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  • The rise of ‘new pan-Arabism’ and a rejection of Sharia

    by Sunny
    15th February, 2011 at 10:40 am    

    I think this article at al-Jazeera captures some pretty big issues in three paragraphs

    The Egyptian revolution, itself influenced by the Tunisian uprising, has resurrected a new sense of pan-Arabism based on the struggle for social justice and freedom. The overwhelming support for the Egyptian revolutionaries across the Arab world reflects a sense of unity in the rejection of tyrannical, or at least authoritarian, leaders, corruption and the rule of a small financial and political elite.

    Arab protests in solidarity with the Egyptian people also suggest that there is a strong yearning for the revival of Egypt as a pan-Arab unifier and leader. Photographs of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the former Egyptian president, have been raised in Cairo and across Arab capitals by people who were not even alive when Nasser died in 1970. The scenes are reminiscent of those that swept Arab streets in the 1950s and 1960s.

    But this is not an exact replica of the pan-Arab nationalism of those days. Then, pan-Arabism was a direct response to Western domination and the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel. Today, it is a reaction to the absence of democratic freedoms and the inequitable distribution of wealth across the Arab world.

    It cannot be ignored that the absence of democratic freedoms across the Middle East was usually a direct result of US intervention; with Israel helping (in the case of Egypt) to maintain that status quo.

    It also cannot be ignored that the resulting feudal system, underpinned by capitalism without the welfare state, has fanned resentment against rich ruling elites.

    But whats more interesting to me, and worth emphasising here, is that the new pan-Arabism is also a rejection of the Islamist parties that were feared as the only alternative.

    It has long been pointed out that while surveys indicated relatively high levels of demands for more sharia law (not necessarily Saudi Arabia style), they also indicated even higher percentages of people demanding more democracy and human rights in their countries. (The two aren’t necessarily incompatible, depending on how you interpret Sharia).

    The point I’m trying to make is that the argument by Islamists and Islamophobes - that Muslims across the Middle East only want sharia and a Caliphate - has been pretty convincingly destroyed.

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    1. Shamit — on 15th February, 2011 at 12:07 pm  

      “(The two aren’t necessarily incompatible, depending on how you interpret Sharia).”

      There is no concept of democracy within Sharia as there is consensus across all teachings of Islam that Sharia is God’s will and therefore it cannot be compatible with democracy.

      On the other points the article is spot on - and interestingly no one really talked about the protests in Gaza which were brutally supressed by Hamas - the child of Iran.

      If we do have democracies in the Middle East - peace would come because people want to get on with their lives and not strive for ideological and religious impossibilities.

    2. boyo — on 15th February, 2011 at 12:29 pm  

      Well put. Vis the sharia thing, if the people vote freely and fairly for that kind of legal system then thatis a matter for them.

      The key thing is they are allowed to continue voting freely, fairly and regularly - and if need be against sharia at some point in the future. A non-Islamist (like Turkey?) constitution might do the trick?

    3. Sarah AB — on 15th February, 2011 at 12:37 pm  

      I agree, boyo.

      I am attracted to the views outlined in the post yet am not sure how they square with the poll that asserted that 84% of Egyptians think the death penalty should be imposed for apostasty.

      It is of course possible that some Egyptians think that in princple such a sentence would be correct yet not in practice vote for a party with that agenda - or that there is something flawed about the poll’s methodology.

    4. jamal — on 15th February, 2011 at 1:08 pm  

      This article does not claim political islam is dead at all it is making a claim of arab nationalism being resurrected. Which i say died in the 70′s it’s been tried and tested and it failed.

      If the people on the ground are actually asked for their views you will find support for political islam is rather high.

      “In Egypt, Islam’s role in politics was seen favorably by an overwhelming 85%-to-2% margin among Muslims.”

      How representative is this poll it’s hard to say, i presume it was taken in the main cities and not taken in outer villages where the percentages may have been pushed even higher.

    5. Refresh — on 15th February, 2011 at 2:25 pm  

      There is a timely article by Gary Younge today:

      ‘The west can no longer claim to be an honest broker in the search for peaceEgypt proved that our leaders see freedom as a question of strategy, not principle’

      Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with Gary, I am wary of the reaction and onward developments here in the West. I am pessimistic about rehabilitation of western policy as history tells us when great powers collide then all bets are off. Before all this we had the Cold War, and mideast could not be lost to the Soviets. And very soon the mideast cannot be seen to be tilting towards China.

      Self-determination for muslim countries was labelled as ‘islamist’ (whatever that is) by one of PP’s very own admin. But that is what its about. By the people for the people. And yet, when their ‘selected hard man’ does the bidding of his masters it is the people who are further castigated. For not being democratic, for not wanting freedom, for being violent, basically for being poor. It is a circle they can only break out of by making their own decisions. Then at least they can be bombed for their own actions rather than for the consequences of someone else’s long game.

      India, China, Brazil are the obvious ones to have emulated. But its too late. In India’s case it was better that it was a friend of the Soviets. So the path forward for the middle east is reasonably well-mapped. The people need to look hard at Latin America.

