Egypt’s Islamists: The Big Bad Wolf
by Eric Walberg on 17 Apr 2011 0 Comment

The revolution and the turmoil in the Arab world have their origins in the tortuous history of British and American domination of the Middle East. Eric Walberg looks at the implications for Egypt of its colonial past 


Just as during the Cold War the communists were reviled by liberals (not to mention conservatives), so the Islamists are popularly reviled in our post-Cold War world as some kind of dour, terroristic bogeyman. And, just as in the Cold War liberals and conservatives alike used the communists to pull their irons out of the fire (Who won WWII?), so Western politicians left and right have manipulated Islamists to further their own ends (Who defeated the communists in Afghanistan?).


Recently leaked British intelligence documents allege that even the Mubarak regime was doing this. Former interior minister Habib Al-Adly established “Al-Adly militias” in 2004 composed of drug dealers, Islamic militants and security personnel to carry out false flag acts of provocation and sabotage around the country aimed at diverting people’s attention from the regime’s corruption and unpopular policies. This would “wreak havoc in the country if the regime was threatened”.


This comparison between the communists and the Islamists is perhaps startling, but these two forces furthermore must be recognised as the main protagonists against the imperialists during the past century. Islamists only peripherally refer to the Osama bin Ladens. The vast majority of politicised Muslims are represented by the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), who denounce violence but argue that it is impossible to divorce religion from the political and economic spheres. 


It was the MB that stared down the forces of evil during the dark days of Egypt’s revolution, when snipers were murdering peaceful protesters, just as communists were the first to sacrifice themselves to defeat the fascists in WWII, while liberals and conservatives in Britain and the US shrewdly waited out the real fighting.


And, when the revolution triumphed, did the MB try to perform a coup d’état? No. It immediately assured the disorganised neophyte liberals that it would not attempt to take power, neither at the presidential level nor in parliament, limiting itself to contesting only a third of the seats. It would not demand an Islamic state, but rather supports a secular state. It did not insist that the constitution be changed to allow religious parties. Their current detractors should thank them for their forbearance at a time when they are the only credible voice of opposition, and instead emulate the MB by organising and creating disciplined parties with clear agendas.


The political Muslims are not without fault. Islamists, including the MB, were manipulated by the imperialists from the start, though for the most part unwittingly, to support British designs against the Ottoman Caliphate, and later US designs against the Soviet Union (indirectly supporting, in both cases their nemesis Israel). But they were also the backbone of the 1936-48 war to prevent the Zionists from stealing the Palestinians’ land, and they held firm to their principles in the face of brutal repression by Mubarak while other (liberal) voices “wisely” kept mum.


In the constitutional referendum 19 March, the MB sensibly supported the amendments proposed by a truly independent, broadly representative committee that had worked day and night for weeks hammering out an acceptable compromise to allow for elections to restore genuine civilian rule to Egypt after 60 years. They did this in the interests of moving the revolution forward, not for some nefarious ends. The referendum was a truly historic moment, laying the groundwork for genuine civilian rule for the first time in Egypt’s history. This is no exaggeration, considering the British-manipulated civilian order 1919-1951 was a fraud which was directly responsible for creating the conditions for a military dictatorship in 1952.


But what has been the liberal reaction to the MB’s principled actions since the revolution? A sample of headlines in Al-Akhbar:


-        “The MB has highjacked the revolution!” write eminent liberal pundits Abd Al-Rakhman Al-Abnudi and Rabab Al-Hadi the day after the referendum


-        The MB and Salafists exploited clause 2 of the constitution [“the principle source of legislation is Islamic jurisprudence (sharia law)”] to convince electors to unite in opposition”


-        The promise of the MB’s restraint in upcoming elections is dismissed as showing “disdain for the Egyptian people” says former minister of justice Mahmoud Abu Al-Leil.


Amira Nowaira, English prof. at Alexandria University, writes in the Guardian about “the unleashing of Islamists of various affiliations on the Egyptian scene”, referring to Aboud Al-Zomor’s release from prison. Al-Zomor, implicated in the assassination of Sadat, spent 30 years in jail, having long ago served out his 22-year sentence, but was never released under Mubarak’s notorious emergency laws. What kind of “human rights” does Ms Nowaira practise?


“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” warns Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. This “tacit agreement” (read: conspiracy) is supposedly to allow the MB and the military to rule Egypt together in some kind of post-Mubarak purgatory, where the MB can assure the military that its own wealth will not be touched by the revolution, and where the MB will have free rein as long as they use their clout with the masses to suppress the liberals and keep a lid on further protests.


