Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Egyptian Fish

Ongoing protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square have seen Egypt's Vice-President, the odious Omar Suleiman threaten or warn of (depending on one's ideological read) a coup d'etat if protesters are not willing to accept the Mubarak regime's timeline for transition from power.  There are questions as to whether the regime is willing to honor this deal that it is advancing, or is simply trying to buy time in order to further advance it's organs of repression and quell the protests indefinitely.

The American response meanwhile, has been to dither as the White House has claimed to support the Democratic movement in Egypt while failing to pull funding from the regime.  This despite a large percentage of Americans supporting Egyptians right to self-determination.  This clinging to the old power order, represents the sort of cynical policy long-advanced by the likes of Henry Kissinger, and demonstrates, as Noam Chomsky notes not so much a fear of radical Islam, but a fear of independence for Egyptians, as doing so may undermine American hegemony.  Indeed, as Chomsky notes, the United States has long backed some of the vilest regimes in region, and particularly those that have advanced Islamic fundamentalism in the region as a means of retaining American control:

A familiar example is Saudi Arabia, the ideological centre of radical Islam (and of Islamic terror). Another in a long list is Zia ul-Haq, the most brutal of Pakistan's dictators and President Reagan's favorite, who carried out a programme of radical Islamisation (with Saudi funding).

This in itself may be a null argument.  As I mentioned in my last post on Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, which by dint of it's organization, seems most likely to seize the reigns of power in Egypt in the event of a power vacuum, does not seem to be the fundamentalist group it is made out to be.  While the occasional (though increasingly rare) rhetoric of the group may be worrisome to some Israelis, it remains largely a moderate organization.  A recent interview with several of the group's leaders in the Guardian seemed to indicate that though the group refuses to negotiate with the Mubarak regime (which has outlawed it), the main thrust of the Brotherhood seems to be basic human rights.  Further, there is a real push towards pluralism in the group's position:

"If we can build a wide coalition instead, this would be good," Erian says. "This is our strategy for many reasons: not to frighten others, inside or outside, and also because this is a country destroyed, destroyed by Mubarak and his family – why would the rebuilding task be only for us? It's not our task alone, it's the job of all Egyptians." He adds: "The Muslim Brothers are a special case because we are not seeking power through violent or military means like other Islamic organisations that might be violent. We are a peaceful organisation; we work according to the constitution and the law."

As I have previously noted, the Muslim Brotherhood seems to understand quite fully the implications of Egypt's dependence on the outside world.  Further, the group does not appear to be fundamentalist in any way and instead to be a reasoned a pluralistic body that uses Muslim nationalism as it's fulcrum.  This makes it not particularly different from say, the moderately Islamic Justice and Development (AK) Party in Turkey.

As protests continue, and despite the government's best efforts at repression, Egyptian self-determination is, in many ways, beginning to take on the whiff of the inevitable.  The question has increasingly become, to use an old joke, how much longer will the Mubarak regime play the part of the Egyptian fish: living in De Nile (denial)?

No comments: