Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Egypt's Islamists: The Big Bad Wolf
By Eric Walberg
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 18, 2011
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’etat? 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.
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.
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.
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
Writes Doctor 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 thinktank 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.
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.
contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves,” wrote Oscar Wilde.
Will Egyptians be “wise” in the sense that Doctor 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 Doctor 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.
Eric Walberg can be reached at