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As Arabs cry for democracy, Islamists may need to follow

Egypt is only starting to form a democracy and the Muslim Brotherhood appears ready to adopt its theology to democratic ideals. If that holds true, Egypt will again serve as a beacon for the Middle East.

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The various Arab uprisings have forced the United States to make priorities – and fast. It must juggle often-conflicting interests in the Middle East, such as oil, Israel, terrorism, women’s rights, and democracy.

One big challenge now emerging in post-Mubarak Egypt is whether Islamic political groups will alter their theology to work within a secular, elected government.

Hints that the biggest Islamic organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, will not seek to dominate the country’s budding democracy suggest that Egypt might follow the examples set by two other large, mainly Muslim nations, Turkey and Indonesia.

Turkey is a quasi-European country and NATO member that is led by an Islamic party dedicated to secular rule. In Indonesia, Islamic parties have lost favor in the elections since democracy was restored in 1998.

Many predict that the journey of Egypt – in many ways the intellectual and cultural center of the Arab world – to democracy will be a difficult one. One key will be whether a government reflects the Egyptian people, in the spirit of the street protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak. Trying to graft a foreign, Western concept onto Muslim roots won’t work. Egyptians must see the embracing of universal rights, including the right to a ballot, as their choice.

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