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February 12th, 2011

lifeonqueen: (Canadiana - Not Nic by butterflyicons)
Saturday, February 12th, 2011 04:24 am
Best Egyptian Protest Signs.

I also have thoughts that it's too late to type up right now on how Mubarak used the Muslim Brotherhood as a bogeyman for Western governments while embracing the most dangerous thing about them - their Islamist rhetoric - to give popular legitimacy to his dictatorship within Egypt (the House of Saud does (did?) the same thing by funding the international Wahhabist movement).

UCSB prof Paul Amar argues persuasively in an essay reprinted on Al Jaz English that Mubarak had appropriated the moral-cultural conservatism of the Muslim Brotherhood while subsuming them into Egypt's financial elite:

Brothers were allowed to enter parliament as independent candidates and have been allowed to participate in the recent economic boom. The senior Brothers now own major cell phone companies and real estate developments - and have been absorbed into the NDP machine and upper-middle class establishment for years. Second, the government wholly appropriated the Brotherhood's moral discourse.

For the past ten or fifteen years Mubarak’s police-state has stirred moral panics and waved the banner of Islam, attacking single working women, homosexuals, devil-worshipping internet users, trash-recycling pig farmers, rent-control squatters - as well as Bahai, Christian and Shia minorities. In its morality crusades, the Mubarak government burned books, harassed women, and excommunicated college professors. Thus, we can say that Egypt has already experienced rule by an extremely narrow Islamist state – Mubarak's. Egyptians tried out that kind of regime. And they hated it.

In recent years, as described in the work of Saba Mahmood and Asef Bayat, people have grown disgusted by Mubarak's politicisation of Islam. Egyptians began to reclaim Islam as a project of personal self-governance, ethical piety, and social solidarity. This trend explicitly rejects the political orientation of Islam and explicitly separates itself both from Brotherhood activities and Mubarak's morality crusades.

Against this backdrop, the future role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt looks quite different than presented in American media - more Roman Catholic Church in Communist Poland than Ayatollahs-in-waiting. It's hard to make any informed judgement as I have neither on-the-ground experience nor any Arabic but I think it does raise a question of whether the Muslim Brotherhood were not a driving force behind the protests (which seems to be a near universal conclusion among commentators) less because they were canny than because the protests were in-part a rejection of politicized Islam, much as the West once upheld the separation of church and state as a sine qua non of a liberal democracy.

I feel, but can't really articulate why, that the focus on MB is, not misplaced, but misfocused. What I do know is that 30 years of Mubarak's rule, including a near decade as a soldier in the "War of Terror," no more halted the rise of Islamism in Egypt than the blockade of Gaza has eliminated support for Hamas. Quite the opposite - by supporting dictators and the demonstrably illegal actions of our allies in the name of a specious "stability," we have, like the God of Exodus, succeeded only in hardening their hearts against us.

More on that later, perhaps....