The Egyptian Revolution? Joke!


arab dictatorThere was really no changing of the guard in Egypt, except the Muslim Brotherhood was replaced by the same old thuggery seen in Egypt before Morsi’s presidency.  Don’t think so?  Take a look at this!

Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court has ruled that all criticism of the Republic’s president is henceforth “forbidden”. The ruling came a day before the first episode of a new series of the renowned satirical TV programme “Al Bernameg”, trailed in advance as “Was that a Revolution or a Coup?” The court’s move sent a signal that the sort of criticism and mockery levelled at ousted President Mohamed Morsi will not be allowed under the coup government.

Did you catch that?  Evidently, to today’s Egyptian leaders it’s Morsi’s fault they have to forbid criticism of an Egyptian president because he, Morsi, allowed freedom of expression and criticism of Egyptian leaders.  In other words, Morsi’s democracy was too lenient for today’s leaders who have to crack down in authoritarian ways to right Morsi’s wrong.  Take that citizens of Egypt….your former leader was too good for you; you have to be beaten into submission, which dovetails so neatly with the stereotypical notion that Arabs don’t deserve democracy they can only be ruled by despotic dictators.

 

Where have we heard this before?


Saw this in one of the papers I read now and then and my jaw hit the floor

Illiteracy dashes hopes of democracy in Egypt

voterand thought to myself if you replace a few words like “minorities” instead of “illiteracy” and “America” instead of “Egypt” you’d have the typical #DemonicGOP talking point.  Haven’t we already seen how, through legislation, restricting voter registration and electoral participation has been a staple of the GOP nationwide?

We’ve mentioned before how Egyptian politics mimics American paranoia and  hysteria as Egyptian elites try to minimize or completely eradicate Islamists from their body politic with talk of unbelievable Muslim Brotherhood plots  straight from Tea Party fairy tales (manuals).  Talking about a segment of the population who negatively affects the electoral process is another talking point Egyptians have copied from American politicians…..and via their media no less.  Take a gander

 In a country where illiterate people constitute one-third of eligible voters, the concept of free elections is worrisome.

Nearly 16 million among the 53 million eligible voters cannot even read or write. Therefore, some liberal politicians believe there is no hope for democracy….

In a country where illiterate people constitute one-third of eligible voters, the concept of free elections is worrisome.

Nearly 16 million among the 53 million eligible voters cannot even read or write. Therefore, some liberal politicians believe there is no hope for democracy…

“It is a frustrating reality, but it could be changed with some planning and work on the ground. As the statistics indicate, only 45 per cent of registered voters went to vote and 4 million Egyptians rejected the idea of a religious state. We need to mobilise the 10 million Egyptians who support a civic state in the next voting for the new constitution, the parliament and the president,” added (Al Sayed Yassin, a veteran writer and consultant at Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies)

Do you not hear the strains of allowing only certain groups of people participation in  the voting process?  Does this not sound like Egyptians are being set up for poll taxes and literacy tests of a Jim Crow America; ideas that may become in vogue for a new America as well.  We know that in the name of democracy one of the largest political parties in Egypt will be outlawed and forbidden to participate in government but now it seems Egyptian elites want to call for disallowing large segments of Egyptians from participating as well.   Once again we see a parallel universe between Egyptian and American politics with fear being the catalyst for insane and anti-democratic processes disguised in the name of democracy.

UPDATE

For examples of the types of literacy tests voters Egyptians could face take a look here  at what Americans once faced.  Such tests weren’t designed to assess literacy rather they were designed to not allow targeted populations from participating in  governance.

More Louie Gohmert-this guy is really funny!


This congressman is from Texas……… a state that also safely houses Ted Cruz the Canadian born Texas senator who denounced his Canadian citizenship with an eye on the 2016 presidential elections in order to appease those in the #DemonicGOP who claim Obama is not American because his father was African… and also the home state of Rick Perry THE Executioner for all of America’s 50 states.

Louie Gohmert, however, is a different breed altogether…he occupies his own “zone” that keeps getting more and more exclusive with Gohmert turning out to be its only occupant

When Rep. Louie Gohmert floats conspiracy theories, Americans across the political spectrum tend to roll their eyes and ignore him. But one of his more feverish conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama’s ostensible ties to the Muslim Brotherhood could be fueling dangerous anti-American sentiments in Egypt and potentially complicating U.S. foreign policy in the region, experts say.

For months, the five-term Republican congressman from Texas has been claiming that the Obama administration has been infiltrated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are steering U.S. foreign policy and emboldening terrorists.

“This administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America,” Gohmert told the conspiracy-friendly World Net Daily radio back in April, in just one example of such claims…….

….in Egypt, where the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government was recently ousted by the country’s military after the people turned against it…(a)nti-American conspiracy theories are rampant there, for a variety of reasons related and unrelated to U.S. foreign policy, and hearing it from a United States congressman lends credibility to the theory that the U.S. is teaming up with the Muslim Brotherhood — and even Al-Qaeda — to destroy Egypt.

“I guarantee you nobody in Egypt really knows who Louie Gohmert is or what he’s about. So they could very well point to this and say ‘Look! He’s a member of Congress. This must be serious. There must be something to it,’” said Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It doesn’t help in a political environment where everyone is already angry at us to be fueling conspiracy theories against us. In that way it enables an overall level of hostility toward the U.S.”…….

….The New York Times reported that the U.S.-Brotherhood conspiracy theory has become “widespread” in Egypt, even to the point of being seen by some as common knowledge. Billboards and posters in Egypt tie President Obama to the Brotherhood and accuse him of supporting terrorism against Egypt. And segments of the pro-military Egyptian media have beenplaying a YouTube clip of Gohmert speaking on the House floor, spliced with ominous background music, likening the Obama administration’s aid to Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi’s government with assisting terrorists….

Exporting idiocy that can endanger American interests is usually called “treason”….a word we heard to stifle dissent for Bush’s expeditions in the Middle East but Tea Party members like Gohmert feel  no hesitancy in promoting ideas that if not considered seditious on American soil have at least been used to foment a military coup in Egypt.

The Muhammad Morsi dilemma


MorsiII

The Morsi government was doomed to fail before it even began.  No matter what his government did, the Mubarak loyalists and the Army conspired very early on to depose him at a time and method convenient to them.  Nothing could have been done to avert that outcome.  There are international forces that benefited from the military coup and the Obama administration played both sides against the middle as is usually the case for America, but the origin of this coup was the banks of the Nile and it was propagated  by Egyptians  and perhaps financed with a little help from their friends in the Middle East and beyond.

Before the overthrow could be accomplished, Morsi first had to be properly dehumanized and linked with the most infamous criminals known to man and with the Egyptian propaganda machine in full swing it was an easy task

Mr Kholy (Egypt’s ambassador to Britain)  compared the one-year rule of Mr Morsi to the Islamist takeover of the Iranian state after the 1979 revolution and said that, like Nazism, the Muslim Brotherhood ideology sought to dominate Egyptian society.

