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The fall of Mubarak in a country where the Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest and best organized political movement raises the possibility of an eventual outcome similar to that in Iran that followed the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. At the same time, we should remind ourselves that history need not repeat itself: Egypt is not Iran and the Egyptian military may prevent the rise to power of the Brotherhood. But in the event that it comes to power, there is little reason to imagine that it would usher in a system more open, enlightened and liberal than that of Mubarak. Far more likely, it would resemble the repressive theocracy of Iran. While the actual historical and political developments in these two countries may diverge, the similarities between perceptions on the Left of these two historical events, and the part played by political Islam, are already quite pronounced.
Why do people on the Left, and especially intellectuals — often motivated by high ideals and good intentions — so often make poor political judgments, especially about the adversaries of the United States? It is of course always difficult to generalize about entities such as intellectuals. There are no opinion surveys addressed to “intellectuals” as such, hence, we only learn about the attitudes and beliefs of the more prominent among them who have the opportunity and inclination to express themselves in writing or in the mass media.
To be sure, there are surveys of the political attitudes of various professions, including professors, which include a high proportion of intellectuals in the humanities and social sciences. These surveys make clear that most American academics are left of center: “Democrats typically outnumber Republicans at elite universities by at least six to one among the general faculty and by higher ratios in the humanities and social sciences.” A recent study of academic social psychologists found a total lack of diversity in their political views and found them to constitute a “tribal-moral community united by sacred values.”  Of course, these attitudes are just as prevalent in departments of English, sociology, anthropology, history and political science as among social psychologists.
The global rise of Islamic radicalism, loosely paralleled by the global decline of communism, provides a new occasion to ponder the political judgments of those on the Left, including many intellectuals. Their observations about Islamic radicalism suggest parallels between their disposition towards the two important political-ideological currents of our times: communism and political Islam. This is not to say that these two sets of attitudes have been the same, but there are some notable similarities as well as differences spelled out below.
By the time of the fall of the Soviet Union, not many American leftist intellectuals were enamored of the Soviet system (or those modeled after it), with the exception of Cuba and, for a shorter period, Nicaragua. Venezuela under Chavez has become a new destination for a smaller group of supporters. One of them, Eva Golinger, became a resident supporter and cheerleader for Chavez, describing herself as “a soldier of this revolution… I would do whatever asked of me for this country.” As the New York Times put it, “Her zeal invokes earlier waves of political pilgrims in Latin America from rich countries like the volunteers who cut Cuban sugar cane in the 1960s or the Sandalistas… who flocked to Nicaragua in the 1980s.” Ms. Golinger has expressed warmth and sympathy toward Ahmadinejad of Iran and Lukashenko of Belarus. She considered the latter a socialist country, not a dictatorship, “where people seemed really into their communal work and stuff like that.” 
But even if many members of the Left no longer admired these systems, the attitudes which gave rise to their sympathy and support in the first place were by no means gone. These attitudes were deeply rooted in a highly critical disposition toward American society, disdain for capitalism and commerce, ignorance about “actually existing” communist states, as well as a propensity to chronic moral indignation. 
While militant Islamic movements and theocratic Iran shared the anti-American disposition of communist states, their anti-Americanism has been far more intense and irrational than the communist variety due to its religious inspiration. A strong aversion to modernity has further added to hostility to the United States, correctly seen as a major embodiment of modernity. In turn, Islamic movements came to be viewed with a degree of sympathy by numerous American intellectuals and those on the Left, who were convinced of the worthlessness of their own society, and were irresistibly drawn to “the enemies of their enemy.”
