Reasons for cheer – and concern – in Egypt

31 January 2011

One of the most wonderful of many wonderful aspects of the anti-totalitarian uprisings
in Tunisia and Egypt is that they have nailed the myth that Islamism represents the “authentic” voice of the Arab street. This was always a pernicious nonsense and the diversity of
those demonstrating across the Maghreb and Egypt has been one of the most noticeable features of the revolt.

This must be particularly galling for the Foreign Office, which has spent considerable resources in cultivating the Muslim Brotherhood and other revivalist groups across the Middle East. It is
gratifying for those of us who warned against this orthodoxy that Islamist fellow-travellers such as Frances Guy, the UK’S blogging ambassador
to Lebanon, have been proved so wrong. The Arabist experts of the FCO failed to see this coming, just as they failed to predict the rise of radical Islam in the late 1970s.

Claim your gift

Those such as the Conflicts Forum crew who have argued for outright engagement with the totalitarians with the slogan “listening to political Islam,
recognising resistance” have been left with considerable egg on their faces. The resistance, as it turned out, came from enlightened, forward-looking young people looking for the political
reform and modernisation that would allow their countries to take their place in the 21st century.

There remains a real concern, however, that Islamist opportunists will move into the political vacuum. Indeed, this is a once-in-a-generation moment, for which some Muslim Brothers have been
preparing for a lifetime. Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Tunisian Islamist party An-Nahda, has returned from exile after 22 years in Britain to a welcome from crowds of thousands. He could yet take advantage of the situation in which
there is no obvious successor to President Ben Ali.

Clearly, many thousands are also attracted by the Islamism of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – this is not an organisation without support. But it should come as a huge relief to those who
care about the Arab word that it has not  become the dominant force on the streets. The brave people of Tunisia and Egypt are looking to free themselves from tyranny rather than embrace
another form of authoritarian rule.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Thought is good.

  • TrevorsDen

    Democracy has a chance to flower because Bush and the US removed despotism from Iraq and have isolated Iran. Libya too has given up its atomic bomb programme.

    Democracy has a chance in the middle east.

  • Merlyn

    The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood is well laid out in the following website.

  • Patricia Shaw

    I wonder how many Jews watching tonight s programme about ultra orthodox settlers will find anything at all to associate with.

  • Matt Pryor

    Apologies, I have since learned that the above was not what King said. What he actually said was:

    “Don’t talk like that. When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism”

    Regardless of Martin Bright’s political opinions or his religion, when people use “Zionist” as an insult they mean Jews. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you may not understand this or you may be in denial of it. The forces that Israel faces know it all too well.

  • Matt Pryor

    I suggest “Erica Blair” reads Martin Luther King’s opinions on the matter:

    “… You declare, my friend; that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely ‘anti-Zionist’. And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of G-D’s green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews — this is G-D’s own truth.

    “Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so.”

  • Erica Blair

    ‘Matt Pryor
    February 2nd, 2011 2:37pm
    Report this comment
    Substitute “Zionists” for “Jews” in the above comments by Patricia Shaw, Erica Blair, victor jara 67, and feel the hair on the back of your neck rise.

    Dark times are upon us.’

    Martin Bright is a Zionist, he is not Jewish. For you to replace “Zionist” with “Jew” is anti-semitic.

  • Matt Pryor

    People that stand up for Israel are the “enemy” now? I didn’t realise I was commenting on an Iranian publication. Anyway it’s interesting to see just how demented the far left are these days.

    Good luck to Egyptians, I hope and pray it turns out well for them.

  • Patricia Shaw

    Matt, Speak for yourself and don t taint Israelis with your own preudices.

    The vast majority of Jews are NOT racists or zealots.

    They’re the ones who have to bring about a New Israel, in the recognition that the shift to democracy in the region demands a fundamental shift in strategy at home.

  • Patricia Shaw

    ‘How to Manage the Middle East’


    ‘Social Democracy, My Role in its Downfall’

    by Melanie Phillips

    1) Ensure U.S. keeps maleable local despots in power, preferably for all eternity.

    2) Get America to reward their silence on Israeli aggression with yet more arms and assistance. When their people complain, import the tear gas.

    3) To enable resulting election fraud and commit more human rights abuses, get more gas.

    4) If locals manage to revolt, quickly blame it on completely unreasonable extremists and blame anyone with a beard

    5) Make sure revolutionaries’ hatred of Israel is interpreted as ideological anti semitism. Never allow western media to connect it with Israeli colonialism and brutality towards the Palestinians.

