faris said.
Israel has withheld tax payments, and Arab states have cut back financial support for the Palestinian Authority, which administers the West Bank, he said.
Also, the United States appears to have lost interest in brokering a deal, he said.
Len Barcousky: email@example.com or 412-263-1159.