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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘egyptian politics’

Charismatic, ‘Folksy’ Egyptian Politician Incites Followers to Martyrdom

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Egypt’s political landscape is dotted with people and issues that, from a reasonable distance, are  incomprehensible.

Unfortunately, when you share a neighborhood with some of those people, you can’t always afford the luxury of trying to comprehend “root causes” and socio-demographic dynamics. The dangers are existential, not intellectual and so you need to first take defensive measures and then try to understand. People who fail to understand this tend – usually – to be those who live far from the threats, or think they do.

The Dubai-based Al Arabiya news site carries a report from Egypt today. It focuses on a televised sermon delivered Friday by Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a “holy man“ and lawyer who is “the country’s most charismatic Salafist politician” and a front-running candidate in Egypt’s 2012 presidential election. He was reckoned to have a serious chance up until his electoral run was forcibly ended by the disclosure, denied by the candidate but subsequently confirmed by the Egyptian authorities, that his mother was a citizen of the United States. It appears he is still laboring to overcome that disgrace.

He favours lowering the legal age of marriage to puberty (for girls, of course); chopping off the hands of thieves, naturally; ending the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty; supports the veiling of women and their segregation from men in the workplace (according to the L.A. Times). He calls Iran a successful model of keeping your independence from the United States. And about the 9/11 massacres, he said

I am one of those who believe these events were fabricated from the outset as part of the global groundwork for the distortion of Islam’s image. I mean, this is part of a comprehensive global plan that includes a media aspect. [Interview on a 2004 Saudi TV program]

There’s an eye-popping selection of other public pronouncements of this person here.

On Friday, according to Al Arabiya, the ultra conservative Abu Ismail preached that

The only way to build a strong Egypt is to have tens of thousands fight and be “martyred” under the name of God, a prominent Salafist politician told worshipers during a televised sermon on Friday. “So what if a hundred or a thousand, or even ten thousands are martyred to build a long-prevailing nation,” Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a former presidential candidate, said. “There is no other plan but to be martyred.”

A lunatic, right? Yes, and/or a cynical manipulator. But that’s not necessarily the impression you would get from the mainstream Western media coverage he has enjoyed during this past year.

A handful of examples from just one source: the L.A. Times:

* Abu Ismail’s is “a robust voice in the fractious political Islam” of post Mubarak Egypt;
* He embodies “a new Egypt searching for a religiously resonant yet pragmatic brand of politics that can fix the nation’s deep economic and social problems“;
* “He’s a favorite on talk shows and internet videos, a charismatic speaker who can charm a university crowd as easily as he can raise cheers from mill workers in the provinces”;
* “He skims the edge of fundamentalism — he once suggested that he and Osama bin Laden shared the same ends, if not the means, to create an Islamic state — but connects with Egyptians’ everyday worries.

The Economist has said he is “committed to replicating the seventh-century ways of the Prophet Mohammed [and]could be the country’s next pharaoh.” More recently, it has also called him a man with “folksy charm putting the dour Mr. Morsi in the shade.” He’s a politician whose followers are “rowdy enthusiasts.

There is no suggestion that Abu Ismail himself has any intention of embracing martyrdom. It’s a near certainty that his inspiration will bring less discerning Egyptians (aka rowdy enthusiasts) to that end. Martyrdom-minded religious fanatics have a bad reputation in this part of the world, so this “folksy” sermon is less than good news.

Visit This Ongoing War.

US Backs Islamists More than Egyptians Do

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Western observers, including the U.S. government view the situation in Egypt as improving. Actually, it’s getting worse, partly due to U.S. policy. In April, that will become even more obvious. Egyptian parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 22. Supposedly, the Muslim Brotherhood faces a setback. But that either isn’t true or doesn’t matter. On one hand, the Islamists as a whole are likely to emerge even stronger and more radical. On the other hand, if the non-Islamist coalition boycotts the election, as it has announced, the Brotherhood and the current regime will be a lot stronger.

Originally, I intended to write that there will no doubt be an assumption in Western reportage that if the “opposition” does participate and does better and the Brotherhood does worse that means moderation is gaining.

But by the time this is being published the mainstream media’s claims that things are going great had already begun. For example, here’s how the New York Times explains it all to you:

With the elections scheduled to begin in April, the Islamists who dominated the 2011-12 parliamentary and presidential votes appear more vulnerable than at any time since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago. But what possible reasons are there to believe this? There is no evidence that the Brotherhood or Salafists collectively will get a lot fewer votes. The most serious Egyptian poll shows that the Brotherhood might get just under 50 percent of the vote! Obviously that’s very tentative two months before the elections. So what did they get last time? Answer: 37 percent of the vote and about half the seats. True, this time the Salafist vote will be split so the two together can be expected to get fewer than the 64 percent of the vote and almost 75 percent of the seats they won the first time. But a large majority of Egyptians can be expected to vote for an Islamist regime. And if the moderates boycott, the Islamists could receive 90 percent of the seats!

The Islamists’ real problem is that there are now four Islamist parties, varying from moderately radical to incredibly radical here’s the list:

The Strong Egypt Party headed by Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. Fotouh is presented as a moderate Islamist and will no doubt be the favorite of the U.S. Columnist and Editorialist Party. Yet, one might ask, if Fotouh is so moderate why was he endorsed in the first round of the presidential election by radical Brotherhood guru Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the Salafist al-Nur Party?

To keep an open mind, Fotouh is more moderate than the others and he opposed the constitution drafted by the Brotherhood. It is possible he could form an alliance with the National Salvation Front. But there’s something misleading here, too. Fotouh got an impressive 17 percent in the presidential election. Yet wasn’t this vote due almost completely to non-moderate Salafists who just didn’t want to back the Brotherhood presidential candidate in the first round after their own candidate was disqualified? If so, Fotouh’s party will be a failure.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. They received 37 percent of the votes and about half the seats in the original parliamentary election. If the National Salvation Front doesn’t boycott, the Brotherhood might lose seats but if the moderates don’t run in the election the Brotherhood will get even more seats.

The main Salafist party, al-Nur. This party won 27.8 percent in the original parliamentary election, but its candidate for president was disqualified. Al-Nur varies between critical support of the Brotherhood (“we’re all Islamists”) to just plain criticism (“the Brotherhood isn’t Islamist enough!”). Al-Nur would willingly become the Brotherhood’s coalition partner or at least support the regime from outside.

The People’s Party. The most radical forces in al-Nur have split from it, considering al-Nur to be too soft on the Brotherhood. They viewed the constitution–which provides for a transition to a Sharia state–too subtle.

So how will these parties split the Islamist vote? And will al-Nur and the People’s parties back Mursi for all practical purposes on the fundamental transformation of Egypt into a Sharia, Islamist state? Even if the two Salafist parties demand more, that doesn’t mean they will vote against the government to bring it down—they know they cannot win a majority on their own—and they aren’t going to ally with the hated “secularists.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/us-backs-islamists-more-than-egyptians-do/2013/03/07/

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