The Egyptian Protests: The Cusp of Change in the Arab/ Islamic World
Dr.W.Lawrence Prabhakar Williams*
The average person in the Arab / Islamic world today is a dissatisfied person! Having to endure an authoritarian rule, the Arab/ Islamic world has no established tradition of democracy. Its civil rights standards reflect the basic minimum featuring a total disregard of human rights and an emaciated visage of human dignity that is deprived of the essence of human development. The individual faces the continual prospect of being marginalized by the state and oppressed by a social order that is out-of-sync with the spirit of freedom.
The recent waves of protest and the human deluge in Tahrir (Liberation) Square reflects the pent-up outburst of the Egyptians who have been reeling in social-economic deprivation for several years. As a country Egypt with its 80 million plus have been known to be a one of the most progressive societies but with meager resources and a burdened national security situation did achieve some good progress over the years. Known for its socialist-secular credentials, Egypt was regarded to be a pivotal state of Arab nationalism and progressive agenda in its national development.
However, over the years, Egypt has been in the cascade of various internal social-sectarian developments that has crystallized into the present crisis of epitome proportions.
Five significant trends do attest to the recent deluge of Egyptian humanity at Tahrir Square:
Egypt as a secular society never built its ‘institutions’ of democracy and evolved a ‘process’ that would have addressed the multiple social-economic challenges of a state that was demographic-rich and resource poor. Egypt is well known in the Arab/Islamic world as a preeminent human capital-intensive country that had a rich intellectual, technological human resource that could have been an important channel of social-economic transformation towards a peaceful and non-violent order. Instead the three decades of the Mubarak rule was more veering towards a dominant one-party rule that constantly and systematically stifled political pluralism in a society that has its strong roots and exerted an over-dominant authoritarian rule in the guise of electoral democracy. Thus, while Egypt’s political parties had sustained political pluralism; its thriving was stifled at the expense of containing a larger threat of Islamic fundamentalism that was arising in the Arab/Islamic world. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) had emerged as a significant and assertive social-sectarian force of reckon in recent years, capitalizing the increasing social discontent and failures of reform in the social and political order that would have duly encouraged the growth of secular social and political groups and parties;
Two, the Mubarak regime by all standards is not a repressive regime by the radical Islamic standards. The country did have a good measure of social and cultural pluralism that had seen the growth of secular moderates and even Coptic Christians who have been enjoying considerable freedoms in the country. However the social-sectarian seismic discontent have been brewing all along given the impact of the advancing Iranian Shiite resurgence on one hand, the assertive dominance of Saudi Sunni Wahabism on the other that was more pronounced in the global Islamic radicalism that has been sweeping Southwest Asia and North Africa. Adopting repressive measures against the Muslim Brotherhood did prove effective for a period; since the Egyptian moderate and secular public space abhorred the cataclysmic consequences of the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood as a radical extremist political force in Egyptian politics. However, the Mubarak regime instead of strengthening the secular pluralistic forces of Egypt that was a good bulwark against the extremist fringe preferred a blanket sweep of repressive political and constitutional controls. It included the manipulation of election results resulting in the complete repression of all social and political forces thus triggering the massive unrelenting upsurge that has no dimensions to comprehend;
Three, the Arab/Islamic world suffers from a serious schism in terms regime versus people. In its strong emphasis on state security and regime security, almost all Arab/Islamic regimes are bent on building strong regime apparatuses that have weak social-civic-political and development foundations. The instruments and symbols of state power have been more on the security sector that is manifest with contemporary symbols of military power and internal security apparatuses. It is the misconstrued conception of building state power through the military hardware and the beefing of the security sector that has led to huge resources being spent at the expense of the civic and public development that has triggered the repressed people of Egypt in open rebellion. This is not only true of Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia that preceded with Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia that are likely to fall into this cascade pattern.
