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Muslim Brotherhood

Gaddafi dead

Well apparently the Libyan revolution has bagged its bad guy:

Al Jazeera has acquired exclusive footage of the body of Muammar Gaddafi after he was killed in his hometown, Sirte.

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, an NTC military chief, said Gaddafi had died of his wounds after being captured near Sirte on Thursday.

The body of the former Libyan leader was taken to a location which is being kept secret for security reasons, an NTC official said.

"Gaddafi’s body is with our unit in a car and we are taking the body to a secret place for security reasons," Mohamed Abdel Kafi, an NTC official in the city of Misrata, told Reuters.

Earlier, Abdel Majid, another NTC official, said the toppled leader had been wounded in both legs.

A photograph taken on a mobile phone appeared to show Gaddafi heavily bloodied, but it was not possible to confirm the authenticity of the picture.

The news came shortly after the NTC captured Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, after weeks of fighting.

"Thank God they have caught this person. In one hour, Sirte was liberated," a fighter in the town said.

Now comes the hard part – keeping the “revolution” out of the “Islamic extremist” ditch.

Cue the Muslim Brotherhood …

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Will Libya go the way of Egypt?

It is now fairly widely acknowledged that what was hoped for in Egypt after its “Arab spring” revolution began is increasingly unlikely to happen.  Namely the emergence of a secular and democratic government which will bring stability, peace and prosperity to its nation.  The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t unexpected to those who understood the dynamics of such revolutions.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  Power does as well.  When the Mubarak regime fell, it created just such a power vacuum. And just as with nature, something was bound to fill that vacuum.  In situations like the one in Egypt, that’s usually the most organized and ruthless group available.  Unsurprisingly, that group was the Muslim Brotherhood, and Egypt, like a good number of other states in the area, appears to be headed down the long road to Islamic fundamentalism where Islam and sharia dominate the culture with the usual results.

As Libya goes through the final throes of ousting a dictator, one has to ask what the dominant group might be to fill the power vacuum created there.   We know the Transnational National Council (TNC) is that supposed vehicle for taking power.  But who are they?

Claire Lopez at Big Peace does a little research and gives us an idea.  First, she starts by reading the proposed constitution put forward by the TNC and points to the reality that document promises :

Part of that reality is actually on full display with the online posting of Libya’s “Draft Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Stage. As the equally level-headed Dr. Andrew Bostom wrote in his 22 August 2011 posting, “the salient feature of Libya’s new draft constitution is Part 1, Article 1: Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” [emphasis added]

For those still unsure of what is actually happening in Libya, that Article, which places Islamic law (shariah) at the very top of the constitution, means that principles Jeffersonian republicans consider foundational to a democratic system—such as equality, individual freedom, pluralism, tolerance, minority protections, consent of the governed, natural rights/natural law derived through exercise of human reason, independent (secular) judiciary, and a vibrant free press—even if mentioned later in the draft text, have no real validity. It is what comes first and is stated explicitly in the constitution that carries the real weight. In Libya’s case, that means Islamic law.

Among some that revelation will elicit the reply, “well we don’t know that.  We don’t know that such a declaration will really have the effect that critics are claiming”.   Of course, you have to deny the reality in the vast majority of states in the Middle East where Islam is the state religion and sharia the legal system to say such a thing.

Secondly, Libya is a country with no real experience with western democracy, philosophy or ideals.  For at least 40 years, individual rights have been trampled.  “Natural law” consisted of Gaddafi dictating and the people obeying.  The organs of such a hoped for revolutionary change simply don’t exist in Libya.  But what does exist is an organization of Islamists bent on taking power.  What one has to realize is they believe what they are going to try to do is what is best for both the country and the people.  And they have help:

Those taking over are no less a cause for concern: as Walid Phares points out in his insightful Fox News analysis of 23 August 2011, the Libyan TNC is a motley crew comprising “former diplomats, bureaucrats, and military officers from the old regime” as well as “politicians and leaders from movements and groups from the political left, Marxists, Socialists, Arab Nationalists, liberals and Islamists.” As in Egypt and elsewhere across the region, however, it is the proponents of shariah who are the best organized and most determined to impose their agenda in the post-revolutionary milieu. Their push for power in Libya already is underway, openly supported by Yousuf al-Qaradawi and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and will accelerate from positions within the TNC as its grip on the country is consolidated.

