by Barry Rubin
“Germany was having trouble,
What a sad, sad story.
Needed a new leader
To restore its former glory.
Where, oh, where was he,
Who could that man be?
We looked around,
And then we found,
The man for you and me,
And now its….”
Almost 80 percent of Egyptian Muslims in nine provinces voted for radical Islamist parties in the second round of Egypt’s election. Roughly 5 percent voted for a moderate Islamic party and about 15 percent voted for liberal parties.
That says it all. In the overall vote — that is, including the Christian voters — 70 percent supported radical Islamists, 47 percent (4 million) supported the Muslim Brotherhood (86 of 180 available seats so far; they might win more), and 32 percent were for the Salafists (3.2 million; the Washington Post seriously underestimated their votes).
The liberal (but not overtly anti-Islamist) Wafd won 1 million; the liberal Egyptian Bloc won almost 800,000; and the moderate Islamic Wasat Party got 370,000.
Incidentally, the vice-chairman of the Wafd said in an interview last July that the U.S. government carried out the September 11 attacks and Anne Frank’s diary was a fake. At least he doesn’t like Iran, though he thinks it is right about the Holocaust being phony. And he’s the liberal.
In preparation for the new order, the military junta is closing down shops selling alcohol. It’s only the beginning. The much-touted Turkish model shows how Islamic law can be introduced gradually and more subtly: simply keep raising taxes on such beverages until no one can afford them. Raymond Stock describes the destruction of Egypt’s greatest library.
Egyptians and foreign observers now have two choices: face reality or retreat into comfortable fantasies about moderate Islamists. The Christian population cannot afford to engage in fantasies so it is increasingly fleeing, as documented by Lucette Lagnado in a moving, detailed article on Coptic refugees in the United States.
In “Tahrir: The Seed and the Utopia,” Egyptian blogger Big Pharoah, who spends much of his time in Canada, presents an idealistic but ultimately horrifying vision. For him, the Tahrir Square of the demonstrators is a paradise where he would like to live.
I sometimes believe there is something supernatural in Tahrir; some kind of energy that transforms whomever chooses to be part of it. They say we Egyptians are lazy. Tahrir is a beehive. During sit-ins, everyone has a thing to do; from the elderly woman who prepares sandwiches to the young men who guard the gates….
It’s believed Egyptians are intolerant. Not a month passes without a sectarian crisis somewhere. Not in Tahrir though. In the square, the Muslim Brotherhood doctor treats patients inside a church. Christians form a protective circle around praying Muslims. In fact, Tahrir might be the only place Christians prayed in outside their churches.
….I tend to look at Tahrir as a mental state. As a seed that was planted in this country. And just like any seed, it is destined to grow. This is the reason why they’re doing everything to choke it. Because if Tahrir came out of Tahrir, this country will change forever and threaten whatever interests they’re trying to protect.
Actually, Tahrir was the seed that brought the plant of revolutionary Islamist authoritarianism. (I’ll keep the word totalitarianism for later on, when it might be needed.) The liberals were a tiny minority who in their combination of hope and arrogance thought that they were something powerful in the country. Meanwhile, the Islamists used the liberals as cover to climb into power. They were on their good behavior for strategic reasons.
Beautiful dreams often engender horrific realities: the Weimar Republic in Germany, the glorious dawn of the French Revolution, and the idealism of the Russian Revolution gave way to something else entirely.
Ironically, a Coptic refugee — in a sinister echo of Big Pharoah’s Brotherhood doctors treating Christians anecdote — recounts how a Muslim physician treating her daughter at a hospital offered to give her a clitorectomy, absolutely free of charge. It was the “last straw” that made the family flee the country.
Of course, not all Egyptian Muslims think that way by any means. But the problem is that 70 to 80 percent of them are ready to vote that way. The excuses are endless: the Islamists are moderate; the Islamists aren’t really Islamists; being in power will moderate them; there are moderate factions; they don’t really mean what they say; they only mean what they say when talking to Western journalists.
The rationales aren’t based on evidence. They are based on wishful thinking, the same wishful thinking that enabled a tiny group of highly Westernized liberals in a few wealthy districts of Cairo to think that they actually represented the country.
Even today, the Tahrir Square political naifs are spending their energy fighting the army while their future masters entrench themselves in power through organization and the ballot box. In some bizarre dance of death — Tahrir is indeed a “mental state” but in political terms one of mental dysfunction — the liberal demonstrators demand the army turn over power faster. Faster to whom? The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists?
This is not to belittle the genuine spirit of idealism and the desire for a real and stable democracy of human and civil rights that many Egyptians want. But what’s most important is not what they desire but the actual effect of their ideas and actions.
There are wolves all too ready to profit from the gamboling of the sheep. Indeed, they are even quite willing to put on a wool disguise to lull them further into daydreams. The French aristocrat who converted to Catholicism to be king said that Paris was well worth a mass. The Islamists think that Cairo is well worth inviting dumb American journalists to dinner and being hospitable to them.
It’s the same generally with the West, dreaming of a moderate Palestinian state at peace with Israel; of moderate Islamists happily preserving their religion of peace; of Middle Easterners expressing gratitude to those wonderful Westerners who stopped backing dictators and evil Zionists to support instead the masses’ legitimate aspirations; and all the rest of that man-made global balminess.
Try to explain your good intentions to the firing squad. Blindness and wishful thinking are traits one cannot afford in the Middle East because the price for them is going to be very, very high.
Extra credit: in discussing Big Pharoah’s description of a seed, I suggested it has brought the ugly flower of radical Islamism. That reminds me of the evil flowers (Fleurs de Mal), the book of poetry by the French poet Charles Baudelaire. A community center named after the poet was one of the first buildings burned down in the Muslim riots in Paris.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books include Israel: An Introduction (Yale, 2012); The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).