With Friends Like This, Egypt Doesn't Need Enemies
I'll put this plainly, since my government isn't. Every bit of my heart, as an American and a human being and someone who deeply believes in democracy and human rights, is on the side of Egyptians who want exactly the rights and freedoms and opportunities all Americans take for granted. And we should say so to Mubarak: Do not touch another hair on the head of another protester, or you will face the wrath of the United States.
We must also confront forthrightly the chance--not a certainty, nor even a likelihood, but not an impossibility--that the Muslim Brotherhood will take power as the result of the uprising there.
I don't believe this is an Islamist uprising. I believe it is a genuinely democratic uprising. But Egyptian civil society is fragile and the Muslim Brotherhood is strong, well-organized, and well-financed. Were it to take power, there is every reason to believe it would make those very Egyptians for whom my heart aches long for Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood does not envision for Egypt a tolerant, pluralistic modern democracy: It envisions a theocracy. I have made this case at length and I stand by it.
This is why my heart sank when I saw this op-ed by about Egypt by Anwar Ibrahim in the Wall Street Journal:
The problems that plague the Arab world remain overwhelming: the concentration of wealth and power by the few over the many, poor infrastructure, primitive education systems, minimal health care, and decreasing incomes in the face of rising food prices and cost of living. Corruption and nepotism reign in the complete absence of accountability and transparency.
It is a perfect recipe for political upheaval: political marginalization and economic impoverishment for the people and ill-gotten wealth for the ruling elite. It’s a reality that can’t be cloaked by propaganda—citizens can see the reality on YouTube and Facebook—though the leaders certainly try. Indeed, no Arab leader has owned up to any of these evils, other than by offering pious platitudes about improving the economic lot of their people. ...
And he's right! He's right! What man of conscience could read this without nodding?
Except for one thing. Anwar is a textbook exemplar of Islamism 2.0, an anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood loyalist (no doubt about that) who has come to appreciate that the word "democracy" is his friend and that no one in the West will be that curious about what he truly believes or the company he keeps so long as he liberally uses the magic word "moderate."
I've written about this before. Among his other Islamist achievements, Anwar co-founded the IIIT, a Muslim Brotherhood front organization in the United States whose members have been arrested on terrorism charges. It publishes obscene Islamist propaganda, and has been implicated very credibly as a financier of terrorism:
There is more evidence of IIIT’s links to terrorism. A few examples: according to court documents, in the early 1990s IIIT donated at least $50,000 to a think tank run by Sami al-Arian, the World Islamic and Study Enterprise (WISE), that served as a front group for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. IIIT is also named as a defendant in two class-action lawsuits brought by victims of the 9/11 attacks. One alleges that IIIT received the bulk of its operating expenses from the SAAR network, whose component groups are accused in another class-action suit of being “fronts for the sponsor of al Qaeda and international terror.”
In 2006, lecturing in Washington DC, Anwar noted (not at all for the first time) that he was most influenced by the writings of “Syed Qutb, Hassan Al Banna, and Maududi.” Those names will be familiar to Ricochet's readers: You'll know what they stand for, and it's surely not democracy. To the extent that such ideologues embrace democracy, it is not democracy for its own sake--it's democracy as a streetcar to sharia. In Malaysia, Anwar's party has formed an electoral alliance with the PAS, the party that calls for the strict imposition of sharia law. And he is positively proud of his association with Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
The bogeyman of Islamism, the oft-cited scapegoat of Middle Eastern dictators to justify their tyranny, must therefore be reconsidered or junked altogether. The U.S., too, should learn a lesson about the myth that secular tyrants and dictators are its best bet against Islamists. Revolutions, be they secular or religious, are born of a universal desire for autonomy. The common thread that binds the Iranian revolution and the Tunisian upheaval is the rising discontent of the people after years of suffering under oppressive rule.
Anwar is the bogeyman of Islamism: It's a self-refuting statement. One of the most sinister aspects of Islamism today is that it has learned to exploit democracy, or at least the rhetoric of democracy, and it has learned to exploit the way the West pays no attention to the details.
That said, he is also right that secular tyrants and dictators are no inoculation against Islamism. They are no inoculation against tyranny and dictatorship, either. These are inherent evils. We do not oppose Islamism because it is Islamic, we oppose it because it is tyrannical.
As Americans, we have to be against all tyranny--against kleptocrats, against aging dictators, against Islamists, against communists, against fascists. We are for democracy, civil rights, the rule of law. We're against cracking the heads of young people exercising their God-given freedom to assemble and speak. We're for freedom of expression. We're against Islamists like Qaradawi and his friends. We're for free elections in Egypt, unmarred by corruption.
But let's come out and say it. We are not for the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in those elections, unless this movement explicitly renounces those parts of its political ideology that are simply incompatible with democracy. Unless they do, they will be the next group of thugs cracking the heads of Egyptian democrats.
We are allowed to say all of this. And we must. There's only one side to be on in this: The side of liberal democrats. That's what we are and that's what we believe.