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Mordechai Kedar: The Frustrated Intellectual – Tariq Hagi


Muslim women protesting

Muslim women protesting
Photo Credit: Mohammed Othman/Flash90

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A few years ago I attended a lecture given by Egyptian intellectual Tariq Hagi, who was visiting Israel. He made a great impression on me, mainly because he spoke frankly and openly about the many deep flaws that exist in Arab cultures. His message was different from that of most Arab spokesmen, because most Arab spokesmen strive to cover up the flaws in their societies, to conceal them and repress them, mainly because of the shame and the feeling of inferiority that these flaws arouse in them.

Tariq Hagi is an unequivocally secular individual whose specialty is the management of large businesses. He travels widely and is in great demand as a lecturer in academic institutions and political and media platforms. He is a prolific writer, and the Internet is full of his articles and essays, as well as his many interviews, both in the print and broadcast media, and they are translated into many languages. During recent years he has addressed the situation in the Arab world in general and in Egypt in particular, and when the revolution against Mubarak broke out on January 25, 2011, he supported it enthusiastically. Over time, as it became clear that the big winners of the revolution were the religious elements – the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis – he became very disillusioned with the revolution.

Arab Rulers

Hagi points an accusing finger at the rulers of the Arab states who are – in his opinion – responsible for the miserable state of the Arab nation. In November 2011, during the period of the Egyptian elections, and as fears increasingly grew that the Islamists would achieve a majority in parliament, he wrote:

“The Arab rulers of the last 60 years (since the Officers’ Revolution in Egypt in 1952) are a panoramic picture of ignorance, corruption, tyranny, mental primitivism, and anachronistic tribalism. It was under the shadow of their rule and because of them that the Islamist and Salafi movements came into being – those movements which are in total opposition to science and the values of modernism and humanism, which struggled for public freedoms, pluralism, acceptance of the other, the rights of women, coexistence among those who differ with each other, universality of information and knowledge, the raising of human intelligence generally and especially critical thinking. Ignorant, corrupt, primitive and tyrannical rulers have brought us to the current political circus that we are experiencing.”

In March 2012 he writes:

“One of the fruits of the revolution of 25 January 2011 is the end of the phenomenon of blind praise for the ruler. No Egyptian ruler in the future will have the same kind of aura of glory and holiness with which the Egyptians were wont to wrap the ruler, despite the fact that he was a person without education, or even a hint of intelligence or culture or knowledge, like the ruler that was recently booted out [Mubarak], and the fact that he was the ruler of Egypt is a humiliation without equal.”

The Muslim Brotherhood

Tariq Hagi has time and again expressed his opinion on the Muslim Brotherhood. In March 2012, after it became clear that they, together with the Salafis, took the majority of the seats of the Egyptian parliament by storm, he wrote:

“The behavior of the Islamist majority in the current Egyptian parliament is embarrassing because of four key components of their mentality: 1. To their disgrace, it is clear that they do not understand the concept of ability, because the people that they chose for the committee for drafting the Constitution, both within the parliament and outside of it, are people with only a partial education, with a one-dimensional cultural outlook. 2. They clearly operate in tribal style, because the main characteristic of their behavior is loyalty (and not free thought). 3. They are the sworn enemies of pluralism, which is the basis of modernism, democracy, civilization and culture. 4. Anyone can see how they will operate in the future: it will be a carbon copy of the original style of the defunct ‘National Party’ (of Mubarak), a style of ‘it doesn’t matter what you say, we will act according to our wishes.’”

The situation in Egypt is fragile, among other reasons, because of the lack of a new constitution to settle the new balance of powers between the parliament with both of its houses, the government, the president, the military, and the legal system. All of them want to prevent the state from returning to the dictatorial, authoritarian style of Mubarak, but too many of them, chiefly the military, are unwilling to give over to parliament (which has an Islamist majority) the main authority of the state. This is why the constitution and the composition of the committee that is responsible for writing it are so important. The composition of the committee, on one hand, must represent the desires of the majority of citizens who identify culturally with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, but on the other hand will prevent a dictatorship of one side in this complicated civil equation. In the first phase, the committee that was chosen had a majority of Islamists, but the secular members quit in protest because as a minority, they feared that they would not be able to exert an influence on the drafting of the constitution. On the other hand, the Islamist parliamentary majority is not willing to yield this critical point, because a change in power in the Islamist direction is the wish of most of the Egyptians who gave their votes to the Brotherhood and the Salafis.

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About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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