“Morsi was elected president and held office for one year but in that time he tried to make everything Muslim Brotherhood controlled. Egyptian culture over 5,000 years is a mix of religions and civilisations in which the Islamic religion is one ingredient of the Egyptian character,” he said. “The Muslim Brotherhood are like a Nazi group that demand that everything changes and people (sic) everything to their way.”

…and with code words like Nazi, it was on for the military coup and over for the Morsi government.  After using terms meant to denigrate the Morsi government, machinations were put in place to ensure the public was on board as well with manufactured crisis designed to turn Egyptians against the government they voted into office

Throughout the month of June the media onslaught on Morsi’s government not only continued to blame it for all the ills afflicting Egyptian society, but also intensified as three particular problems were highlighted: the deterioration in security, frequent power outages that lasted hours and affected not only residential but also industrial areas, and shortages of fuel, causing hours long lines at gas stations.

gasEgypt has 2480 gas stations, with about 400 stations run by the government. The other two thousand stations are owned privately by business tycoons who were given these licenses during the Mubarak era because they were close to the regime and considered very loyal. Morsi’s government asserted that each station received its share and that there was no reason for the shortages. In fact, a few days before he was deposed Morsi warned gas station owners he’d revoke their licences if they refused to provide their customers with fuel. Khalid Al-Shami, a youth activist who was with the opposition until the military coup, exposed the plot when he announced in public that the handful of owners of the privately-run gas stations conspired to create the manufactured fuel shortage crisis in order to build public discontent against Morsi. The best evidence that the problem of fuel shortage was manufactured is that it evaporated overnight. Since the moment Morsi was deposed there has been no fuel shortage.

As for the security deterioration and electricity cuts, the conspiracy was deeper. The police which refused to electricity problemsprotect entire neighborhoods during Morsi’s rule has returned back in full force. Criminals and thugs who terrorized people in the streets are back under control by the same Mubarak-era security apparatus, except for the areas where Morsi’s supporters demonstrate. Electricity outages that lasted for hours every day in almost every neighborhood have disappeared overnight. The mystery of solving these two intractable problems were uncovered this week. Out of the thirty-five member cabinet chosen by the military, eight were retained including the Interior Minister in charge of the police and the Minister of Electricity. One would assume that the first ministers to be sacked by the post-coup government would be those whom the public complained about their incompetence. The opposition who called for dismissing these ministers were now hailing them and cheering their retention. In short, many public officials who professed loyalty to the hapless president were actually undermining his rule all along, while the opposition accused him of packing the government with MB loyalists.

Egyptian opposition even borrowed a page from the American Tea Party movement with rhetoric that was as far fetched as any used by American #DemonicGOPers  designed to incite animus against the Morsi government in ways that manufactured crisis could never accomplish.  At a time when our Tea Party and its strategy is becoming more and more apparent and on the wane in America, it seems to have found a home in Egypt and her conspiracists.  In ways that probably would make FoxNews blush, Egyptian Tea Party/military loyalists spout theories that come from the far reaches of the universe yet have no basis in reality

Readers of Egypt’s main state-run newspaper this week were treated to a startling expose. Splashed atop al Ahram’s front page was trumpeted how security forces smashed a plot by the Muslim Brotherhood, the United States and Palestinian Islamists to foment the secession of northern Egypt.

“A new conspiracy to shake stability,” the red-ink headline screamed of the scheme allegedly overseen by U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson and Khairat al-Shater, a millionaire businessman who is among dozens of Brotherhood leaders swept into jail in recent weeks.

Media commentaries span the comedic to the preposterous. A radio host griped that a more than 2-week-old nationwide curfew is forcing husbands to spend more time cooped up at night with their wives, while a former Supreme Court justice asserted on state-run television that President Barack Obama’s brother is a Brotherhood member. Obama and the MB

An article in the pro-army Al Youm Al Sabaa newspaper alleged that Shater, the Brotherhood’s chief political strategist, ran an arms smuggling racket with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who enraged many Egyptians when he tried to broker a deal between Morsi and the army.

Television channels loop slick anti-Brotherhood video mash-ups. They contrast shots of long-bearded Morsi protesters firing guns or contorting their faces as they screech abuses with scenes of unarmed, flag-waving anti-Morsi protesters, police funerals and troops on maneuvers. Patriotic soundtracks hail Egypt’s ancient history and the military’s martial prowess.  (against unarmed civilians but certainly not against the Israeli army.)

People like  Mr. Naguib Sawiris who took his  inspiration from American politicians and media pundits in exemplary fasion managed a media blitz nothing short of incendiary and blatantly fallacious….

On July 26, a cable news host leaned across his desk, stared into the camera and let his audience in on what he believed was the Obama administration’s deepest, darkest secret. “The issue is not whether Obama is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or not,” he declared. “The issue is that it is a fact that Obama used the help of the Muslim Brotherhood in his administration.”

Reading from notes in a tone of total omniscience, the host began to name names. He cited six figures, all Muslim American activists or intellectuals, accusing them of operating a Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cell inside the White House. They were Mazen Asbahi, Arif Ali Khan, Eboo Patel, Salam Marayati, and Mohamed Elibiary.

“Write these names down,” the host told his audience, “look them up during the break and when I come back let me know if what I say is right or wrong.”

Though he sounded like Glenn Beck or any other Tea Party-style Islamophobe, the host was not American and did not even speak English. He was Yousef El-Hosseini, a popular and famously reactionary personality on the private Egyptian cable network, ONTV. Founded by Egypt’s wealthiest man, Naguib Sawiris, a key financial backer of the forces behind the overthrow of the country’s first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, ONTV has emerged as one of the country’s central instruments for spreading pro-military propaganda.

 With such proclamations, news to the contrary was effectively stifled in ways that only happen under military dictatorships ushered in by military coups. How could you not support a takeover that was inspired by threats of foreign intervention in your country’s domestic affairs?   Opponents of the military coup and voices of opposition were silenced and persecuted and published dissent to the military’s actions was not tolerated.

Journalists have been killed, arrested and attacked since the Egyptian army began a campaign of repression in the country. On Sunday, the pattern of harassment continued, as three employees of Al Jazeera English were deported.

“Since 3 July, a total of five journalists have been killed, 80 journalists have been arbitrarily detained (with seven still held) and at least 40 news providers have been physically attacked by the police or by pro-Morsi or pro-army demonstrators,” RWB wrote. It called the killings “without precedent in the country’s contemporary history.”

Next Morsi’s opponents, some of them officials in the Morsi government had to manufacture economic and political crisis to make it seem  Egypt was on the verge of immediate demise …..

The streets seethe with protests and government ministers are on the run or in jail, but since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, life has somehow gotten better for many people across Egypt: Gas lines have disappeared, power cuts have stopped and the police have returned to the street.