    6) If despots complain, remind them what happened to Iraq, mutter darkly that same thing will happen to them if they don’t shut up, while smiling sweetly and
    pretending Neocons’ agenda had nothing to do with you

    7) Exploit situation to stoke fear and fury in the US and secure even more financial and military gifts at US taxpayer expense.


  • Matt Pryor

    Substitute “Zionists” for “Jews” in the above comments by Patricia Shaw, Erica Blair, victor jara 67, and feel the hair on the back of your neck rise.

    Dark times are upon us.

  • Patricia Shaw

    Michael, you are the enemy now.

    This is the time for the people of Israel to stand up and be counted, to fight the poison within, to find peace with those from whom they have stolen so much and common cause with their progressive, aspiring peers in the region who want to turn their backs on zealots, ideology and racism, on both sides.

    This is a time opportunity for everyone in the region, including the people of Israel.

  • Erica Blair

    Look out your window now Matt, here comes Hamas.

    Too late, they’re under your bed with the Reds.

  • Patricia Shaw

    Matt, if Israel allowed the US and its cronies to engage intelligently with it’s neighbours, ESP now,instead of bombing, assassinating and demonising ghem, it would not have so much to be worried about. Zionist arrogance and bloody mindedness is as outdated as the regional despots it supports. The future belongs to educated, globally aware, ambitious young people, ideology, racism, superiority and hatred is for biggots.

  • michael G

    Victor, let me simplify this for you.

    Whatever the hell the Egyptians decide, we will not allow the Islamists to destroy Israel. Whatever you say, think, or do. You have been warned.

  • victor jara 67

    Oh spare us Matt. Why do Zionists always use holocaust analogies to justify their oppression and bloody excesses

  • Matt Pryor

    So you’re saying that the next Egyptian government should allow unlimited arms and personnel into the Gaza strip so that neo-Nazi HAMAS can renew their war with Israel?

    That sounds distinctly like a recipe for a second Shoah. Cheered on by you and all the other champions of “palestinian” rights.

    And when the HAMAS come marching down my road, I’ll have you to thank.

  • victor jara 67

    @Matt Pryor,
    Off course no one wants to see a war but the Egyptian people were rather fed up with Mumbaraks enthusiastic coperation in the oppression of the Palestinians. Any new Government will not be so accomodating of maintaining the prison that is Gaza.

  • Matt Pryor

    “What is certain is that any democratic government in Egypt will be less friendly to Israel, which is Martin ‘Hasbara’ Bright’s real concern.”

    And it should be yours as well, unless you actually WANT to see another war break out. Peace between Egypt and Israel has been beneficial for both countries and the region, as well as the UK. Only the most deranged and obsessive Israel hater would want to see it end.

  • Richard Manns

    @ victor jara

    Your definition is wrong, or at best, horribly incomplete and missing the central tenet of Islamism, which is to impose a highly proscriptive and theocratic regime supposedly in emulation of a bygone Golden Age. Rejection of outside influence predicates on that central point, not as an axiom as of itself.

    @ Erica Blair

    Given the Muslim Brotherhood’s epic failure to even leap onto the band-wagon, I can’t see they’ll be that big in the post-Mubarak era (assuming there will be one). If Egyptians as a whole do not perceive a difference, I’m pretty sure they’ll learn one. ElBaradei is unlikely to chop your hands off, for a start.

  • Erica Blair

    Except the Egyptians don’t see themselves as split between secularists and Islamists. Bright is urging a continuation of divide and rule.

    What is certain is that any democratic government in Egypt will be less friendly to Israel, which is Martin ‘Hasbara’ Bright’s real concern.

  • victor jara 67

    @Richard Manns
    I was specifically referring to political Islam and its rise over the last decade.

    Take for example Hamas. Its rise has been due to the corruption within the PA and Fatah and the vacuum left by a lack of a settlement to the I/P conflict. In Gaza they now represent a strain of Palestinian nationalism.

  • Richard Manns

    @ victor jara

    That’s not the common definition of Islamism. You are misinformed. Were your definition to be correct, Nasser would be an Islamist, which rather illustrates the absurdity of your self-penned definition.

    Your description instead lumps Arab Nationalism with Islamism, ideologies that are historically very opposed. It is you who lumps disparate groups together, not the “right-wing media”.

  • victor jara 67

    Islamism defines itself as being against western involvement and interference in Arab/Islamic countries. Its rise is the result of such interference.

    It is a mistake to lump all Islamists and in this case the Muslim brotherhood as extremist Jihadis. Within the organization there is a wide spectrum of views from the extreme to the moderate. It is ill informed propogandists in the right wing media who continue to misinform and lump them as an homogenous group.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here