FrontPage Interview’s guest today is Cynthia Farahat, a political activist and dissident in Egypt.
FP: Cynthia Farahat, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to talk to you today about a fundamental lack of understanding that exists in the West today about Arab and Egyptian regimes, namely what many westerners think about the so-called “secular” and “moderate” forces that exist among them.
Tell us your thoughts on this issue.
Farahat: Thank you.
Egyptian and Arab regimes govern their people by socialist Sharia-based constitutions. The philosophy of governance of Arab regimes is Islamic Socialism, which is basically socialism and Sharia law minus Hodud (Islamic penal law).
Hardly moderate or tolerant, Islamic socialist regimes like Mubarak’s systematically suppress secular and classic liberal opposition, not just for ideological difference, but for a far more important reason – which is the fact that secular and classic liberal reformers pose as the real better political substitute to these regimes. Indeed, they are a more advanced and more internationally acceptable alternative to the costly tyrannies. If real seculars in the region began to represent a mainstream political movement, like it used to be in Egypt before 1952 military coup, then the current tyrants’ seizure of power and the support they receive from western governments would no longer be justified, since there would be a far better option.
Islamic socialist regimes subjugate us while systematically breeding and inflating Islamists, who are nothing but slightly worse looking versions of themselves. This is the way they maintain the vicious circle of blackmail of “it’s either us or apocalypse.” And Mubarak made several statements along these lines and it explains why he allowed the Muslim Brotherhood political participation and banned our secular political party.
I don’t think anyone can point out one real ideological difference between groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, militant Islamic groups, and Arab regimes. Yes, they have different methodologies and strategies, but if we listen to the political discourse of theses regimes, it is identical to al-Qaeda’s. If we take a look at the Egyptian and Saudi curricula and media, they are nothing but terror-producing machines.
FP: What are the consequences of the West’s misconception of this whole equation?
Farahat: The misconception results in a dangerous sham alliance between freedom and its enemies. You will often find freedom-loving people unknowingly working on advancing the agendas of their enemies. The fact that the Egyptian and Saudi regimes both adopted the same political stance as Salafi Jihadists and the Muslim Brotherhood in time of crisis and initially allied against the protests in Egypt when they first started. Egyptian “moderate” bureaucracy, Salafi Jihadists, and the Muslim Brotherhood cast their votes the same way in the March 19th constitutional referendum and this should have been glaring evidence that they have similar goals and only different means to acquire them.
What is even more disturbing than the fact that these regimes openly ally with the Jihadists is that many western political analysts and allies of freedom took the same stance as the Salafi Jihadists and the regime against the protests. I think that whenever one finds themselves upholding the same political stance on any political issue as Salafi Jihadists, not ideologically of course, but in terms of agreeing on the same conclusion, like for the example being pro or against protests in Egypt and the region, then something must be terribly wrong.
If someone like Glenn Beck, whom I respect and admire, agrees with Nageh Ibrahim from Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya that the protests against Mubarak are wrong and not in their best interest, then I think this a sign that one needs to revise their premises. When Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and freedom loving people agree on what’s in their best interest, I take this as a sign of dangerous misconception that no one can afford.
Many westerners believe these regimes’ propaganda and end up supporting the unsustainable status quo and perpetuating a vicious circle where they fund and fuel the regimes dedicated to annihilate them, while calling them “allies”. This vicious circle needs to be dismantled through admitting the fact that there is a cold war between Arab regimes and the western world – whether many people would like to admit it or not. There is a Soviet style cold war there and denying it will not make it go away.
Mubarak was trained in Soviet Russia and graduated from Mikhail Frunze Military Academy like many, if not most of the influential political figures in Egypt’s modern history that were groomed in Soviet Russia for the current political positions they uphold. Arab regimes engage in a Soviet style cold war with America, growing up in Egypt I’ve known all my life that the only reason Egypt isn’t at war with America is because it’s weaker, and it’s always “America’s fault” of course. It’s not because socialism, Sharia law, and fascism always fail, it’s because America exists. The evasion to acknowledge the real problem is dangerous.
It’s essential to always keep Soviet Russia and the KGB in my mind to understand Arab politics, like American conservatives would not call a Soviet dictator an ally; the same should apply to Arab theocratic socialist dictators. The Soviets taught these regimes almost all they know about modern governance, add to it theocracy, and it’s pretty much a version of hell.
