Now that the Muslim Brotherhood has begun talks with opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei to form a national unity government after the fall of Mubarak, which apparently all concerned expect to be imminent, the character of the Egyptian revolution has become clearer. Whether or not the majority of demonstrators were pro-Sharia, the Brotherhood was the sole entity in Egypt capable of constituting an organized and energized vanguard that could put an ideological cast on the rapidly unfolding revolt. And so Egypt now stands on the brink of installing in power a group that wants to see it become an Islamic state.
Many Western analysts have welcomed the demonstrations currently roiling Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East as an outpouring of democratic sentiment against repressive authoritarian rulers – and that they are. But it is no coincidence that Islamic supremacist pro-Sharia leaders and groups are also applauding these demonstrations. They know that if the people truly rule in the Middle East, so will Islamic law (Sharia). For belying the widespread assumption in the West that Islamic supremacists, whether violent or stealthy, represent only a tiny minority of extremists among Muslims, in reality the imperative for Islamic rule (which is also the ultimate goal of jihad terror attacks) enjoys broad popular support among Muslims.
It thus came as no surprise that when Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled from power and fled to Saudi Arabia, Rached Ghannouchi, the London-based leader of the banned Tunisian pro-Sharia party, the Tunisian Renaissance Party (Hizb al-Nahdah), quickly dubbed the Tunisian uprising an “intifada,” claimed it as a victory for Islam, and returned to the country. In Egypt, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who has the backing of the pro-Sharia Muslim Brotherhood, adopted the same language, warning that “if the regime does not step down, the people’s Intifada will continue.”
The word intifada in Arabic signifies resistance to oppression, but in this case the oppression that Ghannouchi and others, possibly including ElBaradei, had in mind was clearly that of secular rule and the failure of Ben Ali, Mubarak and other Arab rulers to implement Islamic law fully. The internationally influential Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, also applauded the demonstrations; a website linked to him last week posted a chapter of his 2009 book Laws of Jihad, including this passage: “The laws of Islam instruct us to… oppose the tyrant… All types of oppression [including] of subjects and peoples by their rulers – are reprehensible and forbidden, and jihad must be waged against them.”
In Iran, the Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi claimed that the Iranian Islamic Revolution was the model for the new demonstrations: “Today, as a result of the gifts of the Islamic revolution in Iran, freedom-loving Islamic peoples such as the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt and nearby Arab countries are standing up to their oppressive governments.” He praised the Egyptian demonstrators, asserting that what they were doing was “based on the principles” of revolution that installed the Islamic regime in Tehran in 1979.
Likewise, when the demonstrations first began in Tunisia, pro-Sharia MP’s in Kuwait applauded “the courage of the Tunisian people,” and Abdelmalek Deroukdal, a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, hailed the revolution as a jihad and expressed solidarity with the Tunisians. In Gaza, the jihadist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad were both thrilled at events in Tunisia. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri hailed the victory for democracy, and Gaza Foreign Minister Fathi Hammad emphasized that “we are with the Tunisians in choosing their leaders, no matter what sacrifices it takes.”
Islamic Jihad praised the Tunisian people for liberating themselves “through blood, sacrifices and the expression of free will,” adding ominously that the toppling of Ben Ali was “a message to Arab and Islamic countries to pay attention to the aspirations of their people that are rejecting hegemony and tyranny before it is too late.” Islamic Jihad held a rally in Gaza City, featuring hundreds of jihadists waving Tunisian flags festooned with the words “Revenge against tyranny.”
With Islamic supremacism comes Islamic anti-Semitism, and that abundantly true in the case of these demonstrations. Islamic Jihad spokesman Dawud Shehab sounded a drearily familiar note in accusing the Ben Ali regime of maintaining “suspicious ties” with Israel. In Egypt, meanwhile, demonstrators toted signs depicting Hosni Mubarak with a Star of David drawn on his forehead. CNN’s Nic Robertson, interviewing demonstrators on a street in Alexandria, Egypt, found several who explained that they hated Mubarak for the uneasy peace he maintained with Israel. “Israel is our enemy,” one said flatly, explaining why she wanted Mubarak to go. Another added, “If people are free, they’re gonna destroy Israel. The country who controls the United States is Israel.”
Iran’s PressTV interviewed a lawyer, Marwan al-Ashaal, in Cairo; al-Ashaal also ascribed much of the popular resentment of Mubarak to his non-belligerence toward Israel: “Currently the Egyptians demand a new rule for the country, a new government, a new leader. The American-Egyptian relationships were based on Israeli security and I think Mubarak has been very dedicated to Israeli security more even than to his own people’s security or the national interests.”
The Iranians, Qaradawi and other Islamic supremacist pro-Sharia elements are excited about the events in Tunisia and Egypt because of the great unacknowledged truth about the Islamic world in general: that Islamic jihadists and pro-Sharia forces, far from being the “tiny minority of extremists” of media myth, are actually quite popular. Any genuine democratic uprising is likely to install them in power. That’s why they’re hailing recent events in Tunisia and Egypt. That is also why all lovers of freedom should view those events with extreme reserve – for a Sharia government in either country will be no friend of the United States. If these uprisings continue to spread (there have already been rumblings in Jordan and Yemen), an already hostile anti-American environment could become much, much worse.
All this yet again demonstrates the crying need for realistic analysis in Washington of the jihad threat, rather than the fantasy-based analysis that prevails there now. If Washington had been working to limit the influence of pro-Sharia forces in Egypt and elsewhere, events unfolding now might be very different.
But it is rapidly becoming too late.
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