History rhymes in Egypt


"… activists at the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque vigil voiced fury.  "The
people want the execution of Sisi," a cleric shouted to the crowd from a
stage by the mosque. "The people want the execution of the butcher."  Reuters


Mark Twain was right.  History does not repeat itself but it often rhymes.  Mursi and Mubarak may be in adjoining cells soon.  Mursi is accused of conspiracy to murder and espionage in the matter of the Hamas raid on the prison in which he was held in 2011.  Egypt has a broad definition of "espionage."  As I have written on SST before, it is widely understood in the Islamic World (as in other places) that "if you strike a king you must kill him."  This is true because if you do not at least figuratively "kill" him he may return and then he will surely kill you.  On that basis it can be said that Mursi and Mubarak are "used people."  This is equally true of that part of the Syrian "opposition" who are not merely foreign jihadi operatives.  Either they will "live" or Assad, but not both.  Both parties know this,

The forces of political Islam are now pitted against pretty much the rest of Egypt in the same sort of existential struggle.  They all know that.  Saudi Arabia is backing the military backed government because it detests the MB version of Islamism.  The United States, having aligned itself with the MB, has zero leverage with General Sisi because the US backs people who would kill him if they could.  There are other sources of military supply in the world.  You can be sure that Israel is happy to see the departure of Mursi.  That will have an effect in the US Congress.  pl



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15 Responses to History rhymes in Egypt

  1. elev8 says:

    It appears you are not surprised that the Saudis aren’ t taking the side of “political Islam”.
    I sure am and would like some help with my effort to understand this.
    Maybe I don’t even come to terms with the concept of “political Islam” anymore. Does it perhaps actually just mean something like “strictly apolitical hyperreligiosity that insists on suppressing both other faiths and secular politics”?
    Where has Islam reached the stalinist phase of being “Islam in one country”?

  2. turcopolier says:

    You are a Dane? Elev8 means you are the eighth student? Islam is a house that has many rooms. Saudi Wahhabism and the MB are two forms of political Islamism that reject each others’ tenets and methods. The Saudis do not like or accept the MB version of Islam. This is not a surprise. pl

  3. walrus says:

    The MB aren’t into royal families or monarchy I think.

  4. mac says:

    It feels to me as if the putsch only increases the possibility of a sea change in Egyptian political evolution and the ultimate birth of an Egyptian Islamic Republic. I understand the Cairo coup in the same way as what Iran could have looked if General Huyser had not successfully kept the Iranian military brass from doing the same. Had that gone the other way, and instead played out in the streets of Tehran, I think ultimately the military would have failed and I sense the same will occur in Egypt.
    Colonel do have the same sense of inevitability on how events have unfolded in post Mubarak Egypt?

  5. elev8 says:

    I am just trying to learn as much from a genuine expert as I can.
    The religious divisions of Islam were clear to me. Still I somehow thought that there is a reason why “political Islam” is a term typically used in the singular. Now it looks to me like that usage might be conducive to creating misperceptions. I.e., my assumption was that political Islamists somehow more or less occupied the same room in the house – or maybe different rooms in a house of political Islam that was situated alongside the other houses of Islam (Sunni, Shi’ite).
    Maybe while Islam is complex, the issue of the appropriate western policies towards Islamic countries is much simpler? Shouldn’t we just revive the time-honored distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes? Shouldn’t we just look at the ambitiousness of the political actors – whether they are of the Napoleonic type or the ancien-regime kind (since that mostly seems to exhaust the spectrum of alternatives we are presented with) and react accordingly?
    It is hard to avoid the impression that instead the West in a willy-nilly kind of way frequently encourages the more aggressive and more fundamentalist actors (and it is even more puzzling that apparently it is irrelevant whether liberals or conservatives are responsible for the foreign-policy decisions in question).

  6. turcopolier says:

    IMO we must remember that Islam in its conception of itself is a seamless garment in which all aspects of life are seen as needing to be unified. this is much like Christianity in western Europe in the Middle Ages before the Reformation/renaissance. This means that intense political belief is seen as truly religious in the deepest sense just as are all other aspects of human existence. thus the Wahhabis and the MB can be antithetical while still being intensely religious. pl

  7. drifter says:

    What is the correlation of forces between “political Islam” and “the rest of Egypt”? At this point, I think either side can prevail. Depends on what they do.

  8. Babak Makkinejad says:

    No Hadith exist that carries the same content as the saying of Jesus to give that which is Kaiser’s to Kaiser etc.
    Ibn Khaldun noted this centuries ago.
    I think, however, there is scope for representative system of government in Islam and perhaps even a limited (compared to North America and EU states) form of free expression.
    Specifically about Egypt: De Gaulle once observed that to be a strong country you have to act like one. Likewise, I think, to be a democratic country one has to act democratically.
    I do not like Ikhwan and I think they have been a failure, but I believe that Egypt, like US or any other country, ought to wait out the democratically elected President until his term expires.

  9. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I must add that there is no possibility of anything approximating the Islamic Republic of Iran in Egypt – that is like wishing for something like the French Republic in Romania – not going to happen.

  10. Bill H says:

    “…a seamless garment in which all aspects of life are seen as needing to be unified.”
    A nicely turned phrase. This is much they way things are viewed by many traditional Native American peoples, especially Navaho.

  11. Secular forces in Egypt appear to have adopted a policy of severe repression of radical or not-so-radical Islam. Where will this lead?

  12. Charles I says:

    Whatever the politics, and the ability of the military to manage/intervene, Pat has written here before specifically on the intractability of a failed corrupt economy, a demographic bulge and the prospect of a country astride the Nile that cannot feed itself.
    A challenge to governance and religion alike, no matter if they are unified under Islam

  13. turcopolier says:

    Charles I
    Egypt’s most important and controlling problem is economic. The population has consistently grown fast enough to remain far enough “ahead of” GDP growth to prevent a general prosperity. That continues to be the case. This is a feature of Egyptian peasant culture that has permeated the cities as well. The MB would promote further population growth. pl

  14. elev8 says:

    Is it correct to think of Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi-Arabia as the four power-centers in the Islamic Middle East?
    If that is about accurate, it invites thinking about the role of the economic progress of potential political partners or adversaries in the big picture. Egypt would have to be described as suffering from population pressure and therefore being unpredictable, Turkey as a country that is successfully modernizing and Saudi-Arabia as an absurd cross of oil riches and an archaic absolutist monarchy – essentially a country that, for the time being, is on a hiatus from history.
    That leaves Iran. Given the demographic facts, it is clearly not in the same class as Egypt, and while it has oil, it also does not suffer from what economists like to call the resource curse as much as the totalitarian kingdom across the Gulf does. Iran also engages in holding elections that – while not free – appear to be competitive and meaningful. In fact, contrasting the rhetoric of Rohani and Erdogan – prime minister of a country that was for decades seen as being on its way to becoming an EU member – and the relative peacefulness of Iran compared to Egypt, to me it looks nothing like the menace it is still made out to be.
    I guess I am just finding more reasons to concur with Col. Lang’s general outlook.

  15. robt willmann says:

    Here is an article by Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister from 1998-2005, on the Egyptian situation and the military coup against Mursi.
    Fischer does not really say much of anything new. He was successful as a politician in Germany over quite a period of time, bringing forward the Green Party there, but was unfortunately in favor of Germany participating in the illegal Kosovo/Serbia war during the Bill Clinton administration (no vote by the U.S. Congress declaring war or “authorizing the use of force” in that one; just think what may happen if H. Clinton is elected president). At least Fischer opposed Germany joining the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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