      The so-called ‘islamic’ leadership has not served the people well. It became a tool to mobilise people to go fight in places it had no business in, based on dodgy religious edicts. Yes it may have meant the Soviets were not bankrupted, and would still be in place, but at least we wouldn’t have this sickening sight of a whole region being constantly buzzed by drones above with B52s like vultures above them.

    6. Kismet Hardy — on 15th February, 2011 at 3:28 pm  

      The western powers operate on the principle of fear thy enemy, and that enemy changes every couple of decades: fascism, communism, Islam. Another decade and Islamaphobia will be replaced by something else. Aliens I hope

    7. Ravi Naik — on 15th February, 2011 at 3:42 pm  

      Vis the sharia thing, if the people vote freely and fairly for that kind of legal system then thatis a matter for them.

      When did you vote for our current legal system, Boyo? Ah yes, you didn’t - and why is that?

      The fallacy of your argument, in my view, is to equate democracy with the will of the majority. Democracy should be more than that - a true democracy safeguards the rights of each and every citizen against the tyranny of the majority. And the only way to achieve that is through a secular system. As Shamit pointed out, the mere premise of Shariah Law violates that.

      What Islamic countries need is an enlightenment period or something like the reformation, which prompted separation between religion and state.

    8. Nadeem — on 15th February, 2011 at 3:52 pm  

      Kismet Hardy

      I think few would argue that the fear of Soviet Socialism dissipated following the USSR adopting a policy of Glasnost during the late 1980s. (Culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989)

      The western fear of Islam has largely manifested after 9/11/2001.

      Between these two periods of time did the ‘western powers’ fall and crumble because they had no enemy to fear?

      Or was it fear of Seattle Grunge, and later Britpop that kept the western powers going?

    9. Niels Christensen — on 15th February, 2011 at 4:08 pm  

      “It also cannot be ignored that the resulting feudal system, underpinned by capitalism without the welfare state, has fanned resentment against rich ruling elites”
      It’s not a ‘resulting feudal’ system, created by the americans, Sunny, most of Egypt has been a feudal system in centuries. And In fact the Nasser period was not unlike India, big state factories, a an economy structured by the state.
      “Before all this we had the Cold War, and mideast could not be lost to the Soviets.”
      Now Iraq and Syria had the russians as their helper, and Nassers Egypt
      was a so called ‘independent’ country, which hold meetings with Nehru India and Tito’s Yugoslavia.
      Egypt’s leaning onto USA started in the Saddam period.

      I wont defend USA politics in the the middle east since the cold war ended ( before that it was another complicated matter) but it’s to easy
      to put the blame on USA, and it’s not true. Thereby you don’t allow the arab countries to have their own history, and their own choices also.
      What characterize most of the arab countries is that they are basically ‘client’ societies, a heritage from the ottoman period.
      If you have read the UN reports on the arab societies, then you will have noticed, that the most serious problem is the lack of a civilian society, but of course as Italy shows a strong civilian society isn’t a guaranty against clientelism.

    10. Refresh — on 15th February, 2011 at 4:28 pm  

      You make an interesting point about the Ottoman heritage. The region had no experience of the nation state. That was imposed along the nearest lines that could define the various western interests identified after the end of WW1. And that war itself made everyone realise the value of oil.

      These lines were either geographic or demographic. You might want to call them tribal, with various tribal leaders given the task to controlling the natives.

      And when it comes to drawing lines, politically, its always an astute move to make them so you can always find a reason and an excuse to march in as interests dictate.

      The Suez Crisis is an obvious example.

    11. LibertyPhile — on 15th February, 2011 at 6:38 pm  

      Perhaps some light can be thrown on the issue of sharia in Muslim societies, and in particular countries like Egypt, if someone could explain the results of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey 2010


      Their recent research in seven Muslim majority countries (including Egypt) shows that a majority of Muslims want “stoning for adultery”, “amputation or whipping for theft”, and “death for apostasy”!

      And around a half want gender segregation in the workplace.

      See summary here:

      As far as I can tell Pew go about their research in professional manner and there is no reason to doubt the quality of their work. Unlike some researchers on these issues they explain the technical basis of their surveys.

      This is what they found!

    12. dave bones — on 15th February, 2011 at 7:03 pm  

      Yup. I was arguing this the other day. There are plenty of things about legality within a majority Islamic culture that I would disagree with, but as a total outsider it looks to me like the finger wagging justification for bits of random bodies spread everywhere have done a huge amount against the concept of an Islamic caliphate in the middle east, and an international awareness means people will accept dictatorships less. Nothing is certain eh but rightwingers like Blair shaking their jihadi ragdolls are seeming more and more dated.

      I think only serious instability like what happened in Afghanistan combined with lots of money from Saudi Wahhabis would stand any chance of Blairs nightmares coming true.

    13. fugstar — on 15th February, 2011 at 7:12 pm  

      The reductionist view of sharia is slightly boring. Egypt is blessed with a lot of hearty social and spiritual intellects. Cant wait for them to start blossoming in the space. Its not a case of Iraq, where Saddam had killed many of the scholars of consequence (Baqir al Sadr), or Afghanistan.