The apparently miraculous end to the crippling energy shortages, and the re-emergence of the police, seems to show that the legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi.

And as the interim government struggles to unite a divided nation, the Muslim Brotherhood and Mr. Morsi’s supporters say the sudden turnaround proves that their opponents conspired to make Mr. Morsi fail. Not only did police officers seem to disappear, but the state agencies responsible for providing electricity and ensuring gas supplies failed so fundamentally that gas lines and rolling blackouts fed widespread anger and frustration.

Working behind the scenes, members of the old establishment, some of them close to Mr. Mubarak and the country’s top generals, also helped finance, advise and organize those determined to topple the Islamist leadership, including Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire and an outspoken foe of the Brotherhood….

MB HQThere can be no doubt that what took place in Egypt was a military coup, despite America’s reluctance to call it that.  I’ve read words such as naive to describe Morsi’s attitude to those who opposed him but realizing the political intransigence he faced and the extent to which the tentacles of the Mubarak regime reached in Egyptian society (notice how quickly Mubarak was released from prison after the military took power) Morsi’s slow and steady approach, along with missteps that ANYONE doing what he had to do would make, made it all but impossible for him to succeed.  To say he was set up to fail, that his election took place only to be overturned is precisely what his detractors, opponents wanted to happen and it was brilliantly executed.  A democratically elected government, replacing a 30 year dictatorship was overthrown by a military coup to the applause of all but those in the ruling party that Morsi represented and it was done with many of the same tactics employed by American political opposition that the American government which supported the Egyptian coup is fighting.  In other words, Obama has given his blessings to the military coup, despite what the Egyptian military said in an attempt to justify their actions…knowing full well Egyptian opposition was made up of people and tactics that are stalling his (Obama’s) government and the economic recovery he so desperately needs. If you say politics makes strange bedfellows, you only need to look at Egyptian/Middle Eastern politics to come to that realization.  Obama worked with the Egyptian forces that are his opponents back home in America for the illegal overthrow of an elected government.  He, Obama, now faces those same forces of obstructionism while he tries to make a case to attack a country that has always been an opponent of American interests in the Middle East and a new found opponent of Egypt.  It is bizarre, unsettling  and counterproductive to American interests, and worst of all typical of how things are done in that part of the world.  Go figure…..

EGYPT – A CALL IT IS TIME FOR THE CIVIL SOCIETY TO SPEAK OUT


Tariq Ramadan

The situation in Egypt is serious and the future seems bleak. Anything can happen. Although the specter of civil war is not yet a reality, one must consider all scenarios and act accordingly. It seems that the Power (both civilians and military) are divided on the strategy to be adopted. Some want to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood and their organization, others want to impose conditions of survival without power, thus maintaining the illusion of a pluralistic and democratic future. All are reducing their opponents as only the “Muslim Brotherhood”, demonizing and calling them “terrorists” and “extremists.” Repression increases radicalization and justifies, a posteriori, the repression itself. A vicious cycle that we have seen in the modern history of Egypt.

Opponents to the coup, and among them the Muslim Brotherhood, have been rallying peacefully and they continue to demonstrate despite the state of emergency. Resistance, for several weeks, was non-violent and should remain so despite the provocations of military and police whose strategies are known. Mass executions or targeted, bribe of offenders (known as the baltaguiyya) to push them to attack the demonstrators, with, in addition, the increase in fires Coptic churches in order to widen the sectarian divide and feed bills (Sadat and Mubarak had used the same strategy).

While these protests continue to be peaceful, civil society – all tendencies – opposed to violence and military, must mobilize and form a united front around common, clear, bold but realistic position . A national coalition to be formed with women and men of the civil society – secular, Islamist, Copts, women, young activists – who are willing to open channels of dialogue with the authorities and asked:

egyptian protest

1. End of repression 2. The release of political prisoners, leaders and members of political parties, which would result, in fact, with the end of demonstrations 3. Determining the steps that should bring back the political process to the civilians, based on a negotiated political agenda and future elections.

REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Civil society must now speak out and refuse false rhetoric that spreads around that the Army is only opposed to Islamists. What is at stake is the democratic future of Egypt and it will never be positive with the Army in control. Actors of the civil society should indulge in self criticism (for their failure) and, at the same time, work together to overcome the crisis. Being a passive, non-violent observer of violence is, indeed, to make the indirect choice of violence.

 

The new Abu Gharib


abu_graibh1When I first heard this news I tweeted, “Abu Gharib anyone” because it certainly seemed to take on the genocidal nature of that infamous, barbaric place in Iraqi/American history when people were rounded up indiscriminately into one central place and tortured, raped and murdered for no apparent reason than someone said they should.  That’s what military dictators do; fascism by nature quells even the aspiration to disagree with the State’s oppression, much less demonstrate against it as the people in Egypt are now doing; so killing that desire is most easily accomplished by killing the people who long for it.  Whatever you think of what’s happening in Egypt today, the fact that for far too many people it’s ok to kill, murder political opponents and especially those with a reasonable grievance for their dissent, is nothing short of genocide.

The Egyptian government acknowledged that its security forces had killed 36 Islamists in its custody Sunday, as the military leaders and the country’s Islamists vowed to keep up their fight over Egypt’s future.

An injured member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi is carried by members of the police and the army after they cleared Rabaa Adawiya Square. (Reuters)

An injured member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi is carried by members of the police and the army after they cleared Rabaa Adawiya Square. (Reuters)

The news of the deaths came on a day in which there appeared to be a pause in the street battles that have claimed more than 1,000 lives in recent days, most of them Islamists and their supporters gunned down by security forces. The Islamists took measures on Sunday to avoid confrontations, including canceling several protests of the military’s ouster of a democratically elected Islamist-led government.

While confirming the killings of the detainees on Sunday, the Ministry of the Interior said the deaths were the consequence of an escape attempt by Islamist prisoners. But officials of the main Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, described the deaths as “assassinations,” and claimed that the victims, which it said numbered 52, had been shot and tear-gassed through the windows of a locked prison van.

The government offered conflicting details throughout the day, once saying the detainees had suffocated to death in the van from tear gas to suppress an escape attempt, but later insisting that the Islamists died in a prison where they were taken.

In either case, the deaths were the fourth mass killing of civilians since the military took control on July 3, but the first time those killed were in government custody at the time.

The Islamists, followers of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, have vowed to continue their protests, both against the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and the violence of recent days that started with the bloody crackdown on Brotherhood sit-ins that left hundreds dead.

Although it appeared that security forces were more restrained on Sunday — with no immediate reports of killings in the streets — Maj. Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the country’s military leader, spoke out on national television in defiant and uncompromising tones, condemning the Islamists again as “terrorists,” but promising to restore democracy to the country.

The government has been pursuing a relentless campaign to paint the Islamists as pursuing violence, and has increasingly lashed out at journalists who do not echo that line, especially the foreign media.