Thus with all their open animosity and visceral hatred for Israel—the sole democracy in the entire region, the Arab/Islamic regimes have been completely bankrupt on the normative-ideological plank of empowering their respective citizenry; instead have used their instruments of repression to self-devastate themselves;
Iran seems to boast that it has already experienced this revolutionary ferment when the present maniacal mullah-leadership had overthrown the Pahlavi dynasty in 1978. However, the recent rigged elections in Iran and the most repressive dictatorial state system in place have all the right menu before the Persian ferment would overthrow the Mullah tyranny in all its directions
Four, the Arab/Islamic world is in crisis since the forces of globalization that features a strong core that intends to integrate the diverse periphery catalyzes tectonic social and cultural changes that could propel a political paradigm shift. Globalization in its discontents have heaped the adverse social-cultural-civic-economic and political consequences that have been transformational that the Arab/Islamic elite have been resisting and would continue to resist, given their penchant to self-enrichment and the de-empowering public policies that is accentuating social and political change. In this crucible of reactions and counteractions, public ferment over failed public policies and bankrupt ideologies would surge. Egypt is thus in the classical dilemma position of being overwhelmed by the forces of globalization and its discontents on one side and the spontaneity of popular resurgence and protest on the other;
Five, the Arab/Islamic world and Egypt is in the throes of a religious eschatological that believes in the ‘end of days’ schema of social conscious thought. Rivaling Shiite and Sunni versions of apocalypses propels the masses. Given the strong foundations of Messianic consciousness in Islam, the prevalent social-cultural-sectarian-economic and political situation galvanizes the mullah leadership to preach and extol on the coming ‘Mahdi’. The ‘Mahdi’ would perform the global apocalyptic role to overthrow the infidel social-economic-political system and usher in the global Islamic Caliphate that would impose an authoritarian one-value; one-social system; one-economic-political system with a one-world government that would torment other faiths and values while empowering Islam. This central organizing theme is the pivot of all radical Islamic groups that glorify violence and sanctify suicidal terrorism; since dying in the infidels land earns them a sensuous and indulgent future of never-ending hedonism.
Where the Egyptian protests would lead?
The turbulence that is now engulfing Mubarak and his regime has all the fine print of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) who is obviously "masquerading" as reformists.
Phase-I would feature the Muslim Brotherhood joining with the opposition in tackling the strong regime (as they have done so); they would await the attrition of the regime.
Phase-II would be to join the coalition with the assorted loosely defined Egyptian Opposition that has El-Baradei as its leader. El-Baradei is an outsider in Egyptian politics and his genuine credentials are in grave doubt given his soft-handed approach to Iranian nuclear proliferation issues while he was at the helm of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Phase-III would feature a gradual take-over of the Muslim Brotherhood alike the Hizbollah takeover in Lebanon overthrowing the popularly elected government and impose and Islamic theocratic state that is bent on the establishment of global Islamic caliphate that would commence with the intended ‘destruction’ of Israel and West.
This schema of preferred power brokering is the clear intent of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hizbollah in Lebanon and the other fraternal radical Islamic parties in all Arab/Islamic states that would soon sweep the region.
The tepid response of the West is evident in all these. The US government is the one that actually ‘manufactured’ this crisis in Egypt. It started with Barack Hussein Obama’s “Cairo Speech” that signaled the forces of protest that the US would stand and catalyze the “Change”. However the most shocking and unanticipated outcome is the tenor and direction of change towards which the Egyptian protests are now surging. It is not the sure signs of a peaceful transformation leading to a secular-democratic order; but an irrevocable clandestine sway towards Islamic tyranny along the lines of the Shiite Mullah regime in Teheran.
The Europeans have been circumspect in this case and are extremely sensitive to the upsurge of radical Islam in the region; since that would have colossal implications for Europe that is already rocked by the assertive rise of intolerant radical Islam. Whereas for Barack Hussein Obama whose pro-radical Islamist inclinations already evident, this is the moment of opportunity for his over-hyped change that would in the long run irrevocably aid the rise of radical Islam and thus trigger a titanic clash of cultures and civilization that would usher in the apocalypsis of humankind by a manufactured crisis.
* Dr Lawrence Prabhakar Williams is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Madras Christian College, Chennai, India; Adjunct Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, Chennai; Founder Member, Centre for Security Analysis, Chennai, India; Adjunct Professor, Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal University, Manipal. His contact is email<firstname.lastname@example.org>