Writes Dr. Max Singer, a founder of the Hudson Institute and senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center (BESA) for Strategic Studies, “If the Egyptians are wise enough to make the strategic decision of joining forces against the Brotherhood, they too may do much better than expected. In such a case, the West will also benefit.” It should be noted that BESA is a neocon think-tank affiliated with the political science department at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.


The enemy of my enemy is my friend. US Zionists at the Hudson Institute and their Israeli friends at BESA urge Egyptians to turn against the MB, the very force that alone can help ensure the victory of the revolutionary ideals of social justice and an end to Israeli terrorism of the Arab world. Thus it is disheartening to watch many of Egypt’s liberals and leftists harking to the call “Wolf!” flocking like sheep to the call of their colonial shepherd whose Middle East sheepdog continues to nip at Palestinian heels.


Those who cry “Wolf!” point to past cases where Islamic forces gained strength: Iran in 1979, Algeria in 1991, Afghanistan in 1996. But the differences between them and Egypt’s 2011 revolution are stark. The Islamic state in Iran was shaped by the Cold War frenzy of the time, with the Western-backed jihad against the Soviet Union going on next door in Afghanistan. It was sparked by the West itself, which abandoned the Shah and flew the Ayatollah Khomeini back to Tehran from his famous exile in Paris.


The tragedy of Algeria and Afghanistan in the 1990s was a direct result of the same Western-backed jihad in Afghanistan which began in 1979, if not earlier. Algeria descended into civil war only as a result of a Western-backed military coup denying the Islamists their legitimate victory in elections in 1991. Afghanistan was left an orphan after the Islamists, egged on by the West, routed the Soviets, the country left without a functioning government and awash in arms.


But none of these Islamic states suited the imperialists and they were respectively vicitimised, overthrown and invaded. Egypt’s revolution, on the contrary, was homegrown, sparked by secular youth and remarkably peaceful. The catalyst, for heaven’s sake, was the local Google marketing head Wael Ghonem, who has an American wife and children. The American colour to the revolution is, to some, even an embarrassment.


“The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves,” wrote Oscar Wilde. Will Egyptians be “wise” in the sense that Dr. Max uses the term, or will they be truly wise, and criticise themselves for being manipulated by their enemies, drawing the appropriate conclusion?


The MB is wise to the tricks of the Zionists. It has called for a union of the forces of the revolution in the upcoming elections to make sure the goals of social justice – a decent standard of living for the masses, an end to corruption, and a new independent foreign policy – are met. The secular opposition, the liberals should acknowledge the debt they owe the Islamists and work with them to make sure that social justice prevails. The burning need at this point in the revolution is, taking the lead from Dr. Max, for the forces of change to unite, though not against the MB as the Zionists urge.


The bottom line is: liberals and socialists – male or female, Muslim or Christian – will never prevail on their own in their desire to bring social justice to the neoliberal order built on the ruins of Nasser’s socialism. The privileged will fight tooth and nail to keep their privileges. The secularists will need to work with hardcore Muslims, who take their Quran seriously and are resistant to bankers and monopoly capitalists indifferent to the suffering of the masses.


Islam is conservative in nature, but there is a Western example of just such a pact: the Canadian/ British tradition of Red Toryism, a variety of capitalism which respects traditional values, local communities and allows the “little man” to participate in the economy, unlike neoliberalism. It is this tradition that Egypt would be wise to turn to today.


The West has used, and no doubt will continue to try to use Islamists when convenient to promote its imperial agenda. That it frowns on Egypt’s MB today is a good sign. The recent conference of MB youth “A look from inside”, open to the press and revealing the heated discussions going on within the MB over its role in politics and society, was also a good sign. That there are divisions within the MB between generations is only to be expected. That they are being thrashed out openly is to be welcomed. In any case, assured Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa in a New York Times oped, “In a country with such diverse movements as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Wasat party, and the conservative Salafi movements, no one group speaks for Islam.”


This is a perilous time for the revolution. Already, under intense US pressure, Egypt is restoring gas sales to Israel and condoning the US-French-British invasion of Libya next door. Many Egyptians are disillusioned with the snail’s pace of restoring to the nation the untold wealth stolen during the recent past, the timidity shown towards the shameless enemy next door, the lack of progress in reforming the economic injustices which the majority of Egyptians suffer. This requires restoring morality and ethics – the essence of religious faith – to politics and the economy.


“As often as they light a fire for war, God will extinguish it.” (Quran 5:64) Christians, Jews and others lived peacefully and prospered in Islamic states for a millennium prior to the arrival of the European imperialists. The British and now American strategists in the Middle East have lit many fires since, which have burned not only the Arabs but the imperialists themselves. The fire they are now stoking in Libya shows they have learned nothing from their previous intrigues. It is time to put these fires out. This demands that secularists and Muslims join forces.


[Courtesy shamireaders]

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