Short-lived Shibboleth of a Moderate Egypt
Islamists' election victory leaves Western predictions in shambles.
By Tony Blankley, The Washington Times, December 5, 2011
[Editor's Note: A shibboleth is a belief usually regarded by others as false or empty of real meaning.]
One of the nice things about human history is that no matter how much people or their leaders misjudge events and make a hash of things, within a few centuries, the debris is cleared away and we can have a another go at getting things right.
Yes, I am thinking about the Middle East and the latest mix-up by the experts—their assessment just a few months ago of the nature of the Arab Spring and its democracy movement. Back in the spring, leading experts—from the Obama administration to the neoconservatives on the right to the major liberal media to most of the academic area specialists—were overwhelmingly predicting that all those great secular, liberal, college-educated kids with their iPhones in Tahrir Square represented the new Egypt and would bring all their wonderful values to the revolution. It was primarily us cranky right-wingers who have been writing about radical Islamic politics (and, of course, the Israelis, who can't afford to get it wrong on Muslim political habits) who warned that this was all going to end in the rise in still-ancient Egypt of radical Islamist, anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti American, anti-Western governance.
So our government—as I said, cheered on by neoconservatives as well as liberals—undercut Hosni Mubarak's regime and told us not to worry about the Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood was a group of really old, tired men who were no longer really radical and had been propped up just to provide the regime with an opposition punching bag. Armed with their social-media devices, the kids would run rings around the sorry excuse for Islamists and deliver real democracy.
Hadn't any of those experts been to Egypt? There are not a lot of secular liberals hanging out—even at the universities—let alone in the thousands of villages and urban slums. Who the heck did the experts think those angry, bearded men were who were roaming around glaring at Westerners and Muslim women who dared to walk on the street? I saw them back in the 1960s and '70s, and they were scary even then. By the way, as I recall, Tahrir Square was pretty much a circle. But who's counting when you are having deranged, liberal fantasies? Even if these experts on Sunday political round-table chatters had not been to Egypt, perhaps it was a clue that a Pew poll in the spring said 65 percent of the public would vote Islamist.
The early returns are in. (There are still two more rounds of voting in 18 of the country's 27 provinces over the next month.) The Islamists look likely to get 65 percent 70 percent of the eventual vote. According to the High Election Commission, the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party got about 36 percent, while the Salafist Nour Party got a stunning 25 percent. The Salafists are the hysterical wing of the fundamentally reactionary general Muslim population, while the Brotherhood is merely the fanatical wing.
The grand total for all the parties that, by the ancient cultural standards of Pharaonic Egypt, are considered the liberal-secular bloc—the makers of the glorious Arab Spring democracy was, wait for it—13 percent. I predict that if any of them try to practice any of that liberal-secular stuff in public, either the military eventually will lock them up or the Salafists eventually will beat them up or kill them on the street. Adios, liberal-secular Egypt, we hardly new ya. Hello, kill the Coptic Christians and the Jews.
Of course, the various ever-bewildered wire services and newspapers are reporting the "unpredicted," "unexpected" size of the Islamist vote while taking to calling the Brotherhood, in its 2.0 form, "moderate." But anyway, not to worry. As our brother in journalism Jackson Diehl wrote in this weekend's Washington Post, he has talked with various former terrorists and Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt, and he assures us that "the ascendancy of parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood should not be as alarming as many in the West suppose. ... The biggest reason for this is that the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the more fundamentalist parties to its right, has renounced violence."
Well, that's a relief. I suppose the Brotherhood also has no more territorial demands. Oh, wait a moment. Mr. Diehl notes that the Brotherhood's platform does say that Egypt should "aid and support the Palestinian people and Palestinian resistance against the Zionist usurpers of their homeland." So, I guess, after they kill all the Jews, they will stop practicing violence. Of course, even then there will be the little matter of the Brotherhood's credo: "God is our objective; the Koran is our constitution; the prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations." But it's OK. That is the moderate wing of the upcoming Egyptian parliament.