The Islamic Awakening


It turns out Mubarak was right. The only thing standing between Egypt and the rise of fundamentalist Islam was. . .Mubarak

There was a time in Cairo, just a few months ago, when it was considered slightly outré to suggest that Egypt’s religious conservatives might take advantage of Hosni Mubarak’s demise to engineer their way into power. We were told that battalions of tweeting secularists were steering this revolution, and that the people of Egypt did not want sharia, or Islamic law, to govern their lives. They simply wanted freedom. This was Selma on the Nile.

One night in a ragged, badly lit cafe just off the square, one of the revolution’s “Google kids”—not an actual employee but someone who could plausibly be employed by Google (GOOG) —explained to me how the Mubarak regime manipulated Western opinion. “They wanted you to believe that the only thing stopping the Muslim Brothers from taking over the whole country was them,” he said. “This is how they scared you. Then you gave them guns they used to kill us.”

Both statements were true. Mubarak did invoke the specter of Islamism to Western visitors; a dozen years ago he told me, “My people expect a firm hand. If we don’t lead strongly, they will turn to the mosque for leadership.” And the regime’s thugs did deploy American weaponry against the demonstrators in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt. This was America’s shame. It is also a shame—a lesser shame, a shame of poor analysis—that the Arab Uprising went entirely unpredicted in Washington and elsewhere. To compound the shame, few people, even in the midst of the uprisings, forecast the rise of Islamist parties to power not only in Egypt but also in Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and coming soon, in Syria, when the Assad regime finally falls.

In many ways the Arab Uprising—or Arab Awakening, or Arab Spring; freedom means we can call it what we want—should thrill the American soul. Millions of Arabs, their fear of torture and persecution finally conquered by anger at the regimes that oppressed them, rose up and, in countless acts of astonishing bravery, defeated or are attempting to defeat the despots and the massive secret police apparatuses under their command. The protesters sought dignity and respect and the freedom to choose their own path, and these are things that resonate with Americans.

Then came a problem. It turns out Mubarak was right. The only thing standing between Egypt and the rise of fundamentalist Islam was … Mubarak. The path the Arab people seem to want, at least for the moment, is the path of Islam.

The big news out of Cairo late this fall was not the Muslim Brotherhood’s triumph in parliamentary elections, even though the Brotherhood-affiliated party took 37 percent of the popular vote. The main news was made by the more extreme Nour Party, which is affiliated with Egypt’s Salafists. The Salafists, who believe that the world should be made over to look as it did during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, took almost 25 percent of the popular vote. In other words, the majority of voters in the Arab world’s most populous country chose either a party whose motto is “Islam is the Solution” or a party that believes that medieval Arabia is an appropriate state model.

There have been two predictable Western responses to the rise of Islamism in Egypt and across the Arab world: panic and rationalization. Panic is self-explanatory: The Muslim Brotherhood and its more radical cousins are, generally speaking, anti-Western, anti-Semitic, hostile to Christians in their midst, and have a view of women that most Westerners find abhorrent. It is not difficult for creative minds to place the Muslim Brotherhood on a continuum that ends at al-Qaeda, even though al-Qaeda was created in part as a corrective to what Osama bin Laden & Co. viewed as the unforgivable moderation of the Brotherhood. The panic felt in some quarters is precisely what men such as Mubarak, Ben Ali in Tunisia, and even the late-stage Qaddafi in Libya hoped to cultivate in their Western interlocutors.

Source: The Awakening

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One thought on “The Islamic Awakening

  1. Reba Tokay says:

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