This is what America has decided is far more important to have in power in Egypt than the Morsi government.  Whatever you may think of what Morsi did or did not do, he was not accused of mass murder of his political opponents or targeting of foreign journalists.  Our identification with such a regime can only forebode dire political consequences for America and Egypt in the future, near or far.  We have a name for that…..blowback.

Why are Egyptian Liberals Celebrating a Massacre?


This is an excellent question and one that has a conspiratorial answer even covered by the two people in the video below.

 

GOP double speak can make your head spin


When I first read that John McCain, along with Lindsey Graham who had been sent by President Obama to Egypt saidHead-Spinning

We have said we share the democratic aspirations and criticism of the Morsi government that led millions of Egyptians into the streets…

We’ve also said that the circumstances of [Morsi’s] removal was a coup. This was a transition of power not by the ballot box.

I wanted to jump for joy because that is exactly what I had been thinking.  It took Juan Cole’s column to bring me back down to earth and remind who just who these two political charlatans US senators John McCain and Lindsey Grahamare

McCain and Graham are urging the interim Egyptian government to engage in dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood. But in winter of 2011 just after the fall of Mubarak, this is what McCain said:

” SPIEGEL: What is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood?

McCain: I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic — at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government. “

McCain insisted that there was in fact a military coup in Egypt on July 3, and called for political prisoners (the former Muslim Brotherhood elected government) to be released. But McCain supported the military coup of 1999 by Gen. Pervez Musharraf against the elected government of Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif.

Graham doesn’t like people to win elections if he doesn’t like them. When the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, won the Palestine Authority elections in early 2006, Graham rejected their legitimacy…

Graham and McCain are urging the Egyptian authorities to talk to the Muslim Brotherhood and find a compromise, to engage in “inclusive dialogue.” But from Obamacare to Benghazi they have been relentless in their refusal to talk to President Obama in good faith on a whole range of issues….

Calling what happened in Egypt a coup does do is make it possible for these members of a very demented and demonic party to make life difficult for the President by attempting to cut off aid to Egypt because of the “coup” and further weaken that country as well as the US president all the while strengthening the hand of America’s client state and everyone in Washington who wants to be reelected favorite country, Israel.  In order to accomplish those two goals, McCain and Graham will say and do ANYTHING, no matter how outrageous it is or how stupid it makes them look.

Just who are the Muslim Brotherhood


They certainly haven’t infested every branch of American government or life that many of the Islamophobes claim.  I found this excerpt revealing

It has become accepted wisdom in some circles that the Muslim Brotherhood is a force for progressive change, even democracy, in Egypt. Since the mid-1980s when the Brotherhood entered electoral politics in a coalition with the allegedly liberal Wafd party, its leaders have embraced the rhetoric of political reform. On the eve of the 1990 parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood’s then Supreme Guide Mohamed Abul Nasr penned an open letter to President Mubarak in which he boldly stated, “Freedom is dear and it is preferable for you to avoid your nation’s anger and riots. It cannot be imagined that any people will remain under subjugation and repression after hearing and witnessing surrounding nations achieve their freedom and dignity…A nation’s power is derived not from material power, but from the entire citizenry’s liberty, the people’s trust in the government, and the government’s trust in the people.” Those are reassuring (and prescient) words–even 22 years after the fact–but the Brothers have always been rather fuzzy about what democracy means to them, falling back on the concept of shura or “consultation,” which could or could not be the foundation of Egyptian democracy. They have also been vague about shari’a. While Morsi and Brotherhood big wallas have said that they will implement Islamic law, members of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party told the American foreign policy establishment during a visit in March that they support “the principles of shari’a, but not necessarily its particular legal rulings.” I guess that sounds fine to the uninitiated, but the statement amounts to nothing more than obfuscation.

It is entirely possible that the Brothers are democrats despite themselves. Here is the theory: Hammered as they are between the military, which still controls the guns, and other political forces including revolutionaries who mistrust the Islamists and thus can stir up trouble, the Brotherhood could determine that their only source of power is through the ballot box. As a result, the Brothers will seek regularly scheduled, free and fair elections as the only way to legitimate their power. In time, this will transform the Brothers into committed democrats. Never mind (cliché warning) that elections don’t make democracy, but this is roughly what happened in Europe and how theocratic parties of the 19th century became today’s Christian Democrats. There are many insights to be gleaned from Europe’s experiences, but it is important to remember that history can be a guide, but it is not a blueprint.

In the end, the intellectually honest answer about the Brothers’ commitment to democracy is, we just don’t know. It’s an empirical question. Let’s pay less attention to what they say and focus on what they are doing.

The last line is especially insightful and mature given the topic at hand.

A New Day in Egypt


The Egyptian revolution has brought about a change in the attitude of many progressive minded Egyptian Muslims who recognize the importance of the cohesiveness of their society.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called on Egypt’s ruling military ‎council to provide security for Christian churches during Coptic ‎Christmas celebrations on 7 January as it did for polling stations ‎during the first two rounds of parliamentary elections.‎

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the group also promised ‎to draw up “popular committees” to help protect churches ‎against “iniquitous hands” that might attempt to spoil Christmas ‎celebrations as happened more than once under “the corrupt ‎regime” of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.‎

Almost one year ago, on New Year’s Eve, more than twenty Coptic ‎Christians were killed when a bomb exploded outside a church ‎in Alexandria. One year earlier, on 6 January, eight Copts were ‎killed outside a church in the Upper Egyptian city of Naga ‎Hammadi.‎

In January of this year, only weeks before the popular uprising ‎that culminated in Mubarak’s ouster, Muslim activists formed ‎human shields around churches on Coptic Christmas in an ‎expression of national unity. ‎

In its Wednesday statement, the Muslim Brotherhood also ‎announced that a delegation headed by leading group member ‎Mahmoud Ezzat would attend Christmas mass.‎

Many have been led to believe the Muslim Brotherhood, or MB, is the next anti-christ and no matter what they do they will always be portrayed as such but this move in an Egypt which is lawless and leaderless is a step in the right direction. It won’t be long before people in the media, and the pundits, return to the rhetoric of hate and racism in an attempt to add lawlessness to the Egyptian society.

A Political Reality


Those who support democracy must welcome the rise of political Islam

From Tunisia to Egypt, Islamists are gaining the popular vote. Far from threatening stability, this makes it a real possibility

Wadah Khanfar

Andrzej Krauze 2811

Illustration by Andrzej Krauze

Ennahda, the Islamic party in Tunisia, won 41% of the seats of the Tunisian constitutional assembly last month, causing consternation in the west. But Ennahda will not be an exception on the Arab scene. Last Friday the Islamic Justice and Development Party took the biggest share of the vote in Morocco and will lead the new coalition government for the first time in history. And tomorrow Egypt’s elections begin, with the Muslim Brotherhood predicted to become the largest party. There may be more to come. Should free and fair elections be held in Yemen, once the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh falls, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also Islamic, will win by a significant majority. This pattern will repeat itself whenever the democratic process takes its course.