Emphasis mine and an argument I’ve been making prominently since Egypt.  There is nothing at all to indicate that it will be any different in Libya. What most in the West, who have a different take on the involvement of religion in everyday life means, is that Islam is woven into the very fabric of the life of most adherents and is more than something they do once a week.   It is going to be interesting to see how NATO and the US handle this, but when all is said and done, I expect to see another “Islamic Republic” in place, mostly hostile to the West and Israel and with its people again under the boot heel of another form of dictatorship – this time religious in nature.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Has“Arab spring” skipped summer and fall and headed into winter?

Probably.  I assume, to some (and they will know who they are) this will come as an “unexpected” turn of events:

Six months after young, liberal activists helped lead the popular movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the hard core of these protesters was forcibly dispersed by the troops. Some Egyptians lined the street to applaud the army. Others ganged up on the activists as they retreated from the square that has come to symbolize the Arab Spring.

Squeezed between an assertive military and the country’s resurgent Islamist movement, many Internet-savvy, pro-democracy activists are finding it increasingly hard to remain relevant in a post-revolutionary Egypt that is struggling to overcome an economic crisis and restore law and order.

"The liberal and leftist groups that were at the forefront of the revolution have lost touch with the Egyptian people," says Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center. "These protesters have alienated much of Egypt. For some time they’ve been deceiving themselves by saying that the silent majority is on their side—but all evidence points to the contrary, and Monday’s events confirm that."

Rather predictable, at least among those who objectively observe how the world usually works.  As I said early on, the most ruthless and best organized will win this little bout and it was obvious it was the army and the Muslim Brotherhood that shared those attributes.  They also came to an early agreement/alliance between themselves.   At that point, you knew the movement started by the “young, liberal activists” variously described as “Arab Spring” and the “Twitter Revolution” was doomed.

Proof?

The backlash among rank-and-file Egyptians became evident on July 23, when a march by revolutionary activists heading to the defense ministry was assaulted by residents of Cairo’s Abassiya neighborhood. More than a hundred people were injured.

Egypt’s secular and liberal activists have been campaigning for postponing parliamentary elections, initially planned for as early as June, so that they could better organize themselves and compete against the more established Islamists.

Elections have been pushed to November, but the liberals and the secularists appear not to have taken advantage of the delay. Instead of organizing themselves into a coherent bloc, they have set up minuscule rival parties and feuded among themselves, say analysts and diplomats.

"There is a power game going on—and the liberals and the entire secular movement are the weaker element, while the Islamists and the army are strong," said Laila Soueif, a liberal activist and human-rights campaigner who teaches at Cairo University.

The secular and liberal activists let the revolution pass them by while they feuded and fought among themselves.    Meanwhile the army and Brotherhood took advantage of the situation and are now poised to take control of the country – “democratically” of course.  And they’re certainly not going to agree to a delay in elections to allow their rivals for power any chance of better organizing themselves.

I think it is probably pretty clear what the outcome of elections will be and who will end up being squeezed out.   The secular and liberal activists have missed their moment.   Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Hold up the tank sale until after Egyptian elections

This is just not very smart politics or foreign policy:

While everyone in Washington was concentrating on the debt crisis this week, the Obama administration attempted to slip through a questionable arms deal that requires serious scrutiny. Though it got little attention, the Defense Department officially notified Congress on Friday that it was authorizing the sale of 125 M1A1 tanks to Egypt as well as other weapons, equipment, parts, training and logistical support. While most of the military sales to Egypt have sailed through without objection in the more than 30 years since it signed a peace deal with Israel, this is the first such sale since the fall of the Mubarak regime earlier this year. Which is exactly why the sale ought to be held up until the unsettled situation in the most populous country in the Arab world is better understood.

Why?

In the wake of Mubarak’s fall from power, the Egyptian military seems to have retained a firm grip on power. But the army seems intent on sharing power with a resurgent Muslim Brotherhood movement that threatens the foundation of the relationship between the United States and Egypt. Since the 1979 Camp David Accords, the Egyptian military has gotten all the high-tech and expensive equipment it wanted so long as it was clear their new toys would not be used to threaten or attack Israel. But as Egypt lurches toward the election of a new government that will probably be made up of Islamist elements, that peace is in jeopardy.

Emphasis mine.  We have no assurance or reason to believe that won’t happen given the direction of the country and the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood, an avowed enemy of Israel whose representatives have repeatedly said the treaty Egypt has with that country must be voided.

So here we are going along as though nothing has happened and preparing to sell 125 of the world’s most advanced battle tank to a country which could conceivably turn around and use them against Israel.  Since, as I noted in another post, we seem to have little if any leverage there and it appears the Muslim Brotherhood has little desire to talk with us, I would think we’d be leery of such a deal and perhaps use it as a method of gaining some leverage.   No?

