Egypt is the epicenter of the Arab world not only demographically (one out of every four Arabs lives along the Nile) but also intellectually and politically. The emergence of liberal democracy in Egypt would send shock waves throughout the Arab world in the same way the fall of the Berlin Wall inspired East Europeans to stand against communist dictatorships. (Khairi Abaza, National Post, February 3, 2011)
Many are following the news out of Egypt, wondering what is behind the TV pictures of chaotic scenes, with rioting mobs demanding the end of the 30-year regime headed by Hosni Mubarak.
The end of the Mubarak regime has arrived, but what are the chances that the unleashed furor of the protesters will be re-directed into something constructive. The crowds are demanding that Mubarak leave right now. Others call for a time to build an effective coalition in preparation for an election to be held in September. At first the Obama administration demanded an immediate transfer of power, and then backed away from that demand.
Dont Worry About the Muslim Brotherhood?
What is looming large over this revolution is the role played by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is well organized and determined to take power. It would stand to gain by rushing ahead now because every other faction, including those who want to build a democracy, is disorganized and unprepared.
The problem with the Muslim Brotherhood is that it is fanatically committed to establishing a theocracy, that is, a one-party state ruled by Islamic law (sharia). The Brotherhood was established in Egypt in 1928 and serves as the seedbed of radical Islam all over the world, including the West. Its motto is Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Quran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.
Never mind, say a chorus of mainstream commentators. The Brotherhood, whatever its past, has now sworn off violence and supports democracy. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times spent a week reporting from Tahrir Square in Tehran. He wants to reassure his readers that his interviews with many protesters had confirmed that this uprising will not end as it did in Iran in 1979.
A university professor told him that Americans are too obsessed with the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood gaining power in elections. She told him that they are not worried about the Brotherhood: They might win 25 per cent of the votes, but if they do not perform then they will not get votes next time. When he asked someone else whether the Brotherhood might be bad for peace, she said: Yes, possibly. But, from my point of view, in America the Republican Party is bad for peace as well. (NYT, Feb.5,
So there you are, the fear of the Brotherhood is unreasonable. Anyway, you Americans have the same kind of problems, so dont interfere with us, and clean up your own house first. Such interviews must gladden the hearts of self-loathing American reporters.
The Brookings Institutions Shadi Hamid wrote that Westerners should not lose any sleep over the Brotherhoods participation in Egypts government. He stated: A pragmatic organization at its core, the group will avoid getting tied up in foreign policy, knowing that this might cause the international community to withdraw support. Another Brookings senior fellow, Bruce Riedel, is of the opinion that the Brotherhood renounced violence years ago and is now judged by scholars to be the most reasonable face of Islamic politics in the Arab world today and Americans should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. (Daniel Flynn, Brookings &the Brotherhood, FPM, Feb. 9, 2011)
President Obama has stated that the Egyptian people must decide for themselves what kind of government they choose. Though he no longer insists that Mubarak must step down immediately, he and his spokespeople have indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood must be given a voice in the formation of the new government. Some kind of non-interference! Such an endorsement is a boost for the Muslim Brotherhood, but a setback for the formation of a democratic government. Unfortunately, the lesson of Iran 1979 is forgotten, but we do well to remember that the scholars assured us then that Ayatollah Khomeini would never establish a religious dictatorship.
Ignorance of History is no Excuse
Former Princeton Professor Richard Falk wrote in glowing terms about the future of Iran guided by the Ayatollah Khomeini in the New York Times of February 16, 1979. Here are a few excerpts of that article:
In recent months, before his triumphant return to Tehran , the Ayatollah gave numerous reassurances to non-Muslim communities in Iran
.Thus the depiction of him as a fanatical reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false. What is also encouraging is that his entourage of close advisers is uniformly composed of moderate progressive individuals.
Despite the turbulence, many non-religious Iranians talk of this period as Islams finest hour. Having created a new model of popular revolution , for the most part, on non-violent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country. If this is true, then indeed the exotic Ayatollah may yet convince the world that politics is the opiate of the people.
Professor Falk did not bother to do his homework, as many of his current fellow academics now fail to do. Apparently, they never heard about the notion of taqiyya in Islamic teachings, which permits, even demands, Muslim believers to lie to non-Muslims. What is even worse, they refuse to take the trouble to find out what Islamic fanatics actually teach the faithful. This is what Khomeini said 17 years before Falks article in the NYTimes, something he never recanted:
Those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation. For they shall live under Allahs law (Sharia)
. Islam says: Kill [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter their armies. Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors (jihadists)!
So, what is the likelihood that this revolution in Egypt will turn out well, that is, avoiding the dictatorship of the theocrats, and instead growing into a country where free institutions can thrive within a democratic political framework. The latter is a tall order and will not be accomplished in eight months or even in eight years. Being an outsider, it is hard to know what are the hidden resources for freedom and civility within the Egyptian people. Thats why we need to listen to those who speak from their own experience.
