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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
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Mordechai Kedar: The Frustrated Intellectual – Tariq Hagi

Muslim women protesting

Muslim women protesting
Photo Credit: Mohammed Othman/Flash90

Tariq Hagi related to the behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood with great severity, especially the way it tried to impose an Islamist majority on the constitutional committee. In March 2012 he wrote:

“If the Islamists write the new constitution of Egypt by themselves, the constitution of Egypt will be full of their ideas; ideas that have no connection with the current era, progress, development, science and modernity. The women and the Copts will be the first victims, and the future of Egypt will depend on the actions of the lovers of freedom, women’s rights, citizens’ rights, and equal rights for those who are not Muslim (Copts, for example). These freedom advocates may cause a new revolution, which might thwart the attempts of the few with strong arms (the Islamists) to drag Egypt back to the darkness of the Middle Ages.”

A few of the Islamist representatives in parliament showed how they relate to the Copts after the death of the spiritual leader of the Coptic minority, Pope Shenouda III. The parliament dedicated a minute of standing in silence to the memory of Shenouda III, and the Islamists did not stand up. Tariq Hagi wrote about this event:

“The refusal of a few of the members of the current Egyptian parliament to stand in memory of the deceased pope in Egypt, the great man, Shenouda III, was a cultural, ethical and humanitarian disgrace to those simple creatures, whose attitude earned the scorn and contempt of all people of culture the world over. How can a person fall to such a low level, this lack of humanity?”

In December 2011, after the results of the elections to parliament became clear, questions immediately arose in connection to a constitution that would have a religious-Islamic cast. One of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood declared: “A woman must be hidden because she arouses the beast of the male that is hidden deep within his soul.” This saying was floated to test the public reaction to the idea of legislating a dress code. Tariq Hagi says in response: “One of the strangest things in our culture, that lies crouching deep in the pit of regression, is that we don’t hear voices that answer to this logic: ‘And why doesn’t the solution to this problem come in the form of education to you and to that male beast that is hidden within you?'”

Tariq Hagi also discusses dictatorial Arab regimes that get backing from al-Quds al-Arab, the Arab daily that is published in London without advertisements, which is to say – with the support of the heads of state that it supports. The editor of the newspaper, Abd Al-B’ir’ Ataun, is a fast-thinking, sharp-tongued Palestinian refugee, whom the writer of these lines “won” the dubious pleasure of debating several times in the Arab media. In November 2011 Tariq Hagi related to Ataun with these blunt words:

“The Palestinian journalist Abd Al-B’ir’ Ataun, who exalts Qadhaffi, Saddam Hussein and the “Sheikh” Usama bin Laden, does not represent only himself; he totally and exhaustively reflects the confusion that has developed during the last forty years, that first took form in the thoughts of the Islamists and the phony Arab nationalists, and ends in the regimes such as those of Sadam Hussein and Muammar Qadhaffi. To understand this confusion is difficult for anyone whose mind was shaped by human culture and belongs to the movement of civilization, culture and human progress. I don’t think that there is one research center in the world that can understand this confusion.”


Tariq Hagi understands well the damage that is caused to the Arab world as a result of its rulers’ focus on the Israeli problem, because Israel – by its very existence – has supplied these rulers with an excuse to neglect their states and repress the rights of their citizenry. Several years ago he wrote:

“The peoples of the states that border Israel – Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt – must come to the realization that ending the Arab-Israeli conflict is the only way to end the many other tragedies in their lives. And it is the only chance to begin a flowering of democracy, economic growth and social peace and to avoid falling into the hands of those who object to knowledge, civilization and culture (=Islamists). And in short: to join in the journey to modernism, progress and science … what is necessary today is that someone should arise who will lead public opinion in the Arab world to the belief that peace with Israel is a question of life or death for this region. He must open the eyes of the community so that they can see the dangers that lie in wait for us if we go along with the school of ‘inflated speech’, which arose in the countries of the region and cost its people dearly, and it might cost even more if they will choose to accept blindly slogans that from the external point of view are nationalistic or religious, but the effect of these slogans is to destroy our whole reality.”

It is a fresh and exceptional approach to say that peace with Israel is in the Arab interest. The meaning of this statement is that Israel does not have to “pay” for peace with its neighbors with territories, because they should desire peace no less than Israel. If the leaders of Israel adopt this form of thinking they will be able to say to their neighbors: “What will you give to Israel in exchange for the peace that Israel will give to you?” An approach such as this must cause a total change in the way that Israel views the situation in the Middle East, and Israel will have to work hard in the United States and in Europe in order to sell Tariq Hagi’s idea in the Western capitals.

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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