FP: But just a second, where Glenn Beck was right, and where those who are concerned about these demonstrations are right, is that the devil we know might be better than the devil we don’t know. No one is denying what you are saying about the true nature of the phony “secular” leaders, but the Muslim Brotherhood could very well come to power on the backs of these demonstrators and then we have an even worse situation. Surely, to take Egypt as an example, it is better for us to have a Mubarak in power than a Khomeini-like regime.
Farahat: I believe that’s a dangerous notion, because the “devil you know” is breeding and indoctrinating millions of devils you don’t know. It’s an unsustainable strategy that only creates a short-term delusion of stability while it only allows your enemy to conveniently plot against you as you support him! The long term outcome is devastating; it brings us to the point we are at now. And what if Mubarak dies? He is in his 80’s and sick with cancer. It would have fallen even harder on the lap of the devils you don’t know if he had died, so this circle has to be dismantled all together with a new fresh different outlook, this is too costly, risky and unsustainable.
I don’t think Egypt will be a Khomeini-like regime, not just because the people won’t allow it, but because we already have a Khomeini-like Sunni regime in Saudi Arabia that monopolizes supremacy on the Sunni radical domain and it will not allow competition on Sunni supremacy.
The concept of Khilafah is very much alive and well, and functioning stealthily. Egypt is a Saudi colony; KSA has been trying to ideologically control Egypt by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood since the early 1930’s and in the 40’s the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrated the Egyptian army. The Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and almost 90 officers of his movement that he called “The Free Officers,” were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nasser himself swore alliance to the terrorist organization on a gun and the Quran; according to Khalid Mohei Eldeen’s biography, who was a member of the “Free Officers” and Member of Parliament.
The 1952 putsch was staged by members of the Muslim Brotherhood that subverted Egypt from a liberal secular constitutional monarchy to an Islamic socialist state, and that’s far from being just a historic fact, it’s the current reality of our 59 year old system of governance, the system that still governs Egypt till today is very much governing in accordance to the ideology of Islamic-socialism. So whether the Muslim Brotherhood governs Egypt directly or by proxy, their allegiance will mainly be to Saudi Arabia, which is highly unlikely to support the creation of another Sunni Khilafah, it’s already having enough trouble competing with the Shi’te one in Iran.
FP: Your thoughts on Bush’s policies in the Middle East? Obama’s?
Farahat: It’s incredible how much we are affected in Egypt and in other third world countries by the policies of the White House – even more dramatically than Americans themselves are.
America is governed by a solid instructional political system and the “rule of law”; so the short term immediate impact of the policies presidents in the White House on Americans is usually economic, but the policies of American presidents affect us here on a whole different level and have a much stronger impact than one would imagine, as lawless corrupt constitutionally theocratic socialist dictatorships and gang politics function under an entirely different system and different epistemology than that of the West.
Bin Laden’s “strong horse” and “weak horse” analogy explains it best. That’s not al-Qaeda’s perception of power, that’s the who Arab region’s concept of governance; accurately defining the concept of power in Arab countries can lead to better policies, to Arab regimes you are either a “weak horse” or a “strong horse”, there is nothing called an Arab “moderate” regime, that’s a western myth, you’re either “free” or “Dhimmi”, “victim” or “victimizer.” That’s how power is perceived in Arab nations.
Most Arab and western media systematically disfigured and undermined the success of G. W. Bush policies in the Middle East as part of Islamic western leftist jihad; my political work and hundreds if not thousands of other people in Egypt and the region is somehow a byproduct of the policies of the “strong horse,” President Bush of course. Our existence in politics was a result of American intervention in Iraq, I am certainly not saying that America should military intervene in every Arab country, far from it. But a strong political stance doesn’t have to be done militarily.
As Mark Steyn puts it: “Overwhelming force is one thing, but overwhelming force behaving underwhelming as a matter of policy is quite another.”
Every Arab tyrant was terrified of hand washing his own clothes and hiding in a cave like their ally Saddam Hussein; so they had to leverage with the “strong horse” in the White House by giving us more rights, and this changed the daily lives of millions to the better and made politics more accessible for someone like me. I personally went from being an underground anonymous activist to someone who publicly publishes ideas that were completely banned and severely punished before President Bush’s administration.
Why President Obama supported protests in Egypt and why I do, might be for entirely different reasons. The Obama administration is resuming formal contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood, which certainly is not in the best interest of freedom loving people in Egypt. There are millions of us who want real freedom. Whoever America communicates with here becomes stronger. The Bush administration communicated with us, Obama’s administration is communicating with the Muslim Brotherhood, that’s basically the difference.
