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August 14, 2005

Nothing to fear in Egypt except fear itself?
Posted by David Adesnik

Mona_eltahawyIn a WaPo opinion column, Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy (photo opposite) reports that during her annual visit to Cairo, many of her friends told her that the Egyptian people had "broken the barrier of fear" on which the Mubarak regime depends for its longevity.  Eltahawy writes that:

I have never heard so many relatives and friends take such an interest in Egyptian politics or -- more important -- feel that they had a stake in them. This opposition movement holds almost weekly demonstrations. It draws Egyptians from across the political spectrum: leftists, liberals and Islamists. And, more worrisome for Mubarak, it has solid roots in the country's middle class: Journalists, lawyers, judges and university professors have all thrown their hats in.

Before taking an active interest in Egyptian politics, Eltahawy's friends were preoccupied with the sins of America and Israel in Palestine and Iraq.  Eltahawy doesn't say, but seems to imply, that the projection of her friends' anger abroad was the inevitable consequence of thier impotence on the homefront.  But now that has changed:

In Cairo I met reform activists and was lucky enough to march with 300 fellow Egyptians in a demonstration through Shubra, a working-class neighborhood weighed down by the unemployment and poverty that are constant concerns for many Egyptians. It was the first time since the anti-Mubarak protests began in December that protesters had taken their message to the street.

Riot police, who had previously confined demonstrations to one spot, were nowhere to be seen. Most of us knew it was because two days before the protest, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had admonished the Egyptian government for the May beatings and said that peaceful supporters of democracy should be free from violence.

In other words, words get results.  As Eltahawy rightly observes, the Bush administration must keep up the pressure if it wants to see real results.  Democracy is still a long way off, but its foundations are now being laid. 

And to think that just seven months ago, the prospect of serious reform in Egypt was almost unimaginable.  Only the fools seemed to believe back in February that "the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."


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I really like the pictures. The other bloggers should follow your lead and include more pictures.

Protest! Empowerment!

Hopefully. . . . But where are the US Democrats to support the voice of the little man? AWOL? They ought to be ashamed.

This story is about the slender reeds of the first experience with popular government. Most don't see any real democracy arising directly from these events. But after the experience of such slender shoots, mighty oaks can spring, and only time and experience and the promise of success can achieve it.

"Before taking an active interest in Egyptian politics, Eltahawy's friends were preoccupied with the sins of America and Israel in Palestine and Iraq. Eltahawy doesn't say, but seems to imply, that the projection of her friends' anger abroad was the inevitable consequence of thier impotence on the homefront."

This is really one of the critical flaws in neoconservative Republicans/"muscular idealist" Democrats' thinking: assuming that the only reason the Arab masses care about what they see as encroachments against their turf is due to the presence of authoritarian governments. As I pointed out to Suzanne Nossel a couple of months ago, the Kifaya movement had its origins in the protests against the Iraq war back in 2003 -- that's when the barrier of fear was broken, during those demonstrations. One slogan which has been shouted frequently, then and at some subsequent Kifaya demonstrations, has been "Hosni, how much did they [Americans] pay you to sell Egypt?" -- i.e. anger at what they believe is the Mubarak regime's failure to defend Arab interests against Bush and Sharon. It's also worth noting that the largest turnouts for anti-Mubarak demonstrations over the last few months has been for demonstrations organized by the Muslim Brotherhood -- they want political liberalization too, but part of their criticism of Mubarak is that he doesn't govern in accordance with Islamic law.

I think political change will eventually come to Egypt, and elsewhere in the Arab world, but it is a mistake to think they're going to suddenly abandon their own culture and system of values for a Western-style secular political system. It also would not have any effect on their support for the Palestinians, or opposition and anger toward foreign occupation of other Arab countries, like Iraq.

As with Iraq, the people of the "muscular idealist"/neoconservative persuasion (and I'm not sure they're really all that different anymore, except on international institutions) see what they want to see, and tune out any information which conflicts with their preconceived notions.

Greg: Isn't selective listening something ideologues of every stripe do?

Meanwhile...You win points...Though I do wonder. How many people actually think that we would actually see People We Would Like (PW2L) elected in newly democratic places?

Does anybody, or do we all just say that so the average person (generally leery of idealism, it seems) doesn't think we're all off with our head in the clouds?

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Don't bother with the blog, folks. I've been following it for a while, trying to figure out what Sam has been babbling about... and I still have no idea. He sounds like a typical Rush Limbaugh dittohead with paranoid schizophrenia. Definitely off his meds.

i laugh very loud when i read this but for you knowledge all this happen coz the system want them to do but there is a red line all of them theyu can't cross it so stay away from egypt

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