In the west, this phenomenon has led to a debate about the “problem” of the rise of political Islam. In the Arab world, too, there has been mounting tension between Islamists and secularists, who feel anxious about Islamic groups. Many voices warn that the Arab spring will lead to an Islamic winter, and that the Islamists, though claiming to support democracy, will soon turn against it. In the west, stereotypical images that took root in the aftermath of 9/11 have come to the fore again. In the Arab world, a secular anti-democracy camp has emerged in both Tunisia and Egypt whose pretext for opposing democratisation is that the Islamists are likely to be the victors.

But the uproar that has accompanied the Islamists’ gains is unhelpful; a calm and well-informed debate about the rise of political Islam is long overdue.

First, we must define our terms. “Islamist” is used in the Muslim world to describe Muslims who participate in the public sphere, using Islam as a basis. It is understood that this participation is not at odds with democracy. In the west, however, the term routinely describes those who use violence as a means and an end – thus Jihadist Salafism, exemplified by al-Qaida, is called “Islamist” in the west, despite the fact that it rejects democratic political participation (Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida, criticised Hamas when it decided to take part in the elections for the Palestinian legislative council, and has repeatedly criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for opposing the use of violence).

This disconnect in the understanding of the term in the west and in the Muslim world was often exploited by despotic Arab regimes to suppress Islamic movements with democratic political programmes. It is time we were clear.

Reform-based Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, work within the political process. They learned a bitter lesson from their armed conflict in Syria against the regime of Hafez al-Assad in 1982, which cost the lives of more than 20,000 people and led to the incarceration or banishment of many thousands more. The Syrian experience convinced mainstream Islamic movements to avoid armed struggle and to observe “strategic patience” instead.

Second, we must understand the history of the region. In western discourse Islamists are seen as newcomers to politics, gullible zealots who are motivated by a radical ideology and lack experience. In fact, they have played a major role in the Arab political scene since the 1920s. Islamic movements have often been in opposition, but since the 1940s they have participated in parliamentary elections, entered alliances with secular, nationalist and socialist groups, and participated in several governments – in Sudan, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria. They have also forged alliances with non-Islamic regimes, like the Nimeiri regime in Sudan in 1977.

A number of other events have had an impact on the collective Muslim mind, and have led to the maturation of political Islam: the much-debated Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979; the military coup in Sudan in 1989; the success of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front in the 1991 elections and the army’s subsequent denial of its right to govern; the conquest of much of Afghan territory by the Taliban in 1996 leading to the establishment of its Islamic emirate; and the success in 2006 of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The Hamas win was not recognised, nor was the national unity government formed. Instead, a siege was imposed on Gaza to suffocate the movement.

Perhaps one of the most influential experiences has been that of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, which won the elections in 2002. It has been a source of inspiration for many Islamic movements. Although the AKP does not describe itself as Islamic, its 10 years of political experience have led to a model that many Islamists regard as successful. The model has three important characteristics: a general Islamic frame of reference; a multi-party democracy; and significant economic growth.

These varied political experiences have had a profound impact on political Islam’s flexibility and capacity for political action, and on its philosophy, too.

However, political Islam has also faced enormous pressures from dictatorial Arab regimes, pressures that became more intense after 9/11. Islamic institutions were suppressed. Islamic activists were imprisoned, tortured and killed. Such experiences gave rise to a profound bitterness. Given the history, it is only natural that we should hear overzealous slogans or intolerant threats from some activists. Some of those now at the forefront of election campaigns were only recently released from prison. It would not be fair to expect them to use the voice of professional diplomats.

Despite this, the Islamic political discourse has generally been balanced. The Tunisian Islamic movement has set a good example. Although Ennahda suffered under Ben Ali’s regime, its leaders developed a tolerant discourse and managed to open up to moderate secular and leftist political groups. The movement’s leaders have reassured Tunisian citizens that it will not interfere in their personal lives and that it will respect their right to choose. The movement also presented a progressive model of women’s participation, with 42 female Ennahda members in the constitutional assembly.

The Islamic movement’s approach to the west has also been balanced, despite the fact that western countries supported despotic Arab regimes. Islamists know the importance of international communication in an economically and politically interconnected world.

Now there is a unique opportunity for the west: to demonstrate that it will no longer support despotic regimes by supporting instead the democratic process in the Arab world, by refusing to intervene in favour of one party against another and by accepting the results of the democratic process, even when it is not the result they would have chosen. Democracy is the only option for bringing stability, security and tolerance to the region, and it is the dearest thing to the hearts of Arabs, who will not forgive any attempts to derail it.

The region has suffered a lot as a result of attempts to exclude Islamists and deny them a role in the public sphere. Undoubtedly, Islamists’ participation in governance will give rise to a number of challenges, both within the Islamic ranks and with regard to relations with other local and international forces. Islamists should be careful not to fall into the trap of feeling overconfident: they must accommodate other trends, even if it means making painful concessions. Our societies need political consensus, and the participation of all political groups, regardless of their electoral weight. It is this interplay between Islamists and others that will both guarantee the maturation of the Arab democratic transition and lead to an Arab political consensus and stability that has been missing for decades.

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree


This is what the father, Said Ramadan, taught the son

Muslims have ignored the task which should be their specific concern, namely love of God and the strengthening of the ties of love among people for His sake.  If a person should succeed in this task he would have set the firmest foundation in the depths of soul, sown the seed for every flourishing virtue and established an impregnable fortress against most external threats and tests.

The word “love” which people have so misused and abused, is that mighty word which distinguishes the followers of the Prophets and on which their societies were built.  It is the ‘elixir’ which binds these followers to goodness, creating a true bond which even makes suffering seem sweet in its pursuit.  By the same token it  has fashioned the ties that bind them together – ties of soul over and above the intellect, ties which are not subverted by differences of opinion.  These ties are above materialistic interests and are not swayed by any particular passing whim.

and this is what the son internalized and remembers of  his father

I remember still his presence and his silence. The long silences lodged deep in mind and memory ; the thoughts that were often bitter. The keen eye and piercing gaze that bore his warmth, his kindness and his tears ; that carried his determination, his commitment and anger as well. How often I attempted, as a child, to read the look in the powerful, suggestive and questioning eyes that accompanied his words to my heart. Those same words awakened me, troubled and shook me. I was not alone. Everyone who met him experienced his power. He had penetrated to the heart of things, and expected others to do the same. And yet he did so with compassion, with intelligence, for he feared causing harm, causing hurt. Behind his hesitancy lay his kindness, and often his awkwardness.