Yes, I know we might see another country try to fill the gap by offering their tanks and equipment, but such a switch (Egypt is presently equipped with US military equipment) isn’t as easy as it sounds and it would be quite expensive.  It may be worth it to a Russia or a China (given the Suez Canal, etc.) to do that.

But at the moment this sale makes no sense – at least until the political situation is much more settled than it is at the moment.  125 tanks may not be enough to get the Brotherhood to change it’s mind, but it does represent more leverage than we currently have with their military – the institution that may be able to moderate the Brotherhood’s stance on Israel.  Why give away that sort of leverage for nothing?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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About the "Twitter" revolution in Egypt

Things have certainly gotten better there – especially for US interests in the area – haven’t they?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced the U.S. administration’s intention to officially renew dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. She said the move came as part of the administration’s readiness to talk with any peaceful group wishing to participate in the Egyptian elections, and that this dialogue would be a continuation of limited and intermittent contact that had existed between the U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood over the past six years.

Responding to Clinton’s statements in an article published on the official website of the Muslim Brotherhood, its secretary general in Cairo, Dr. Muhammad Al-Biltagi, wrote that the movement had no personal interest in engaging in dialogue with the U.S., except as part of dialogue between the U.S. and Egypt as a whole. He added that the U.S.’s supportive stance toward Israel, its aggressive policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its support of Mubarak’s anti-Muslim Brotherhood policies could not be ignored.

Or, “once we take over we have no intention of having the close relationship with the US that it had under Mubarak.  Oh, and as long as you support Israel and are in other Muslim countries, we’re not particularly interested in “dialogue” either.”

Sounds pretty much what we all warned those enthralled with the “Twitter” revolution, as well as the “benign” Brotherhood about.

Tiger.  Stripes.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: “oops, we lied”

I’m sure you remember all the rhetoric about how benign the Muslim Brotherhood was and how it really didn’t have designs on the government of Egypt, right?  In fact, we were reassured (well, some of us weren’t) they only wanted a little representation in government and had absolutely no interest in or designs on the presidency.  Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader, makes the point back in early February:

We are mindful, however, as a nonviolent Islamic movement subjected to six decades of repression, that patent falsehoods, fear mongering and propaganda have been concocted against us in Mubarak’s palaces the past 30 years and by some of his patrons in Washington. Lest partisan interests in the United States succeed in aborting Egypt’s popular revolution, we are compelled to unequivocally deny any attempt to usurp the will of the people. Nor do we plan to surreptitiously dominate a post-Mubarak government. The brotherhood has already decided not to field a candidate for president in any forthcoming elections. We want to set the record straight so that any Middle East policy decisions made in Washington are based on facts and not the shameful – and racist — agendas of Islamophobes.

Well, apparently that was “then” (when it was important to keep the wool pulled over the West’s eyes, and particularly the eyes of Washington) and this is “now”:

Notwithstanding the official Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s promise not to seek the presidency or any other positions of power, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 60, member of the MB’s Shura Council and head of the Egyptian Doctors’ Union, has announced he would run for president in Egypt’s coming election.

Who is that again?  Oh, yeah, the same MB member that assured us in February that, “The brotherhood has already decided not to field a candidate for president in any forthcoming elections” , the very same Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.  An “independent”?

Good grief, there’s not even any plausible deniability here.

And that then puts this, something else Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh said, in the “laugh out-loud” column for believability:

Our track record of responsibility and moderation is a hallmark of our political credentials, and we will build on it. For instance, it is our position that any future government we may be a part of will respect all treaty obligations made in accordance with the interests of the Egyptian people.

Because:

A political leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Thursday [Feb 3] called on any government that replaces Hosni Mubarak’s regime to withdraw from the 32-year-old peace treaty with Israel.

"After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel," Rashad al-Bayoumi, a deputy leader of the outlawed movement, said on Japan’s NHTV.

And he isn’t the only MB leader that’s been making that call.  So who should we believe?  I’d say probably not the MB guy who said the MB wouldn’t be putting up a presidential candidate but who is now a presidential candidate.  Agreed?

Yes, it’s pretty hard to find proof of democratic institutions beginning to flower in Egypt.  There’s obviously been a lot of fertilizer spread, but it isn’t the type that grows healthy plants, that’s for sure.

[HT: Legal Insurrection]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood mourns bin Laden

Perhaps it is becoming clearer to even those in deep denial that that the Muslim Brotherhood is "moderate" only if the term is redefined into meaninglessness.  The death of Osama bin Laden provides another indication of the MB’s true character:

But in its first public statement on the killing of bin Laden, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood used the honorific term "sheikh" to refer to the al-Qaeda leader. It also accused Western governments of linking Islam and terrorism, and defended "resistance" against the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as "legitimate."