It has not been easy, sometimes impossible, to project upon these movements the attributes which earlier attracted many American and other Western intellectuals to communist systems. Unlike the movements and political systems inspired by Marxism, Islamic movements and beliefs are not universalistic, they are openly and demonstratively intolerant and uphold traditional religious beliefs that are alien to secular, leftist Western intellectuals. Islamic societies permeated by Islamic tradition oppress women, hate and mistreat homosexuals, and are beholden to a wide range of rigid religious beliefs and practices, including corporal punishments such as stoning, amputation and beheading. Such attitudes and policies are difficult to accept for progressive leftists who believe in the equality of women and in the rights of people of different sexual orientation and are opposed to capital and corporal punishment. These attributes of Islamic movements and societies have given a pause to some on the Left, but many others have managed to ignore these blemishes, or ascribe them to an authentic cultural heritage that is to be treated with toleration.
In addition to their intense hostility to the United States (greatly appreciated by the native social critics) Islamic movements and the one existing theocratic Islamic state (Iran) also partake of the allure of the Third World. Upon the latter, many Western intellectuals have, for some time, projected their longings and hopes following their partial disillusionment with communist states.  The imaginary virtues of the Third World included, above all, a presumed freedom from the corruptions of Western capitalist societies and a corresponding authenticity associated with its traditional, pre-modern aspects. The Third World has received further moral credit from leftist intellectuals and their followers on account of its victimization (real or imaginary) by predatory Western capitalism.
Even a highly oppressive theocracy such as the one established in Iran earned the sympathy and support of prominent American intellectuals such as Richard Falk (of Princeton University) who in 1979 thought that Ayatollah Khomeini was “defamed” by the American news media and believed that he created “a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on non-violent tactics;” in his view, Iran was going to “provide us with a desperately needed model of human governance.”  Ramsey Clark, an especially embittered critic of U.S. foreign policy and American society, rushed to France in 1979 to meet Ayatollah Khomeni and in the same year also visited Iran to show solidarity with the new regime. In 1986, following the U.S. bombings of LIbya, Clark traveled to Libya once more to show his solidarity to a government hostile to the United States. Clark also volunteered his legal services to the bombers of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and to Saddam Hussein, among other groups and individuals hostile to the United States.  Michel Foucault, the famous French philosopher, was similarly supportive of the Iranian theocracy, observing that Ayatollah Khomeini reflected “the perfectly unified will” of the Iranian people, among other enthusiastic comments. 
Somewhat unexpectedly in the wake of 9/11, many of these feelings and attitudes found new expression. Numerous Western intellectuals on the Left used the occasion to aver that the attack was well deserved, and its root causes were to be found in the American mistreatment of Islamic countries and populations and in the exploitative practices of global capitalism headquartered in the United States. As Christopher Hitchens put it, “jihad [became] an understandable reaction to Muslim grievances” and even “a supposed socialist-feminist [Naomi Klein] [was] offering swooning support to theocratic fascists.”  Jean Baudrillard and Norman Mailer relished the symbolic punishment meted out in the destruction of the towers of the World Trade Center, symbols of global capitalism.
In May 8, 2006, Noam Chomsky visited Lebanon, meeting Hezbollah leaders and providing them with welcome moral support and political legitimacy. He also expressed strong support (on both Lebanese and Hezbollah television) for Hezbollah keeping its weapons — a position directly contradicting the UN Resolution No. 1559 that called for its disarming.  Norman Finkelstein – whose detestation of Israel rivals that of Chomsky, offered at an “Islamophobia” conference in Istanbul his sympathetic understanding of Holocaust denial in the Muslim world and argued that it is used to “demonize” Muslims. He was far less disturbed by these denials than by the alleged “demonization.” Since his parents were Holocaust survivors, he did not deny it. Like Chomsky (his role model) he readily equated the Holocaust and Nazism with the misdeeds of the United States.  Lynne Stewart, the radical lawyer represented (and admired) Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who as convicted in 2005 (in spite of Stewart’s efforts) in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Subsequently, Stewart was convicted and sentenced to jail for supporting Rahman’s organization in 2006. She has been an admirer not only of Muslim fundamentalists but also of Mao, Castro and Ho Chi Minh. 
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