Early on, I learned at his side how the world feeds on lies, rumors and scandal mongering. When men lose morality they return to the jungle and become wolves. Around him were many such men ; men who fought and sullied him for political gain, men who turned their backs on him for professional gain and men who betrayed him for financial gain. So much was said, written and lied about him : that he’d met men whom he’d never seen, heard words that had never been spoken, had been involved in secret plots he never dreamed of. In my memory echo the words of one of his traveling companions : “He could have been a millionaire, not by flattering kings, but by simply agreeing to keep silent. He refused ; he spoke the truth and spoke it again and again, before God, without fear of loosing everything.”

I remember a story that my elder brother Aymen retold what seemed like a thousand times, a story that always brought tears to my eyes. He was fifteen years old when he heard it, in the course of a journey that found him and our father in the presence of wealthy princes : “The money that you wish to give me is placed in the palm of my hand ; as for myself, by God’s command, I only work for that which is deposited in and reaches men’s hearts…” Despite his material difficulties, he rejected the exorbitant amounts of money he was offered, and did so in the name of his faith in God, of his devotion to the truth and of his love for justice. Aymen has never forgotten ; it shaped him and he passed it on.

My father learned everything from the man who gave him so much, offered him so much and who, from a very early age, trained and protected him. On that subject he was inexhaustible. Hasan al-Banna, through his total devotion to God and His teachings, brought light to his heart and showed him the way to commitment. To those who criticized al-Banna without ever having met or heard him, or those who had simply read him, my father explained how much spirituality, love, fraternity and humility he had learnt at his side. For hours on end, he could summon up from memory the events and instants that had left their mark on him when he was just like his son ; and when he was respectfully known throughout Egypt as “little Hasan al-Banna,” or the “little Guide.” His master’s profound faith, his devotion and his intelligence, his knowledge, open-mindedness and kindness were the qualities that sprang to mind whenever his name was mentioned.

How often father spoke of his mentor’s unyielding commitment to the struggle against colonialism and injustice and for the sake of Islam. But Hasan al-Banna’s determination never justified violence, which he rejected just as he rejected the idea of “an Islamic revolution.” The only exception was Palestine. Here, al-Banna’s message was clear : armed resistance was the only way to foil the plans of the Irgun terrorists and to confront the Zionist colonizers. Father had learned from Hasan al-Banna, as he put it one day, “to put my forehead to the ground.” For the true meaning of prayer is to give meaning, in humility, to an entire life. At his feet he learned love for God, patience, painstaking work, the value of education and of solidarity. Finally, he learned to give everything. After the assassination of his master, in 1949, he integrated what he had learned and sacrificed everything in order to give voice to the liberating message of Islam. History is written by the mighty ; the worst calumnies were uttered about Imam Hasan al-Banna. Never did he cease to write, and to speak the truths that had nurtured him. But the despots’ love of power brought only death, bloodshed and torture.

He had just turned twenty when al-Banna named him editor of his magazine, al-Shihab. Then he volunteered for service in Palestine, at age twenty-one, fighting to defend Jerusalem. In 1948, at twenty-two, he went to Pakistan where he was approached about assuming the post of Secretary General of the World Islamic Congress. But his determination terrified the “diplomats.” He stayed on in Pakistan for several months, participating in debates about constitutional questions and producing a weekly radio program on Islam and the Muslim world that brought him wide popularity among young people and intellectuals.

Returning to Egypt, he threw himself into a campaign for social and political reform, traveling across the country, giving lectures, and chairing meetings. In 1952, he launched a monthly magazine modeled on al-Shihab, called al-Muslimun , for which some of the greatest Muslim scholars were to write and which would be distributed from Morocco to Indonesia in both Arabic and English. But Hasan al-Banna, well before his assassination, had given his followers a stern warning : the road will be long, and its mileposts will be pain, sadness and adversity. He knew, as did all those who accompanied him, that they would endure lies, humiliation, torture, exile and death. For him it was to be exile. Nasser had deceived him and his colleagues, jailed them, executed them. In 1954 he was forced to leave Egypt, not to return until August 8,1995, in his coffin : forty-one years of exile, suffering, commitment and sacrifice for God and justice—and against dictatorship and hypocrisy. Exile is the ultimate condition of faith. His path was a long one, the hardships and the sorrows manifold and unending. First in Palestine where he was named General Secretary of the World Islamic Congress of Jerusalem before being banned from the city by Glubb Pasha, himself following American orders. Then, in Damascus were he relaunched al-Muslimun with Mustafa al-Siba’i, and soon after, to Lebanon, before arriving in Geneva in 1958. In 1959 he obtained his Doctorate in Cologne, and published his thesis under the title ‘Islamic Law : its Scope and Equity’ in which he presented a synthesis of the fundamental positions of Hasan al-Banna on the subject of the Shari’a, law, political organization and religious pluralism. It was an essential book, the first of its kind in a European language, to posit Islam as a universal reference. It reflected is author’s conviction and determination and at the same time a clear-cut and unmistakable commitment to open mindedness—and never once the slightest acceptance of violence.

IN 1961 he founded the Islamic Centre of Geneva with the support and participation of Muhammad Natsir, Muhammad Asad, Muhammad Hamidullah, Zafar Ahmad Ansari and Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi—outstanding figures and faithful brothers in the same struggle. This Islamic centre was to be a model for others like it in Munich, London, Washington and, more generally, throughout the West. Its aim was to provide immigrant Muslims in Europe or the USA stay connected with their religion and to find a place of welcome and reflection. The Centre would likewise be a hub of activity for the presentation of Islam, for a publication program, and for analysis of current issues—all without external constraint. The Geneva Centre published numerous books and facsimiles in Arabic, English, French and German, and re-launched al-Muslimun, which ceased publication in 1967. Meanwhile he planned the creation of the Muslim World League, whose first statutes he drafted. His commitment was total ; the Saudi funds he received via the League, which was at that time opposed to the Nasser regime, came with no particular conditions, commitment or obligation of political silence. When, at the end of the 1960s, the Muslim World League, which had by them come under much more direct Saudi influence, made its financial support conditional, insisting that it would take over the Islamic Centre and its activities, he refused. Then in 1971, all funding was cut off. He had never doubted that the road he must travel would be long and hard ; such was the cost of independent thought and action. Many came to know and appreciate him during those years. He traveled to many countries—speaking publicly in Malaysia, staying for protracted periods in England, Austria or in the USA, creating links as he went, introducing his profound, analytical thought with its underpinning of spirituality and love. Even such a luminary as Mawdudi thanked him for awakening him from his unconsciousness ; Muhammad Asad was grateful to him for having brought him to know, or rather to feel profoundly the thought of Hasan al-Banna. Malek Shabbaz (Malcolm X) heard in the kitchen of the Islamic Centre of Geneva that no race is chosen and that no Arab, no more than a black person, is superior to his white brother, except by piety. Malcolm X took the lesson to heart so deeply that his last written words, at the eve of his death in February 1965, were addressed to my father. Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) paid him numerous visits in his London hostel ; later he would tell me how much he remembered Said Ramadan’s fine intelligence, calling him “so sweet a man.” In 1993, in a meeting at Geneva Airport, the scholar Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi showed him all the signs of infinite respect. When I visited him years later in Lucknow, India, the site of the Nadwat al-‘Ulama’, al-Nadwi recalled with deep emotion one of his visits and the memories that it had left him. In exile, far from his own, exposed to political and financial harassment, and assailed by problems large and small, he worried and tormented his mind while keeping intact the essential : a deep faith and sense of fraternity, the eyes of tenderness and the highest standards of behavior.

