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Al Jazeera: discussion on Egypt « Previous | |Next »
February 7, 2011

In the light of David Burchill's op-ed in The Australian there is this interesting discussion of the uprising in Egypt on Al Jazeera English features two well-known intellectuals: Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim scholar at Oxford whose grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, founded Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, and Slavoj Zizek a Slovenian philosopher.

In Egypt, religion is not an dominant factor in the uprising, which so far is a informal, spontaneous people's protest. The people have revolted against an oppressive regime, its corruption and poverty, and demanded freedom and economic hope. Even though religion is a crucial component of the unfolding dynamic, the possibility of Egypt becoming a second Iran is small--ie Khomeini's successful hijacking of the revolution in Iran in 1979.

Many are warning of the risks of Egypt descending into some sort of Islamist dictatorship that would tear up the peace treaty with Israel, engage in anti-American policies, and deprive women and minorities of their rights (as if they had so many rights under the Mubarak dictatorship).

What is likely is that whether, Islamist or secularist, any Egyptian government "of the people" will turn against the neoliberal economic policies that have enriched regional elites while forcing half or more of the population to live below the $2 per day poverty line.

Mona Seif, an Egyptian woman and blogger, gives her graphic account of the violence unleashed by Mubarak's regime.

It indicates that no correspondent, even those who are free to move around Cairo with their equipment, is able to provide the range of information and views coming from the Egyptian citizen journalists using Twitter.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:29 AM | | Comments (10)


How marvellous is it that the MSM seems to think that Middle East history started in Sept, 2001?

Barely a mention of British meddling or that messy Suez canal thing...

Not a whisper that back in 1956 the Brits, French and Israelis worked out a tidy little deal ("plot" is such a loaded word) concerning that waterway. Everyone was a winner... well... except for the Egyptians.... of course. The "Protocol of Sèvres" it was called.

To be fair, the American leaders of the day were wise enough to see that it wasn't a nice thing to do. Eisenhower's govt only gave the scheme some token support (but old Ike was a limp-wristed, tree-hugger, right?) Ah well... too bad that sort of decency and common-sense seems to have gone out of style.

So it's not like the Egyptian people don't have plenty of reasons to REALLY dislike the west... but maybe they're just too sensible and civilised to lash out blindly. Maybe they're more concerned about building a better country for themselves, rather than starting needless wars.

It would be ever sooo cool if more countries were be that, yes?

The emergence of democracy in Egypt--if that happens--- would mean that Israel would be in danger of losing its status as the Middle East’s only island of democracy in a regional sea of authoritarianism.

Iraq is a democracy.

The US talk of Middle East “stability” is about Israel -- means:
(1) ensuring Israel's regional hegemony.
(2) ensuring that the development of a democratic government in Egypt does not result abandoning Mr. Mubarak’s benign posture toward Israel.

The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has seen the siege on Gaza being maintained by Israel and Cairo; a discriminatory policy designed to crush the democratically elected Hamas party that rules there.

Israel is opposed to democracy in Egypt---après Mubarak, le deluge is their line. Maybe the Israelis reckon that Arab culture does not permit democracy?

Mubarak has transformed much of Egypt into a police state over the past week. If he can survive the ongoing protests, he will likely tighten the country's already severe restrictions in an attempt to prevent future uprisings. Has the U.S. created an enemy where it once had an ally in Mubarak, due to it trying to get rid of him in the name of an "orderly transition of power"?

if Mubarak falls and is replaced by a weak, unstable series of governments that cannot restore order or deliver serious social and economic reforms -- and thus quickly lose credibility and legitimacy among the population -- then a different, far more radical revolutionary movement may yet develop.

Just imagine...

If Obama falls and is replaced by a populist, unstable series of governments that cannot restore order or deliver serious social and economic reforms -- and thus quickly lose credibility and legitimacy among the population -- then a different, far more radical revolutionary movement may yet develop.

So what are we going to do about it?

Israel wants to maintain the autocratic regime more or less intact by keeping such players as Omar Suleiman (the new vice-president and former intelligence chief) in power after Mubarak.

Amos Hartel in The Age says that Israel's main concern is that the unrest will have regional security implications. If Hosni Mubarak's regime collapses, it could endanger the peace agreements Israel has with Jordan and Egypt. So much for Israeli support for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Hartel says:

Israel suspects that behind ordinary citizens protesting about the economic situation and election fraud stands a new Islamist order. The Muslim Brotherhood does not yet pull the strings, but it remains the only organised force within the Egyptian opposition.Israel believes that, if Mubarak falls, it will be first to exploit the confusion and seize power. Although the Brotherhood has threatened to pull out of talks, Israel is still worried that it might be victorious.

He adds that the US and Europe are more likely to support the removal of a government that denies its citizens basic freedoms. He doesn't know much about the history of the US in the Middle East eg., the US government continued support of the Shah whom the US had reinstated via a CIA-engineered coup in 1953 against the secular-democratic government of Mohammad Mosaddeq.

He says that events in Cairo indicate the moderate Sunni states are in retreat. It is hard to call Saudi Arabia a moderate regime.

The comments about the Muslim Brotherhood are akin to fiction as they assume that the Brotherhood is the all-powerful Islamist bogeyman and twin sister of al-Qaeda. More informed/knowledgeable comment here.

It appears that the Obama administration has thrown in its lot with Omar Suleiman, abandoned its push for democratic change, and succumbed to short-sighted pragmatism. According to Suleiman Egypt is not ready for democracy.The US is not ready for Egyptian democracy either. It would hurt the US's regional interests.

Currently, the Mubarak regime under Suleiman is resisting a real and meaningful transition to a more democratic, pluralistic, transparent and accountable Egyptian government. It has balked at surrendering power to a transitional administration, as it hopes that mass protests of the pro-democracy movement would die down this week. Their strategy has been just to play for time and stall with negotiations.

Islamophobia--the fear of Islam--- undergirds the present US concerns that the turmoil in Egypt might give groups like the Muslim Brotherhood greater political influence there. Greg Sheridan in The Australian writes:

But Hamas, the terrorist death cult that rules the Gaza Strip, is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its manifesto, which you can read on the internet, is a bizarre amalgam of traditional anti-Semitism and grotesque conspiracy theory. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt fully endorses all Hamas terrorism.

The Muslim Brotherhood represents terrorism and the implication is that Islam is not compatible with democracy.

More knowledgeable comment about the protest movement in Egypt that the Israeli spin of Amos Hartel in The Age can be found in this interview--Egypt Over the Brink in Foreign Policy magazine. Tareek Osman says:

Today those people we are seeing demonstrating are very liberal, national Egyptians. They are not saying we are Muslims or Christians. And that's a weakening or negative point for the Brotherhood. But the question in six or 12 months down the line, when they are voting and if they have a very liberal agenda in front of them, is: Will they endorse a truly liberal agenda? I have doubts.
But I don't think they'd endorse a very Islamist narrative put forth by the Muslim Brotherhood either. People in a period of political turmoil return to their comfort zone. And the comfort zone for Egyptians over the past 60 years has been a nationalist rule that ensures stability, that they're comfortable with, that protects them.

A nationalist regime run by the military establishment that has a hold on the system and is the only force in the country able to ensure stability.

The Egyptian military has claimed to be neutral, merely keeping anti-Mubarak protesters and loyalists apart. It is not neutral.