FP: Ms. Farahat, recent polls reveal that more than 80% of Egyptians want stoning for adultery and the death penalty for apostasy. In other words, they overwhelmingly support and want Sharia. The fact is that 80%-90% of the female population is subjected to female genital mutilation in Egypt. Hatred of Israel is off the charts, as angry mobs are demanding Egypt cut all ties with Israel. Christians are becoming the victims of a planned mass genocide. The mob that sexually assaulted Laura Logan – what did that indicate about the temperament and direction of the Egyptian revolution? Where are all these secular forces and democratic you are referring to? Where are they in the streets defending Israel and Christians, denouncing apostasy laws and Sharia and shouting against FGM? They are not to be seen anywhere.
How does one have optimism about implementing “democracy” within such an environment? Who is it that the West is supposed to deal with exactly? Yes it would be nice if there was a strong opposition that wanted true freedom, but the numbers and realities on the ground simply reveal the opposite.
Farahat: Dr. Glazov, I’m afraid your question about the whereabouts of the secular forces I’m referring to needs to be addressed first to Mubarak’s regime; ask him why he banned, imprisoned, tortured and terrorized secular dissidents and opened the parliament wide in a forged election to the Muslim Brotherhood in 2005. Why did Mubarak’s regime ban our secular capitalist political party twice? How many people do you think would be ready to get phone calls from state security daily for years telling them gruesome torture details they would do to them if they lay their hands on them?
How many people would be ready to endure the horror I and people like me go through every night and day by Mubarak’s regime for demanding secularism? This is how much there are secular dissidents, the kind of people who would be willing to die or live in terror for what they believe in, would be a minority in any nation under the current circumstances; secularism in Egypt is a form of conscious political dissent against a constitutionally theocratic terrorist police state governed by torturers; it’s like asking me how many people were willing to defy the Soviet Union? Where were they? They were exactly where secular dissidents in Egypt are, that place that very few people dare go to against the will of a tyrannical police state that counts the breaths of its citizens. There is no such thing as mainstream dissident, so that’s why secularism isn’t mainstream in Egypt; it’s a form of dissent that threatens dissidents’ lives.
And unfortunately I cannot accept a poll where 80%-90% of the people wanting anything different than that of the state – in a police state! It’s like saying that there was a poll under the Soviet Union where 80%-90% of the citizens wanted to be governed by socialism. I look at numbers with caution under totalitarian dictatorships. They basically mirror the state’s policy. People are scared to tell the truth, when they know it can get them segregated, threatened, imprisoned, tortured, abducted, raped, or killed.
Regarding the Christian genocide, if you would kindly allow me a separate interview if you’re interested in full accounts of the crimes perpetrated by Mubarak’s regime against Christians to answer this important question; I can write a book with the overwhelming irrefutable evidence to the direct involvement and incitement of Mubarak’s regime in every major terrorist attack on Christians, they don’t even make an effort to cover their tracks.
As for Lara Logan’s ordeal, we have numerous incidents that took place where both male and female journalists, bloggers, and activists were sexually assaulted, stripped naked and raped in public by Mubarak’s thugs. The most famous incident was Abeer Elaskary’s. In 2005 a woman reporting for the Dostor newspaper, got brutally beaten, sexually assaulted, and stripped naked by Mubarak’s goons. Elaskary identified Major General Maged Elsherbeeni, secretary general of the Youth Committee of the National Democratic Party (NDP); directly giving orders that orchestrating the mobs, including both women and men that assaulted the Kefaya protesters. Logan recounts that after the mob tore her clothes off; they took cell phone pictures of her. Elaskary reports that after the mob tore her clothes off, a state security officer took cell phone pictures of her while telling her, “Show me how you’ll be a political leader after I spread these pictures I took of you.” There are numerous examples of similar cases. And I have friends who were abducted by secret police in civilian clothes and raped in police stations. It’s the regime’s mode of operation; we know it all too well.
During the protests in Tahrir square my brother was brutally beaten and his teeth broken by Mubarak’s thugs as they called him “a Jew”; before the thugs took him to a police station upon orders of the policeman who was telling them to beat him up because he is a “traitor”. My brother was with our friend the Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey, who was also badly beaten and his car was completely destroyed by secret police. It’s the regime’s mode of operation, and claiming that this was perpetrated by protesters only says that Islamic socialist dictatorships are very successful in conniving the west.