His room : piles of documents and magazines ; here a telephone, there a radio and a television set, stacks of books, opened or annotated. The world was at his fingertips. Whoever stepped into his universe could not but be struck by a story, a past, a life, by sadness and solitude, by the multitude of memories alongside an incomparable grasp of current events. He maintained constant contact—that of emotional involvement—with the most distant lands. He knew almost everything that was going on in Tajikistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. He kept track of developments in Washington, Los Angeles, Harlem, London, Munich, Paris, Karachi and Geneva. His horizon seethed with information. He suffered so much and with such intensity in that room of his, from the state of the world, from the lies and the massacres, the prison sentences and the torture. His political intuition was breathtaking ; it was easy to understand why he was feared.

But analysis of current events was not enough for him. Everything interested him, from technology and medicine to science and ecology. He knew what was needed for a thoroughgoing reform in Islam. His curiosity, always alert, always lucid, knew no limits. He had traveled the world ; henceforth the world would come into his room. Where once there had been crowds, scholars, presidents and kings, now only observation, analysis and deep sadness remained. In his solitude, though, there was the Qur’an ; and in his isolation, there were invocations mingled with tears. He gave his children symbolic names, names from the history of persecution and boundless determination. A thread of complicity connected him with each one of us ; we held his undivided attention, shared the sensitivity of our relationship with him, and his love. With Aymen, it was his success and wounds ; with Bilal, his potential and his heartbreak ; with Yasser, his presence, his generous devotion and his patience ; with Arwa, his complicity and silences ; with Hani, his commitment and his determination. He convinced each of us to believe in our own qualities. He reminded each of us that he had given us the best of mothers, she who is, with all the qualities of her heart, his most precious gift.

After more than forty years in exile, after an entire life lived for God, faith and justice, he knew that his last hour had come. In night’s darkest hours he spoke again and again of love, fraternity and affection. A few months before returning to God, he told me, with all the power of his sad, tearful gaze : “Our problem is one of spirituality. If a man comes to speak to me about reform in the Muslim world, about political strategy and geopolitical schemes, my first question to him would be whether he performed the dawn prayer (fajr) on time.” He had a keen eye for the agitation in each of us, including my own. He reminded not to forget the essentials, to be close to God in order to know how to be close to men. After an entire lifetime of struggle, his hair turned grey by time, he reminded me : “Power is not our objective ; we have nothing to do with it. Our goal is love of the Creator, the fraternity and justice of Islam. This is our message to dictators.” Late at night, in that famous room, he spoke of himself. The link with God is the path, spirituality, the light of the road. One day as he looked back upon his life, he told me : “Our ethical behavior, our awareness of good and evil is weapon used against us by despots, lovers of titles, power and money. They do what we cannot do ; they lie as we cannot lie ; they betray as we cannot betray and kill as we cannot kill. Our accountability before God is, in their eyes, our weakness. This apparent weakness is our real strength.”

That strength gave him energy until the very last. He remained deeply faithful to the message. To him I owe the understanding that to speak of God means, above all else, to speak of love, of the heart and fraternity. To him I owe the knowledge that solitude with God is better than neglect with men. To him I owe the feeling that deep sadness can never exhaust one’s faith in God. His generosity, his kindness and his knowledge were his most precious gifts. I thank God for giving me the gift of this father, at whose side I discovered that faith is love. Love of God and men in the face of trial and adversity. Hasan al-Banna taught us : “Be like a fruit tree. If they attack you with stones, respond with fruits.” How well he had learned the lesson, then made it his own in the most intimate sense of the word. Observer of the world, far from the crowd, in the solitude of his room, after years of combat without respite for the sake of God, against treachery and corruption, his words drew their energy from the Sources and from the rabbaniyya (the essential link with the Creator). He never ceased speaking about God, about the heart and about the intimacy of this Presence. He had learnt the essential, and he summoned people directly to the essential.

Now he lies at rest next to the one who taught him the way, Hasan al-Banna. May God have mercy on them. He had returned from exile only in death for despots fear the words of the living. But the silence of the dead is fraught with meaning, just like the supplications of those who suffer injustice : bitter words, but words of truth. Thus the Prophet (pbuh) has commanded us : “We are from God and to Him is our return.” on Friday August 4 1995, just before dusk, God called to him a man. A man, a son, a husband, a brother, a father-in-law, a grandfather, my father. The sole merit of those who remain will be to testify, day after day, their faithfulness to his memory and teaching. To love God, to respond to His call, walk side by side with men, to live and learn how to die, to live in order to learn how to die, whatever the obstacles and whatever the cost. Said Ramadan spent 41 years, almost an entire lifetime, in exile. What remains are his words, his vision and his determination. This life is not Life.

May God receive him in His mercy, forgive him his sins and open for him the gates of Peace in the company of the Prophets, the pious and the just.

May God make me for my children the father my father was for me.

Two generations and more drilled with the theme of love and devotion to God first and to one another and the rest of humanity under the banner of Islam.  That’s not a theme, love, that we commonly hear associated by corporate media with Islam, but it is an authentic one, practiced by Tariq Ramadan and his father before him and his grandfather before him. It is consistently practiced by Muslims like the Ramadan family all over the world and its face needs to be seen more often, internalized and passed on to more and more people.

Finally! An ally who embraces, at least in part, some of our principles and DOES NOT want our money! Imagine that!


We talked before about how many in the newly emerging Egypt have said no to US funds because they see such money as a way to negatively influence their burgeoning “new” democracy.  It’s not that these Egyptians don’t like America, what’s not to like about America the leader of the free world, it’s just that they want to define their social movements and institutions and not have that done for them by others.

“There are development partners that have for some time now been pushing the democracy and human rights agenda,” said Talaat Abdel Malek, an advisor to the Ministry of International Cooperation, which overseas foreign aid. “And I understand that and I understand the need for it, but there comes a point when there is something that is called national sovereignty that has to be respected.”

Every nook and cranny of Egyptian society, except for the marxists, has called for a democratic Egypt so their reasoning goes, there is no need to make that such a strong push by outside forces.  There are even some in Egypt who sound like today’s American GOP

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is campaigning for September’s parliamentary elections on a platform to trim the country’s budget deficit.

“It’s always better for any country to build on the basis of investment and not loans,” Khairat el-Shater, 61, deputy leader of the Brotherhood, said in an interview in Cairo.

