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An Al-Jazeera interview with media glitterati Tariq Ramadan and Slavoj Zizek on the prospects for the Egyptian revolution shows how cleverly such misunderstandings can be sown and nurtured. Zizek, of course, is a flaming lunatic, a howling partisan of revolutionary violence who, as he wrote in Robespierre: entre vertu et terreur, believes that “notre tâche aujourd’hui est de réinventer une terreur émancipatrice” (“our task today is to reinvent a liberating terror”). As the interview demonstrates, Zizek has no understanding of the Palestinian situation, is ignorant of international law, draws a contrast between contemporary Egypt and 1979 Iran when the similarities are ominous, and, like Saunders, glides serenely over the truth about Turkey’s Islamic turn.
Ramadan is, as usual, suavely oleaginous and superficially credible, but his real purpose, as his writings, conferences and cassettes make clear, is to whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood (founded by his grandfather), downplay the threat of Islamic extremism, and game his audience with subtle disinformation. Ramadan would agree with the Al-Jazeera moderator that the conflict between Western democracy and radical theocratic governments is merely an “age-old stereotype” and that the Brotherhood is not to be feared or suspected.
We need to go elsewhere for informed and perceptive discussion. For example, Charles Krauthammer aptly remarks in The Washington Post that “We are told by sage Western analysts not to worry about the Brotherhood because it probably commands only about 30 percent of the vote. This is reassurance?” In a nation like Egypt, with its weak democratic opposition, “any Islamist party commanding a third of the vote rules the country.” And as highly respected Jerusalem Post editor, David Horovitz, correctly points out, ‘the Brotherhood is committed to death-cult jihad in the cause of widened Islamist rule,” exercising what we might call historic patience in “building and gaining power and influence over years, over decades.”
It is also worth consulting the erudite scholar of Islam, Andrew Bostom, who expands the context of the debate. “Despite ebullient appraisals of events in Egypt,” he writes, “which optimistic observers insist epitomize American hopes and values at their quintessential best—there is a profound, deeply troubling flaw in such hagiographic analyses which simply ignore the vast gulf between Western and Islamic conceptions of freedom itself. The current polling data indicating that three-fourths of the Egyptian population are still enamored of the totalitarian Sharia confirms that this yawning gap still exists—strikingly so—in our era.”
Touché Riedel, Saunders, Brown, Zizek, Ramadan, and anyone foolish enough to swallow the Ecstasy of revolutionary exaltations. Admittedly, commentators like Ramadan and Zizek know what they are doing. They have an agenda and will labor to advance it by any means at their disposal, whether by the verbal bludgeoning of a Zizek or the velvet sinuosities of a Ramadan. Brown is a typical propitiating academic. Others like Riedel and Saunders are merely hopeless ignoramuses, useful jihadiots (in National Post columnist Barbara Kay’s wonderful coinage), who have neglected to do their homework. Too lazy to read deeply, familiarize themselves with the complex itinerary of their subject and establish a solid and evidentiary historical foundation upon which to base a compelling judgment, they do enormous damage owing to their popular circulation in the media.
The events now unfolding in Egypt are important not only for the Egyptians, obviously, and not only for Western geopolitical calculations, but also for those of us who wish to genuinely understand the nature of the clash between Western democratic principles and radical theocratic structures of governance. This is no “age-old stereotype” but the very heart of the battle for the 21rst century.
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