I am certainly not saying the majority of the Muslim population doesn’t want Sharia law, but we need to accurately define which type of Sharia law; the one that is implemented in Islamic socialist dictatorship that the west also happens to support? Or the one implemented in Saudi Arabia and Iran? It’s all inhumane, but I believe Egyptians are only holding on to the type they already have. I believe that after 6 decades of indoctrination by the state that Sharia law is the only way, it’s only expected that they do.
The Muslim Brotherhood would love to apply full Sharia law, but it won’t happen soon, as according to their ideology, statements, and literature, they don’t believe that this is the moment of “Tamkeen”, which means “stabilization”, as stabilizing full Sharia law. Although there is certainly no ideological difference between the Brotherhood and al-Qaeda, the only differences are strictly methodological, in terms of the duration of Hudna (truce) with infidels, and Tamkeen (stabilization).
In their literature, “stabilization” is the final stage of culturally subverting a nation before it’s governed by Sharia law to avoid and easily eliminate dissent. And as they repetitively said and their history and literature reveal, now is not the moment of stabilization for full Sharia law, which is already applied in Egypt, minus “hodoud” (the Islamic penal system).
As for apostasy, in 1937 a famous Muslim writer called Ismael Adham, published an article and a book titled, “Why I’m an Atheist,” and declared his apostasy in the national newspaper at the time and he did not receive one death threat, and all the reaction he got was one article by a Muslim writer titled, “Why I’m a believer,” agnostics, atheists and ex-Muslims even had their own cemeteries so they wouldn’t be buried in accordance to Sharia law. The majority of Egyptians were Muslims then, and they are Muslim now, what changed is the system of governance, education, and media that indoctrinates them according the political ideology of the Arab petro-dollars funding Wahhabism all over the globe.
No doubt anti-Semitism is festering in Egypt; but I don’t think stopping it would be through perpetuating the same regime that sponsors and breeds it.
All the important things you stated are symptoms of the malignant disease systematically spread by the state. I don’t believe that Middle Easterners are a lesser specie, so I don’t believe nations are born hateful, xenophobic, intolerant, pyromaniac and suicidal. They are shaped this way by a ruthless system.
I am also not saying I want a ballot-box democracy; I published an article titled, “I don’t want democracy!” I believe in a secular constitutional republic which is light years away after the past 6 decades of destruction Egypt has endured; but I also know that there is absolutely no substitute to peaceful transition of power regulated by law and a new constitution.
FP: Cynthia Farahat my heart goes out to you and your brother, your family and all the brave Egyptians who have been brutalized during their fight for true freedom.
We are not disagreeing about Mubarak and about those who have ruled and continue to rule Egypt; they are truly monsters who are, as you have described, not real “moderates” and who have abused their own people and have played – and are playing – a double game with the West.
The only problem is, who is there for the West to support? It is a tragic situation, and I was emphasizing that part of this tragedy is that the majority of Egyptians do not appear to be inspired by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, and in light of the revolution on the streets, that is a problem, a problem in that, while who has been in power is obviously brutal and corrupt, we will get something far more evil and hazardous as a replacement.
So, one thing is clear, we would agree on the benefit of empowering true secular forces who want true freedom in Egypt. How do you advise we do that?
Farahat: Thank you, Dr. Glazov.
No majority sanctioned in an Islamic-socialist police state would be inspired by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, as these ideas are banned by the regime. Yet, in light of the revolution on the streets; I respectfully disagree with you.
I was in the protests, and I saw the Muslim Brotherhood kicked out of Tahrir square when they said, “Islam is the solution”, and no one, and literally no one, not a single person addressed their slogan, I was even worried for safety of the man as he was told to shut up or get out while thousands screamed and chanted “Freedom”. There were few anti-Semitic pictures and signs but not slogans because simply no one was repeating them! The signs started to appear only when the Muslim Brotherhood started to join the protests, after Aljazeera started reporting “shock” from the absences of anti-American and anti-Israel slogan, and the following day after their report; voilà – they started appearing holding these signs in very small organized groups that were almost non-visible on the street.
Not a single slogan in Tahrir square demanded Islamism or Sharia law for 18 days, although I repetitively saw signs and heard slogans demanding secularism, human rights and freedom and unfortunately also demanded, “social justice”; freedom was demand not because the masses were inspired by Jefferson or Paine, but because freedom is universal human yearning and I saw it with my own eyes. In the absence of Mubarak’s mobs, Tahrir square was the exceptionally civilized, tolerant and free; and that’s just a fact.