“A lot of investors have been very nervous of the prospects of a government with a strong Brotherhood representation,” said Elijah Zarwan, a Cairo-based senior analyst at the International Crisis Group research group. “The Brotherhood is aware of this and they are trying to reassure foreign investors by saying ‘look, we are businessmen, we are business owners and professionals.’” The Brotherhood is also proposing to cut spending, sell state-run media, link subsidies to job creation and slow inflation.

All of the above sounds like talking points for any candidate running for office in America.  To further underscore the convergence of American ideals with a surfacing Egyptian “democracy” explained in its own terms comes this

The rector of what is arguably the world’s oldest university, a bastion of Sunni scholarship with international influence, has come out in favour of a modern, democratic, constitutional Egyptian state…Ahmed el-Tayyeb, the grand sheik of Al-Azhar University in Cairo  denies that Islam permits a “priesthood state” – an implied criticism of Iran. (The Al-Azhar) document is not apolitical, however; it endorses the separation of powers and equal rights for all citizens…it says that the principles of sharia should be the basic source of law. But at least this is not new; since 1981, the Constitution of Egypt, under an ostensibly secularist regime on the Kemal Ataturk model, has a clause saying the same thing. For some reason, perhaps in an attempt to compete with the Muslim Brotherhood, Anwar Sadat added a mild version of this clause in 1971; Hosni Mubarak took it further in 1981.

The Al-Azhar document is, however, based on the work of a broad range of scholars and activists, including Coptic Christians, several of whom signed it. The paper says that Christians and Jews should be free to govern their own lives with guidance from their own authorities.

With such proclamations coming from a post Mubarak Egypt, what could only be construed as assurances to the West that embrace Western concepts of governance, rights and responsibilities,  it’s easy for this observer to understand the unease Egyptians have with continued attempts of foreign institutions and governments to change the course of Egyptian “democracy” into something else.  By not accepting funds, Egyptians seem to be saying while they like what we stand for, they don’t want us telling them how to do it themselves.  In America’s present state of budget deficits, lost and or stolen money and calls for more austerity on the backs of the poor and middle class, ordinarily one would welcome such a friend who says thanks but no thanks to offers that neither help them or us.  We should do more to encourage such friendship among our international allies.

 

 

 

 

The Egyptian Unrest


It’s very difficult to know what’s going on in Egypt.  You can be sure there’s as much going on behind the scenes as what is shown on TV or found on the printed page.  It appears however that the demonstrations against Mubarak are secular in nature, and widespread, although why it has taken this manifestation at this time is unclear.  Mubarak has been the only president since Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981, which means he has been in power for thirty years.  Of course we here in the West wouldn’t accept a ruler come to power, declare martial law and remain in power for that long.  Many people can’t bear an Obama administration that lasts only four years, so the excuse that Mubarak is necessary for peace and stability in the Middle East is ludicrous.

Also ludicrous is the insane fear surrounding one of the largest parties in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood.  A very good piece that you probably won’t read or hear about in main stream press here makes some very good points about that party.  Even the  mild mannered former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, for now says he is willing to work with them to build Egypt.

The Egyptian Brotherhood renounced violence years ago, but its relative moderation has made it the target of extreme vilification by more radical Islamists…..Egypt’s new opposition leader, former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, has formed a loose alliance with the Brotherhood because he knows it is the only opposition group that can mobilize masses of Egyptians, especially the poor. He says he can work with it to change Egypt. Many scholars of political Islam also judge the Brotherhood is the most reasonable face of Islamic politics in the Arab world today.

Meanwhile, Egyptians from across all religious denominations have come together to oppose the 30 year reign of Mubarak, with the rallying cry, ‘Muslims, Christians we are all Egyptians’;  this coming after recent attacks against Christian churches, which were blamed on Egyptian Muslims but were roundly and uniformly condemned by them,  will surely be exploited by Israel and other secularists who want to drive a wedge between the two groups. The Mubarak regime won’t relinquish power easily and is even willing to allow lawlessness to reign during the unrest in order to make the point he is indispensable.  Moreover there is now the threat of the Army or some other forces which have the ability to do so to shed blood on a score sufficient to get the people to stop for what is now a spontaneous eruption against a despot.  Look for just that result; it will be meant as a sign for all Middle Easterner who are chaffing under oppressive regimes not to follow the examples of Tunisia or Egypt.

The Insanity of Islamophobia


Pat Robertson, who has said he supports the decriminalization of  marijuana must have decided to take a drag from a joint which caused him to come up with this latest proclamation.  Notice how, with just the mere accusation Robertson’s media machine has maligned Muslims, the Muslim Brotherhood, Quick (a fast food restaurant in France), Campbells, McDonalds, Walmart, and Whole Foods among others because they offer  customers choices; menus are not being changed, things aren’t being prohibited today that were offered in days gone by, in fact beer which is on Quick’s menu in France is still available for those who drink.  Rather, a method of slaughtering meat employed on some of the meat used used for some of the food choices by these companies  is upsetting to the Islamophobes like Robertson and Pamela Gellar who talk about the fear of Islamic law taking over Europe and ostensibly America, merely because consumers are offered choices.  Usually that’s considered good business, but to racists like Robertson, et.al that’s cause to incite and inflame passions against a religious belief.  Such a jump can only be attributed to drugs and while we haven’t seen Gellar or Robertson taking them, or rather there are no pictures of them doing so, we can only assume because of their stance concerning the criminalization of drugs that drug use is  what’s  caused them to come to such far flung conclusions.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what has caused Frank Gaffney to such delirium as his latest insanity regarding a conservative PAC. Gaffney seems to think the nefarious Muslim Brotherhood has taken over the Conservative Political Action Conference, because…..are you ready for this……..there is a Muslim member, Suhail Khan a GWBush ex-staffer who represents a group, Muslims FOR America. (Look at the mindlessness of Gaffney’s opposition, decrying the participation of a group of Americans in the political process who are FOR America)  The whole goal of Gaffney, Robertson, Gellar and all the rest is to marginalize the participation of Muslims in the political process of America even when there is absolutely nothing objectionable to the aims of that participation unless such groups are under their control. In other words they want to make enemies where there aren’t any, by making their involvement illegal, and they want to instigate  bystanders in the political process into such a frenzy and hatred in order for them to accomplish this goal.   In even simpler terms, if you don’t do what they say, or agree with their program they won’t like you and threaten to do everything to make you illegal, the textbook definition of fascism.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates the mindless, racist intent of people like Gaffney and Robertson than their own senseless rants regarding people who are different than they are.  The kind of talk regarding Muslims and Islam by the likes of the Islamophobes would not be tolerated if it were applied to any other group either in the borders of America or outside of it.  Spurred by the equally insipid distribution of lies and innuendo of today’s media outlets and you have the makings of a propaganda machine that surpasses  the wildest dreams of the most fanatical government. These are troubling times.