      Rise of panarabism/rejection of sharia?
      I doubt that things are so binary, and they need not be, but I appreciate how people such as yourself working with imperial and epistemicidal forces have to reterritorialise the temporary autonomous zone.

      The people will create their own modernity, apart from the western apitude and bruised mislamism 1.0. I just hope they arent divided into an annihilationary relationship like in algeria and iran before them.

      Muslim Christian brotherhood was aptly demonstrated over the past weeks, lets hope it extends to the bahais in the New Order.

      [Arguably a lot of apparent islamist was panarabism with religious frosting anyway]

    14. Niels Christensen — on 15th February, 2011 at 8:33 pm  

      I’m absolut no specialist in middle east history, although I out of curiosity
      have read a few of the standard works on arab and ottoman history lately (sometimes it’s help to have an old master in history ). I just think it’s to easy to dismiss the western powers redrawing of the borders after the first world war. The problem is that the even in the ottoman period there seldom was a long period of stability in the inner structure of what we now know as Arabia. It’s impossible to seriously discuss the problems of the middle east without taking the ottoman heritage into account.
      And another little ‘thing’ the political parties of both Ben Ali and Mubarak was regarded as social democratic parties and was a member of the socialist international just as Labour (until recently at least !).
      You have to think that it’s just in the last 20 years or less that the autocratic states with state powered economics in developing countries has had a really bad press. Before that, seen in the light of eastern europe it was rather ‘normal’.

    15. Refresh — on 16th February, 2011 at 1:41 am  


      I agree that the heritage is often overlooked and I suspect very much underplayed in the region, probably due to the ‘nationalistic’ wars against the turks (a la Lawrence) and the subsequent so-called pan-arabism.

      I think it was a most dreadful mistake to take the lead of Peter O’Toole by the blacked-up Alec Guiness and Omar Sharif. Its been a truly horrific price, and they are still paying it.

      As far as the thread subject is concerned, it is really a whole new game that is being played. It is the young who are taking on all and sundry, not for any sense of religious duty or deference, but the dawning that the future that other parts of the world are carving out for themselves would be denied to their generation as it was their parents’. And there will come a point where there will be no catching up.

      That is what is so intolerable.

      China is moving ahead as it should be, India, Brazil. And Latin America too. Who would have thought that was possible after Reagan, Negraponte, the death squads, Oliver North, Irangate and so on. It is possible.

      That is what is so encouraging, they have only this one chance. And if it fails, there will be nothing but darkness. That is being buried alive.

      So no more talk of ‘islamism’ and the like. It has nothing to do with it. And if it did it was no more than yet another attempt to move out of the political morass that is the middle east.

      As for revolutions, we need one right here in support of their revolution. Without that, I am afraid there will be the usual forces who will find a way of buggering it all up for everyone but themselves.

    16. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 12:12 pm  

      A far more convincing article (unfortunately only in French) on exactly the same issue, that reaches similar conclusions:

      [H/T Pierre Grenouille]

      Greetings from revolutionary Egypt!


    17. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 12:15 pm  

      More good stuff (in English), here:

    18. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 12:16 pm  

      And (at last!) a translation of Roy’s fantastically influential Le Monde article (linked, my first post):

      “Post Islamist Revolution”- Oliver Roy

    19. boyo — on 16th February, 2011 at 12:59 pm  

      Thanks Abu, really enlightening.

    20. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 1:35 pm  

      Cheers, Boyo!

      Incidentally, Olivier Roy first published his thesis that political Islam (Islamism) was a dead-duck in the Arabic and Persian speaking worlds (He is a scholar of Persian, incidentally) in 1994!

      “L’echec d’Islamisme”

    21. douglas clark — on 16th February, 2011 at 1:55 pm  


      There is much to admire in Olivier Roy’s article. It is fascinating that people come together through Twitter, etc, when political parties are otherwise banned! We are moving into a different form of politics, where ideas are not mediated.

      Thanks for the links.

      Just to add, my respect for al-Jazeeras’ commitment to standards and bravery in news reporting. That is taking it to the man!

      I have severe doubts about MSM, but these folk stood up to the plate.

    22. damon — on 16th February, 2011 at 2:00 pm  

      It will be a while before the unemployed notice any affects of this new found freedom though I guesss.
      Hundreds of Tunisians voted with their feet and headed to Italy.

      On Friday afternoon alone four boats crowded with a total of some 300 Tunisians reached Lampedusa, an island that is closer to northern Africa than it is to the Italian mainland. Earlier in the day, the U.N. refugee agency said some 1,600 Tunisians had landed in Italy since Jan. 16, with half of them coming in the last few days.