But when I say I am optimistic, it’s not because a hopeful naïve delusion that a ballot-box in Egypt would bring a secular capitalist to presidency after 6 decades of Soviet style indoctrination of socialism and hate. It’s because the confirmation I got from Tahrir square to the fact that all peoples yearn for freedom, but their behavior is engineered according to how their laws, their education systems, and their media. I’ve seen and studied how it’s done. I know the near future of Egypt is not going to be much different from its past; military oligarchies don’t resign.
As for how to empower secular forces, I believe there is no alternative to stopping the unconditional support that is given to the constitutionally theocratic tyrannical Islamic socialist regimes that bans and oppress the true secular forces. If it has to happen, at least it should be conditional.
FP: But wait a minute, we seem to be going in circles here. If the West stops supporting these Islamic-socialist regimes, who will replace them? Again, that these regimes are oppressive and monstrous is a given. But again, Jeffersonians are not set to take power – Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are. Do you recognize this danger and problem, and do you see a way out of it?
Farahat: I’m afraid I have to disagree with you again, al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood are far from ready to take charge, and they know that Egyptians are extremely apprehensive now, and that any mistake can blow up in their faces, and the Brotherhood is much smarter than to try to seize presidential power and they repetitively expressed that, under these circumstances, they are aiming for the parliament which Mubarak’s regime, and Anwar Sadat, before him allowed them to join, changing their status from a “banned” organization to a legitimate parliamentary opposition. Not that the Brotherhood was ever banned for ideological reasons; it’s simply because they aspire to replace the military oligarchy, not because they disagree on anything, far from it.
I believe that a ballot-box would not bring a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and certainly not Salafis, nor al-Qaeda. There is a hysterical fear of Salafis in Egypt among Muslims as much as Christians, it surprises me every time, but the fact that Salafis attack and harass Muslims here as well makes them widely rejected. They are the least popular political group in Egypt. I only hear that Salafis are popular in Egypt from western media, it doesn’t resonate with me.
Egyptians won’t elect someone like me, but they also won’t elect someone who would apply Hodud (Islamic penal law); the next president will not be very different from Mubarak, the majority of Egyptians also believe in the “devil we know” notion. Being active on the ground here has shown me, and many others activists involved with Egyptian politics would confirm that fact, that Muslims are terrified here of Hodud. Egypt looks like a conservative society, but Egyptians dance and smoke Hashish and party like there’s no tomorrow. And that’s why the Brotherhood knows it’s not their moment of Tamkeen (stabilizing full Sharia law).
Thousands of Muslims are now daily joining “liberal” political parties as the Brotherhood daily loses popularity for trying to preserve Mubarak’s regime and the past status quo.
No person in their right mind wouldn’t fear Islamists; I certainly do, but I also know that they’re not going anywhere near upholding presidency in Egypt and obviously neither anyone else as a matter of fact, the 59 year old military oligarchy is probably staying in power.
I see no way out of this without the western governments making their support to the next Islamic-socialist dictator conditioned with human rights, because the better the status of human rights, the more access seculars have to political participation and spreading their ideas and thus, political reform. An atmosphere where seculars are killed and tortured doesn’t really allow reform; as most seculars would either be dead or in prison, as it used to be the case in Egypt since 1952, till 2003. The regime still banned us after 2003, but it wasn’t as brutal as it was prior to 2003; due to President Bush’s policies.
FP: Cynthia Farahat, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
One only hopes you are right. How frightening and tragic it is that back in 1979 so many people argued that a revolution in Iran would not bring in a genocidal Islamist regime, but that is exactly what happened after Carter pulled the rug from under the Shah’s feet. Perhaps the situation in Egypt is different and of course the ideal would be that people like you represented the majority in that country – and would rule it. But empirical realities seem to indicate that that is not the case and there may well be disastrous consequences if certain policies are applied ignoring this reality.
But I think we’ve made our concerns and visions clear in this interview and readers are welcome to read Robert Spencer’s different perspective about the “Arab Spring” in post-Mubarak Egypt – in which he warns that it heralds a resurgent Islamic supremacism.
In any case, Cynthia Farahat, we very much admire you for your courage and it is heroic people like you that need so much more of the West’s support and defense.
Thank you for your noble fight for liberty in the face of monstrous oppression. We hope you prevail and that you will come visit us again soon at Frontpagemag.com.