Whither Egypt? -- Yusuf al-Qaradawi
The recent Arab uprisings began while I was vacationing in regions with slow internet access, so I missed out on those beginnings and have been playing catch-up ball ever since. I did express a passing opinion last January 30th when I managed to access the Marmot's Hole:
If the protests bring down the Egyptian government, the Islamists will almost certainly take control.The government hasn't quite fallen because the military retains control, but the Islamists in Egypt are positioning themselves to take advantage even though the January 25th Revolution was largely led by secular youth. One needs to recall the events of Iran's 1979 Revolution, in which the secular revolutionaries were edged out by Islamists guided by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Do we see anything similar happening in Egypt? According to Dan Murphy, "Egypt revolution unfinished, Qaradawi tells Tahrir masses" (Christian Science Monitor, February 18, 2011):
Leading Islamic theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi returned from Qatar to rally hundreds of thousands at Tahrir Square today in his first public speech since 1981 . . . .This doesn't bode particularly well, in my opinion. The Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, want Shariah (Islamic law) for Egypt, and that is what is ultimately meant by "a stronger role for the faith in the nation's political life." Hamid insists that Qaradawi is more mainstream, more moderate that other Islamists. Perhaps he is comparatively less extreme, but that doesn't make him a moderate. Magdi Abdelhadi, reporting for the BBC News, "Controversial preacher with 'star status'" (7 July, 2004), relates Qaradawi's views on suicide bombing against Israelis:
The devout crowd . . . was also a reminder that huge sections of Egypt take their Islamic faith seriously -- and that real and open democratic reform will almost certainly lead to a stronger role for the faith in the nation's political life.
"Qaradawi is very much in the mainstream of Egyptian society, he's in the religious mainstream, he's not offering something that's particularly distinctive or radical in the context of Egypt," says Mr. [Shadi] Hamid[, research director at the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center in Qatar]. "He's an Islamist and he's part of the Brotherhood school of thought, but his appeal goes beyond the Islamist spectrum, and in that sense he's not just an Islamist figure, he's an Egyptian figure with a national profile."
Defending suicide bombings that target Israeli civilians Sheikh A-Qaradawi told the BBC programme Newsnight that "an Israeli woman is not like women in our societies, because she is a soldier.Is this really so different in principle from Al-Qaeda's view that suicide bombings against the West are legitimate because Westerners are not innocent victims? Qaradawi distances himself from Al-Qaeda, but he seems to me to be of the same cloth.
"I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an evidence of God's justice . . . . Allah Almighty is just; through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do".
And worrisome if true is this Agence France-Presse report in the Hindustan Times: "Egypt protest hero Wael Ghonim barred from stage" (February 18, 2011):
Google executive Wael Ghonim, who emerged as a leading voice in Egypt's uprising, was barred from the stage in Tahrir Square on Friday by security guards, an AFP photographer said. Ghonim tried to take the stage in Tahrir, the epicentre of anti-regime protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, but men who appeared to be guarding influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi barred him from doing so.I've not been able to confirm this through any independent reports on other news sites, but if this should be an authentic report, it also does not bode well for the secular leaders of the January 25th Revolution.
Whatever the case on that report, let's hope that the youthful secular leaders of Egypt's January 25th Revolution prove tougher, cannier, and better organized than Iran's were back in 1979.