    23. Niels Christensen — on 16th February, 2011 at 3:17 pm  

      #Damon, it’s gonna take many years before all those young men - and women will find work. So what’s their option ? The arab world is mismanaged, hopefully not behind repair. But as Roy concludes : ‘In the Arab world, demands for democracy will therefore depend on how deeply rooted the regimes’ patronage is in social networks. There is an interesting anthropological question here. Is the demand for democracy capable of surpassing the obstacles posed by complex networks of allegiances and membership in national networks (such as armed forces, tribes, political patrons, etc)?’


    24. Kismet Hardy — on 16th February, 2011 at 4:07 pm  

      nadeem, funny putdown. But the anti-muslim seed was planted in the first iraq war when big bush realised people were getting bored of the communist threat. You watch, after egypt, muslim nations will slowly start sorting their own shit out and in ten years time, it’ll be time for a new enemy. the chinese.

      And no, of course I don’t have a girlfriend or a life but I’m right

    25. Trofim — on 16th February, 2011 at 4:38 pm  

      I’ve never been clear exactly what it means to be an Arab, as a category. Are Arabs regarded as an ethnic group, or race, even, distinct from europeans and other africans, is being an Arab simply belonging to a cultural category? And Berbers - how different are Berbers from Arabs?

    26. Jai — on 16th February, 2011 at 4:45 pm  

      in ten years time, it’ll be time for a new enemy. the chinese.


      As for some remarks about Islam and democracy by other commenters earlier on this thread: It’s worth bearing in mind that the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country is Indonesia, and it’s a democracy.

    27. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:27 pm  


      Arab identity is a classic case of cultural identity; rather than directly an ethnically-based identity.

      Crudely put, an Arab is someone who shares a number of cultural practices (principally, but not only, the Arabic language in one of its many dialects and also its “high”/literary form of Modern Standard Arabic) with other people who also self-identify as Arabs.

      Equally (as is most often the case), an individual who self-identifies as an Arab may also have multiple self-identifiers aside from describing him/herself as an Arab. Thus a Sudanese from the north of Sudan may describe themselves as an Arab, a Black African and a number of other markers by which to identify themselves.

      These self-descriptions do not have clear boundaries (however, this does not render them meaningless) and the notion of “being an Arab” is more a family of resemblances than any one thing (although, again, Arabic language use is a pivotal aspect).

      Berbers are not strictly Arabs (although no Arab truly is if such purism is wanted) - although their cultures have been distinctly Arabised and many are at least bilingual.

      Arabs are not a homogeneous group. Inspection of Arabic dialects sometimes reveals the local nexuses that have culminated in present self-identities. It has been suggested, for example, that one explanation for the unique, distinctive qualities of Egyptian dialect Arabic may be as a result of the influence of Coptic (a member of the same Semitic languages as Arabic) - itself the descendent of the Ancient Egyptian language.

    28. boyo — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:28 pm  

      “But the anti-muslim seed was planted in the first iraq war when big bush realised people were getting bored of the communist threat.”

      funny, i thought it was invasion/ liberation of kuwait

    29. boyo — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:29 pm  

      arabs are probably like anglo-saxons…. and chinese

    30. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:35 pm  

      Oliver Roy argued as early as 1994 that political Islam (Islamism) had lost much popular support and traction as a vehicle of anything other than the most transitory political opposition.

      Countering this, some have pointed to the upsurge in jihadi violence and terror since 1994, especially in the early Noughties.

      One might suggest that as the impetus of political Islam began to fail, as it began to loose traction amongst its so-called natural constituencies, the Street, in the Islamosphere (especially in the Arabic-speaking world and Iran), its adherents turned to violence in compensation for their growing lack of influence via persuasion.

      This, in its turn, simply speeded up the process of Islamism’s rejection by the Street - this, together with the experience of Islamist rule (Iran or Sudan).

      Today Islamism is a spent force. Most analysts predict that stripped of its cachet as a highly organised oppositional voice to the regime in Egypt (for example), the MB will do very badly in free and fair elections with the rise of other, more secularist, parties that themselves vouch for social and political reform.

    31. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:36 pm  


      In fact, when you think about it, Arabs are like *most peoples*!!!

    32. Shamit — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:43 pm  

      “But the anti-muslim seed was planted in the first iraq war when big bush realised people were getting bored of the communist threat.”

      wow - that is one of the most idiotic comment I ever heard.

      Gulf war 1 was started by Saddam and finished by a coalition of forces which included Saudi Arabia, Jordan etc etc.

      Secondly, George HW Bush was the first President in recent times to block armament sale to Israel for not complying with what then PM Rabin agreed on settlements etc.

      So trying to present George HW Bush as some sort of Muslim hater is bollocks.


      On those who think we have to create China as an enemy - well China may not be an enemy but China is not a stabilising force for World security or economy.

      Vast state run enterprises subsidised by the state are capturing markets by hurting the poorest of poor people. For example, the biggest Ship breaking yard in the world was based in Chittagong in Bangladesh which was one of the biggest industries for the area.

      Now, that is almost dying out because Chinese military run enterprise subsidised heavily by the State are undercutting the prices and literally taking food out of some of the poorest people on earth. And this is the case in many parts of the world.