The Muslim Brotherhood’s response to bin Laden’s death may finally end the mythology — espoused frequently in the U.S. — that the organization is moderate or, at the very least, could moderate once in power. This is, after all, precisely how Muslim Brothers describe their creed — "moderate," as opposed to al-Qaeda, which is radical. "Moderate Islam means not using violence, denouncing terrorism, and not working with jihadists," said Muslim Brotherhood youth activist Khaled Hamza, for whom the organization’s embrace of "moderate Islam" was the primary reason he joined.

Yet the Muslim Brotherhood’s promise that its "moderation" means rejecting violence includes a gaping exception: the organization endorses violence against military occupations, which its leaders have told me include Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, and Palestine — in other words, nearly every major conflict on the Eurasian continent.

It should end the mythology, but it won’t.  There are those on the left to invested in the belief that they are a moderate force that they won’t back down even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.  This is your “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to the death of bin Laden:

"The whole world, and especially the Muslims, have lived with a fierce media campaign to brand Islam as terrorism and describe the Muslims as violent by blaming the September 11th incident on al-Qaeda." It then notes that "Sheikh Osama bin Laden" was assassinated alongside "a woman and one of his sons and with a number of his companions," going on to issue a rejection of violence and assassinations. It goes on to ominously declare that the Muslim Brotherhood supports "legitimate resistance against foreign occupation for any country, which is the legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and international agreements," and demands that the U.S., the European Union, and NATO quickly "end the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people." It closes by demanding that the U.S. "stop its intelligence operations against those who differ with it, and cease its interference in the internal affairs of any Arab or Muslim country."

As Eric Trager says, the statement issued by the MB is “vintage bin Laden”:

[I]t’s Muslim lands, not America, that are under attack; it’s Muslims, not American civilians, who are the ultimate victims; and, despite two American presidents’ genuine, effusive promises to the contrary, Islam is the target. It’s an important indicator that despite its increased responsibility in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood may well remain deeply hostile toward even the one of the most basic and defensible of American interests in the Middle East — that of securing Americans from terrorism.

In Egypt, at least, this is the result of the “Arab Spring”.  As predicted, the best organized and most ruthless are winning out.  And the result will not advance the peace process in the region.  On the contrary, “moderate” has come to be defined by bin Laden, not by any recognizable dictionary.  The Muslim Brotherhood has fooled a lot of so-called “scholars” into believing them to be a benign force for good and interested in democratic reform.  Instead, they’ll most likely find out that they’re anything but benign and they are only interested in democracy if it advances their agenda.  And that agenda is anything but moderate.

~McQ

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Egypt, predictably, begins to go the way of radical Islam

Damien McElroy in Cairo, reporting for the UK Telegraph, has the following observations:

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic movement and the founder of Hamas, has set up a network of political parties around the country that eclipse the following of the middle class activists that overthrew the regime. On the extreme fringe of the Brotherhood, Islamic groups linked to al-Qeada are organising from the mosques to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the dictatorship.

The military-led government already faces accusations that it is bowing to the surge in support for the Muslim movements, something that David Cameron warned of in February when he said Egyptian democracy would be strongly Islamic.

{feigned surprise} Oh, my, who’d have thought that could happen?  Only the terminally naïve or those with no understanding of the area or human nature would have figured otherwise. 

Power vacuums produce opportunities for others to fill them.  The US helped create that vacuum by insisting Hosni Mubarak must step down. 

Usually, as we’ve mentioned here any number of times, the most organized and ruthless succeed in filling such power vacuums.  And that’s precisely the case in Egypt where Islam in general is as pervasive as the air breathed there and the Muslim Brotherhood, while never allowed to be in power previously, was the most organized of the groups with the potential to fill the power vacuum.

And that is coming to fruition.  Not just in an Islamic sense, but in an Islamist sense as well.  The Muslim factions are poised to take over and control any government voted in by the public and do it in a big way:

Mohammed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, last week predicted the group’s candidates would win 75 per cent of the seats it contested.

Fundamentalist factions have also emerged as parties. Gamaa al-Islamiya, an al-Qaeda linked group that promotes Salafist traditions has used its mosques as a political base for the first time since the 1970s.