Nonie Darwish, who was born in Egypt and lived there for thirty years gives us her view of the current challenges facing Egypt:
The Egyptian people have finally awakened to the reality of decades of oppression , dictatorship, backwardness and extreme poverty. For now they are united in viewing Hosni Mubarak as the one obstacle to their freedom and democracy but will they finally take responsibility for the true reason behind the long line of tyrannical Egyptian regimes? Will they examine their own failures and contributions to their problems? Or will they continue to blame America for supporting their dictator? Will they reject victimhood status and stop finger-pointing? Will they finally join the rest of the world in a new era of friendship based on mutual respect and not based on tribalism and the us against the West mentality?
.They must critically examine the real causes that have turned a great ancient civilization into such a mess
.The West needs to tell the truth resolutely: the Muslim world needs enormous reforms at all levels, politically, socially, legally, and religiously
. If the Muslim world is to have any peace, democracy, and stability, it must reject archaic and oppressive Sharia law which perpetuates jihad and obligates Muslim heads of state to engage in permanent war with non-Muslim countries
. Egyptians and Muslims in general must realize that to have democracy, they must have secular rule, separation of mosque and state, fair education, peace with Israel and an end to hate and demagoguery.
There are numerous instructions in the Koran and the Hadith to hate, subjugate and kill Jews. Hamas, Hezbollah , Fatah, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and their numerous offspring. have stipulated this in their founding documents. Some spokesmen of the Muslim Brotherhood have warned that the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel will be canceled when they become the dominant force in Egypt.
Irans president Ahmadinejad has brazenly stated that they aim to destroy Israel. That Iran can make such a threat and remain a member of the U.N. must be a source of painful incredulity for all Israelis. In the last few days two documents have been published that deserve our full attention because they deal with Israels existential threat to their very existence.
Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post published an article Celebrate Arab Democracy? In which she writes a moving lament about the plight of the Jews who have again and again been subjected to brutal treatment. She gives an overview of the flight of Jews from Arab countries in the last one hundred years.
In 1956, the Jewish community in Tunisia numbered 100,000 members. With the rise Arab nationalism most Jews were forced to leave so that today there are between 1500 to 3000 Jews left in Tunisia. This is now the largest Jewish community in the Arab world.
The Jews in Iraq numbered 150,000 until the founding of the state of Israel. By 1951 they were reduced to only 7000. All their property was stolen, including their wedding rings. In 2003 when Sadam Hussein was toppled, there were a mere 32 elderly and impoverished Jews left. Jewish tombs and cemeteries have been targets for anti- Semitic attacks all over the Arab world.
Glick predicts that the Muslim Brotherhood will be the dominant power in Egypt. But even if there would be a democratic regime in place, it would not make any difference to the Jews. She writes that Arab societies are fractured along socioeconomic, tribal, religious, political, ethnic and other lines, while the glue that holds them together is their hatred of Jews.
Glick cites a 2009 Pew opinion survey of Arab attitudes towards Jews to underscore her point. She concludes that she would welcome the advent of a tolerant society in Egypt, but that such tolerance will end when it concerns Jews She concludes with this sobering line: And so whether they [Arab regimes] are democrats or autocrats, we fully expect they will continue to hate us.
I can only hope and pray that this Jewish author is wrong But we need to remember that she represents a people that has been subjected to the most unspeakable crimes for a very long time.
An Urgent Appeal
On February 7, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a conference of the European Friends of Israel. He began by referring to the ancient beginnings of the Jewish nation recorded in the Bible. He emphasized that the Jews have a millennia connection to the land where they now live. But that is now being contested by those who deny and distort ancient as well as modern history.
The Prime Minister also reminded his audience that Israel and Europe have a common ancestry as well as shared interests and values. He referred to the statement of Herzl the prophet who foresaw the rebirth of the Jewish state. Herzl was very much aware of the bond that exists between Israel and Europe .When he was asked how long a not yet --existing Jewish state might survive, he answered, the Jewish state would survive as long as Western civilization would survive.
The Prime Minister told his audience that in a discussion with the president of China he had said that the Jewish Diaspora is the reason that there are now only 13 million Jews in the world. They had no homeland but were scattered and subjected to genocide. Now they have their own homeland again, which provides a whole new opportunity for a peaceful and free existence. But that is now again threatened in a part of the world where they are the only democracy surrounded by neighbours who want to destroy them.
The biggest threat now lies in the possibility of a nuclear war, especially in view of Irans attempts to develop a nuclear bomb. The Prime Minister summed up:
Heres what Iran is doing today. Its in Afghanistan; its in Iraq; its in the Yemen; its pretty much taken over Lebanon; its taken over Gaza; its in the Horn of Africa; its even sending its tentacles to the Western Hemisphere, penetrating Latin America. This is what Iran is doing today without nuclear weapons. Imagine what they will do tomorrow with nuclear weapons. Iran already has missiles that reach well beyond Israel. Theyre not developing these long-- range missiles for us; they can reach us. Theyre developing it for you , to reach you .
I believe that the greatest threat facing the world is the possibility that a militant Islamic regime will meet up with nuclear weapons, or that nuclear weapons will meet up with a militant Islamic regime. The first is called Iran, the second is called Pakistan,
The good news is that nothing in inevitable. We have the power to protect our common civilization, to roll back the forces of radicalism and to advance a secure peace . One of the keys to defeating this fanaticism is to be able to distinguish friends from enemies. In this battle between the 21st century and the 9th century, between freedom and despotism , between progress and primitivism , Europe and Israel stand squarely on the same side.