      This is a country which is happy to give arms to Zimbabwe - and those who say the West did it too - two wrongs don’t make a right.

      Finally, when you compare China with the US, or the UK - on human rights and social justice China comes far far far lower in the league tables.

      And if you think the rich poor divide is bad in the West - go and have a look in China or India - the two supposed major economic powers.

      China may have surpassed Japan as the second largest economy in the world in dollar terms - but the quality of life of an average Japanese person is much much much better than that of an average Chinese person.

      And sooner or later despite the brainwashing and patriotic chest beating like America - the Chinese Army had to put down series of rebellions in various parts of the country - something you would not see in the United States.

      So, China may not be an enemy but it is definitely not our friend either - And China supports rogue states such as N. Korea and Pakistan materially as well as with weapons including nuclear technology.

      China and the West are not going to go to war - Chinese current leadership are too smart for that and so are we. But I would predict that there would be uprising against the Communist regime soon - and the privates and the captains who command the tanks might not be so willing to fire upon fellow citizens.

      Deng Xiaoping is dead and there is no supreme leader and the next guy taking over from Hu Jintao comes from a different generation than even Jiang Zemin or Jintao.

      China would have its second peaceful transition of power in 2012 but the key question would be what happens after 2014 when Jintao would step down as the Chairman of the Military Council - which by the way is the most powerful position in China.

      The West needs China and China needs the West - and so no I don’t think they would be enemies but it would be stupid to lower our guard against Chinese espionage or aggressive posturing.

    33. Refresh — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:44 pm  


      I’d go further back than that. I have a firmly imprinted interview in my mind from 1985 when there was talk of turning weapons into ploughshares (post Glasnost). This Tory MP was adamant that we will need our nuclear weapons still, instead of pointing them at St Petersburg and Moscow, they will now be trained on the middle east which was ‘full of despots and dictators’, with presumably an unruly populations.

    34. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:44 pm  


      I agree with you about al-J - to an extent. Their coverage, in terms of reportage, was excellent (at least on the English-language broadcasts). However, their editorialising was sometimes flaky.

      Unfortunately, their Arabic-language broadcasts were mediated by al-J’s commitment editorially to towing the line of the Muslim Brotherhood, with virtually every interview on the streets of Cairo and Alex being with MB members and nearly every talking head in their studios being either a known MB member or supporter.

      Guess what? MB were a paper-tiger from the first Friday of the Revolution onwards - indeed, I witnessed some very angry confrontations with MB on the part of demonstrators pissed off with MB’s repeated attempts to hijack the demonstrations.

    35. Shamit — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:48 pm  

      “Today Islamism is a spent force.”

      I agree with that statement with a caveat - that like the proponents of Hindutva and the idiotic loonies of the Midwest and South in America - there would be nutters who do influence a lot of people.

      the bottom line is that human urge for freedom has always trumped any ideology - be it the idiotic left right or the religious lunatics.

      I remain very very optimistic. Since I was born in the 70s the world is a far better place today than it was then - and it would be even better a decade from now despite all the challenges.

      Technology is playing a key part in highlighting the common bonds of humanity more than their difference.

    36. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:49 pm  

      I am sympathetic with Shamit’s denunciation of China. I just spent six months there, amidst the social carnage that is their “new economics” - a more corrupt, ruthlessly ruled, unpleasant place I cannot think of (and I have spent over a decade living in some of the nastiest places on Earth - I don’t know why either, if you are asking).

      However, the people of China are some of the kindest, warmest-hearted and generous people I have ever met - and I shall miss them. They deserve so much better.

    37. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:53 pm  


      That Tory MP was not alone. I recall a rather off-duty and seriously heavy-hitting Liberal Democrat politician of the same era arguing that, with the end of the Cold War and Glasnost, the “new enemy” was going to be located in the Islamosphere, in particular the Middle East.

    38. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:54 pm  

      I am not sure that there is an essential “human urge” in any direction. I think the desire to be free has more to do with plain good sense (as well as ordinary self-preservation) on many levels.

    39. Trofim — on 16th February, 2011 at 5:56 pm  

      AbuF @ 27:

      Thanks for that succinct explanation. Perhaps you ought to put in Wikipedia if it isn’t there already. I’ve always suspected it was a less-than-clear-cut thing.

    40. KB Player — on 16th February, 2011 at 8:00 pm  

      Interesting thread. When I see David Cameron or William Hague making some statement about Egypt, I assume they may as well be manicuring their nails, for all the affect their statements will have on what’s happening there. The USA has traction there for good or ill via its aid and long relationship with Mubarak, but has Britain and Europe any influence at all?

    41. AbuF — on 16th February, 2011 at 9:58 pm  

      Good point, KB Player.

      However, the US relationship with Egypt has definitely been strained and damaged by the failure of the Obama Administration to come out earlier in favour of the anti-Mubarak camp. In Egypt, the equivocation of the US is being read as pure opportunism and by some as signal of a US interest in seeing Mubarak survive.

      The EU has not done itself any favours with its own initially lukewarm response to the mounting opposition which led to the overthrow of Mubarak. The German Defense Minister’s remark that the wave of democratic revolutions spreading across the Arab world and Iran was an “infection” won him few friends in the region.

      Incidentally, the revolt is catching fire in Bahrain as I speak - and in a new twist has spread beyond the Arab and Muslim worlds: Ugandan opposition are promising similar opposition should their very own two decades old president choose to rig the up-coming elections (as he has done every time to date).

    42. joe90 — on 17th February, 2011 at 12:44 am  

      some hilarious comments on here talk about whitewashing the facts on the ground.

      After we had the pleasure of reagan, bush I & II, clinton, major, thatcher and blair governments supporting dictatorships/monarchs from morocco to saudi arabia for past several decades. The neo con fanatics commentary on here expecting the oppressed of the arab world to forget and thank them for all the wars all the dead civilians and all the interference.

      The elections in egypt projected for sept 2011 if free and fair will be interesting indicator of which direction the middle east countries will be going.

      I say free and fair because and that is a huge IF, America is not going to let go of a state they have been controlling for over 30 years that easily.

    43. Shamit — on 17th February, 2011 at 12:53 am  

      Yeah the closet Islamist and Anjem Follower has got his talking points now.

      As usual there is nothing substantial from Joe90 save idiotic insults and massive simplification of complex issues but one has to have a brain to make an argument after all.

      Like the dictatorships, these revolutions have proven that the Arab masses have no time for those who hijack Islam and use it to oppress people - so the kind you respect Hook, the Taliban and Anjem are also persona non grata as much as Mubarak and Ahmedinajad and Hamas.

      Did you read about the protests in Gaza against Hamas - ooops. So Iguess all your bets are on hezbollah - I think even the Lebanese people are getting tired of that lot too.

    44. joe90 — on 17th February, 2011 at 2:17 am  

      I wouldn’t call your defence of war criminal like george bush as bringing anything substantial or clever to the table don’t kid yourself.

      Seeing as you are firmly in the neo con camp you know very well if countries in the region are given free choice, they will vote on mass for parties in islamic clothing. In 2 examples turkey and algeria when such parties who claimed to be islamic won the vote and the military intervened on both occasions violently in the case of algeria.

      funny you must have missed the poll that was posted several times on this thread which indicated that muslims surprise surprise wanted islamic politics.

      you have another chance to refute it go ahead knock yourself out.

      Sadly the region will not be allowed to decide its destiny so easily, with hilary clinton and her government like a pack of wolves ready to pounce and turn the tide in their favour, pity they where not so enthusiastic to give the people the cheap slogans of freedom for last several decades where was they??????

    45. joe90 — on 17th February, 2011 at 2:20 am  

      I wouldn’t call your defence of war criminal like george bush as bringing anything substantial or clever to the table don’t kid yourself.

      Seeing as you are firmly in the neo con camp you know very well if countries in the region are given free choice, they will vote on mass for parties in islamic clothing. In 2 examples turkey and algeria when such parties who claimed to be islamic won the vote and the military intervened on both occasions violently in the case of algeria.

      funny you must have missed the poll that was posted several times on this thread which indicated that muslims surprise surprise wanted islamic politics.

      you have another chance to refute it go ahead knock yourself out.

      Sadly the region will not be allowed to decide its destiny so easily, with hilary clinton and her government like a pack of wolves ready to pounce and turn the tide in their favour, pity they where not so enthusiastic to give the people the cheap slogans of freedom for last several decades where was they??????
      hmmm i wonder

    46. Sunny — on 17th February, 2011 at 3:36 am  

      When I said Democracy and Shariah aren’t necessarily incompatible - I don’t mean having both systems co-exist.

      What I mean is that some aspects of sharia (halal food, praying, sorting out civil disputes, Muslim marriages) can be inclusive in a democracy.

    47. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2011 at 5:09 am  


      So, what if one of these issues has a broader human rights dimension? Y’know, civil disputes or muslim marriages. What would you do then?

      It seems to me that all religious courts should be seen as roughly equivalent to dispute resolution services.

      They should have no traction on even the most minor court in the land.

      Is it not the case that anyone can go for dispute resolution? If both parties agree? In other words it is essential but, in some cases, ultimately trivial?

      Is it not also the case that, where that fails, they can go to law?

      I think they should be able to do so. Go to law. And that has to be about ECHR stuff, not biased interpretations of gender or the like.

      Just asking Sunny.

    48. Kismet Hardy — on 17th February, 2011 at 6:22 am  

      If religion were to have an absolute say in law it would be illegal not to believe in magic, santa claus would be banned and angels with wings and sermons would take his place, and anyone caught studying descartes would be shot

    49. AbuF — on 17th February, 2011 at 9:01 am  

      I am not sure why “anybody caught studying Descartes would be shot” - Rene was an intensely religious individual and much of his philosophy makes little sense without taking this into account.

      I think it best to ignore the Islamist, joe90. After all, most of the Arab and Persian world are ignoring his fellows nowadays. He’s just sooooooo last century.

    50. Nadeem — on 17th February, 2011 at 9:33 am  


      Very disappointing. Anyone that holds up the democratically elected Indonesian government as worthy of praise is either ignorant or deluded:

    51. Kismet Hardy — on 17th February, 2011 at 10:22 am  

      abu, I was making a piss-poor pun on doubt. Plus I can’t spell nietszche

    52. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2011 at 10:50 am  

      Kismet @ 48,

      Well, I got the point.

      AbuF has some interesting things to say, but, well just, but.

      There is a huge hinterland of AbuFness that needs to be cleared up, seems to me.

      Now he is your actual factual on the street revolutionary pushing the nerds of the Muslim Brotherhood off the streets.

      I think AbuF has some explaining to do.

      Your mileage may vary.

      Whaddya gotta say AbuF?

    53. jamal — on 17th February, 2011 at 12:03 pm  


      you can ignore them if you want but they are the reality on the ground.

      the al nahda party in tunisia and mb in egypt have massive support having been locked up for 30 years in the prisons of egypt or exiled outside the country, now they no longer need to hide from the secret police.

      This region will go under change in which direction time will tell.

    54. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2011 at 12:23 pm  

      Oops, then we get Jamal with his knickers in a twist.

      This region will go under change in which direction time will tell.

      You got any opinion which direction it ought to take?

    55. dmra — on 17th February, 2011 at 12:23 pm  

      personally I have no problem with Islamist parties winning elections just so long as they are willing to keep on holding them once they win and are prepared to lose. If not you simply swap one lot of dictators for another.

    56. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2011 at 12:26 pm  


      Fair comment. I agree.

    57. AbuF — on 17th February, 2011 at 2:21 pm  

      Jamal - I am “on the ground”. I live in Cairo. Let me assure you MB are not as popular as the ELM and fellow Islamists in UK might want.

    58. Refresh — on 17th February, 2011 at 6:41 pm  

      I wish this could have been a more mature dialogue, without the personal animosity.

      In all times and in all places peoples seek systems of self-governance which serves their society. That is it. Nothing else.

      And the presumption that the precocious West have it right and therefore it must be exported wholesale is evidently garbage. What we have now was set in train only 30 years ago. And all the associated problems have yet to be realised, so far only a few of them have been exposed. The neo-liberal economy, consumerism and its social impact is what I have in mind. It is for others to study what we have and take what is good and discard the rest. Treat it all as experimental.

      Pity the nation that buys it wholesale.

    59. jamal — on 17th February, 2011 at 6:45 pm  


      that’s great your in cairo but so are other commentators who contradict what you say so it depends on whose views you choose to believe, by the way who is elm?

      Personally the profile of mb will be raised even more because they don’t have to hide their work from the Mukhabarat or face prospect of jail just for going to morning prayers.

    60. Arif — on 17th February, 2011 at 10:07 pm  

      We are all capable of double-think and are all attracted to simplifications that make things seem easier to deal with. It is part of being human.

      One day X sees the cost, corruption, delays, bureaucracy, arrogance and insensitivity of a secular court and says I’d prefer sharia.

      Another day X sees a blatant patriarchal decision based on prejudice, carried out sadistically, and says the bigots in robes are the ones who should be arrested.

      “Now, now, you mustn’t say that”
      “Why not?”
      “Because they are your protectors”

      Some element of truth in it, maybe, but also massive grotesque irony. And while we look for alternatives we are in danger of being sold dud dreams. And those with a gift for power politics can set one dreamer against another to profit from the resulting nightmare.

      Only the humble refuse to oppress. And so they are the easiest to oppress. And so we look to protectors, legitimising and empowering potential oppressors. That’s my simplification for today!

    61. Abu F — on 18th February, 2011 at 1:17 am  


      I think you need to understand a few things about MB that you seem to be missing.

      Set aside their Islamist agenda and look long and hard at their track-record and the reasons for their appeal in Egypt in the past.

      (1) Track-record: MB have failed to deliver a single political pledge to date.

      They failed to have in place any coherent strategy for the upsurge in popular discontent that led directly to the recent Revolution here in Egypt.

      They were caught wrong-footed by both the trajectory of the struggle (for a liberal, more-or-less secular democracy), and its character (quite leaderless and driven by the Street’s demands for change).

      They were hamstrung by their inability to link the struggle to remove Mubarak to the demands for a modern, progressive Egypt (quite impossible for MB to contemplate given their ideological-theological commitments).

      They were handicapped by the fact that the most organised elements of the struggle were young, middle-class and literate, as well as secular (or at least leant towards secularist solutions to the crises). MB’s support base are not amongst this social strata. It is to be recalled that the majority of Egyptians are under 30 years old.

      MB have systematically alienated themselves (and for some time) from the strong working class movement in Egypt and increasingly the peasantry too by their swing over the last few years towards a liberal economic policy that mirrored the Mubarak policies of denationalisation of base industries and the erosion of peasant rights (leading in the Delta, once one of their strongholds, to the MB effectively supporting the mass eviction of rent-owing peasants from the land).

      (2) The appeal in the past of MB was that they provided a relatively corruption-lite alternative social security net for the Egyptian poor. One of the definite promises of the Revolution is that the state will develop mechanisms that will eventually and hopefully undermine the need for reliance on such private charitable mechanisms to provision social security (health care, in particular) for the urban and rural poor. This will undermine the role of MB (as I have already pointed out they have been undermining their own status for some time by representing themselves as a conservative party of liberal economic policies that do not match the interests of the broad masses of working people in Egypt). The very necessary and long overdue education reforms that are also being called for will also undercut MB work in this field - although it has to be said that MB have failed to deliver in this field, precisely because their demand that all education be effectively madrassa based and Qur’anic studies orientated made their education charity work less than appealing to many who wanted an education for more prosaic ends.

      In the political field, MB stood as a form of registering one’s disgruntlement and opposition to the old regime. Most people voted for a MB sponsored candidate as a sort of “none of the above” option and a coking of the nose at Mubarak and the ruling NDP. With the ending of the dictatorship and the hopeful emergence of mutli-party democracy, the appeal of MB as a means of giving the bird to the regime rather fades. There is evidence of this emerging at present.

      In all, MB acted as a useful tool for the Egyptian people to register their discontent. There is little evidence that beyond the MB cadres that they ever had mass support in any other meaningful way. Indeed, they have seriously misplayed their hand (as they have done systematically since the late ’40s incidentally at every crisis and revolutionary turn in Egyptian history), misreading the situation and not being prepared (indeed so hide-bound by their ideological-theological straight-jacket that they *could not* react appropriately) for the sudden shift in tempo and mood of the Egyptian people themselves.

      As a final note, MB seriously discredited themselves through their incredibly insensitive and opportunist attempts to hijack various demonstrations and gatherings throughout the wonderful weeks of the Revolution.

      MB’s future is not bright.

    62. Abu F — on 18th February, 2011 at 1:19 am  

      Incidentally, there is absolutely no evidence, save from some of the old Nasserist dinosaurs, that anyone, anywhere in the Arab world are promoting the recent and on-going democratic revolutions in terms of pan-Arabism… itself an obsolete and entirely discredited view in the Arab world.

      Where on earth did you get this idea from???

    63. Abu F — on 18th February, 2011 at 1:25 am  


      In passing, perhaps you might indicate who “on the ground” here in Cairo would disagree with this assessment that MB have had their chips.

      Please, try to avoid citing MB sources (and that *does* include al-Jazeera) - as they are clearly not uninterested in puffing their own position.

    64. cjcjc — on 18th February, 2011 at 12:29 pm  

      MB’s future is not bright.

      Well I certainly hope not.

      “Tarek al-Bishry, the chairman of the constitutional panel, is a respected judge who criticised former president Hosni Mubarak and is regarded as moderate in his views. But he has been associated with Al-Wasat, an offshoot of the Brotherhood.

      He has selected a committee made up mainly of judges and politicians, including a judge who is a Coptic Christian, but also a former Muslim Brotherhood MP. There are no women.”

      And what delights is Al-Q offering the crowd right now?

    65. jamal — on 18th February, 2011 at 4:40 pm  


      the people who want to hijack the protests are sitting in washington hoping they can install a pro american stooge as leader.

      In cairo you would have noticed the protests ramped up and kicked off after friday prayers that is not a coincidence, to say the protests where hijacked by political islam or they jumped on bandwagon is far fetched.

      MB themselves are secular

      in an earlier post no.4, i had a link that showed 85% of egyptions polled wanted islam involved in poltiics whenever such polls are taken this is usually the outcome especially in a muslim majority country like egypt.

      My point being the sentiment for islam is high, so if MB manage to get into power and cannot deliver the goods people will look for others who can.

      currently in egypt we have military rule then we read it will change to civilian rule, we have seen this before in a country like pakistan which has largely adopted secular laws and done the yo yo between military and civilian rule, who can call that state a success its been complete disaster.

    66. cjcjc — on 18th February, 2011 at 5:20 pm  

      “MB themselves are secular”


    67. Abu F — on 18th February, 2011 at 5:58 pm  

      MB themselves are secular

      Oh really?

      I am sorry, jamal, but that is quite ridiculous.

    68. douglas clark — on 18th February, 2011 at 9:31 pm  


      My point being the sentiment for islam is high, so if MB manage to get into power and cannot deliver the goods people will look for others who can.

      So you want some party more extreme than the MB? That is what you want, right?

      It doesn’t strike me that your average Egyptian wants that. However it is up to Egyptians to decide, and unless you are an Egyptian you should leave them alone to get on with it.

      Revolutions, once started, are completely unpredictable.

    69. joe90 — on 18th February, 2011 at 11:26 pm  

      post #65

      guaranteed the next puppets in egypt will be subservient to America.

      look at what’s going on, the general of Egyptian army was immediatly summoned to Washington.

      He wasn’t going to have mcdonalds happy meal so why was he there, you don’t need a degree in international politics to know they just going to change the face and call it democracy.

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