Egypt attempted in the past – however oppressive that effort was – to keep a largely secular government, at least by Middle Eastern standards.  And that was to our benefit and certainly to the benefit of the region.  It produced the peace treaty with Israel and ushered in a few decades of relatively peaceful times in the Middle East.  That’s pretty much likely to go by the wayside soon.  This next government will be steeped in Islam if not a good measure of Islamism.  That has been ordained by the first “democratic” vote in Egypt:

A scare campaign that a No vote in last months referendum would eliminate Islamic law from the Egyptian constitution ensured a 77 per cent Yes result.

As for those who participated in the April 6th movement and want a more secular and democratic Egypt?  Well, again, the best organized is the most likely to succeed, right?  And they have little or no organization:

But the April 6th movement that spearheaded protests has no clear plan for party politics. Diplomats have warned the demonstrators are not well prepared for elections.

"The leadership of the protests was so focused on the street-by-street detail of the revolution, they have no clue what to do in a national election," said a US official involved in the demonstrations. "Now at dinner the protesters can tell me every Cairo street that was important in the revolution but not how they will take power in Egypt."

Entirely predictable and clearly not in the best interest of the US – which calls into question the administration’s decision not to back Mubarak but call for his ouster.  The result is an unintended consequence one assumes – we backed a faction that we knew little about, which has had little impact since and now we’re going to see results that we don’t want and are not in the best interests of the US or peace in the region.  The same could be said about Libya.

Finally, don’t be fooled by the “independent” status of Egyptian political candidates for the Presidency there.  Their independence is in name only as they must court the factions that are likely to hold power in any legislature that forms.

Although the leading contenders for Egypt’s presidency are independents, many have begun wooing the Muslim blocs. Front-runner Amr Moussa, the Arab League president, has conceded that its inevitable that Islamic factions will be the bedrock of the political system.

Of course they will and that means, inevitably, that Egypt will eventually revoke its treaty with Israel thereby setting the peace process back to square one.

Yes, this has been beautifully played by the President and the State Department.  If naiveté in foreign affairs was ever more  evident than now, I’m having difficulty remembering it (Jimmy Carter is as close as it comes, and they’re making even him look competent).

~McQ

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Meanwhile in Egypt …

I hate to throw out the old “I told you so”, but it appears Egypt is trying to go according to my prediction.  That is, the Muslim Brotherhood – the best organized of the opposition forces – would take the lead in forming the “new” Egypt and the military – which has held power for 60 years – would find a way to retain its power.  The New York Times reports that’s exactly what seems to be happening:

In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

Emphasis mine.  As I’ve mentioned previously, “secular” may not mean what you think it means in an Islamic country.  And I’ve all but worn out the David Warren quote, but again which group has the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated “vision?”  That means:

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

Indeed, my guess is that the moment is lost for them for good.  Why?  Because it isn’t in the best interest of either the MB or the military to let that particular “political force” reemerge.  So:

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”

And there you have it.  Result?

“We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone.”

So much for the “Twitter” revolution.

~McQ

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Secular democracy in Egypt? The devil is in the details

The committee empaneled to rewrite the Egyptian Constitution and given 10 days to do so has named it’s head

Egypt’s new ruling military council has appointed an Islamist judge to head the committee drawing up a new constitution, angering some of those who argued last week’s revolution would deliver the country to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Of course there are some who continue to argue this is all a secular movement (how does one conclude a group calling itself the Muslim Brotherhood is somehow a “secular” group as the West would define “secular?) and that the end result will be a strong democracy as demanded by the people.

Uh, probably not.  Careful monitoring says that most likely the next government will be anything but “secular” as defined by the West:

But the make-up of the new committee, and the fact it has been given just ten days to come up with a new constitution, has dashed hopes that it will remove Article 2, which makes Islam the state religion and says Shariah is the main source of law.

There is something very concrete for you to watch for and monitor – the status of “Article 2” in any new constitution.  The double-talk isn’t just confined to the word “secular”.  “Moderate” gets a going over too.   What anyone in the West would consider a “moderate” here would most likely be called a “secular liberal” there.   The West might consider Egypt’s “moderates” as fairly radical here.   As an example of having to read carefully, look at this:

"Al-Bishry is a figure who is accepted by all Egyptians," said Aboul Ella al-Madi, leader of Al-Wasat. "He has criticised the Coptic Church but he has also criticised the Muslim Brotherhood and the former regime.

Sounds great right?    But what is “Al-Wasat”?  It’s an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.  And you have to love the fact that he feels qualified to speak for “all Egyptians”.

Another claim made by those appointing the committee is it includes a “Coptic Christian” (The NYT names him as Maher Samy Youssef, a judge and Coptic Christian).  Or maybe not:

But Bishop Markos, a member of the Coptic Church’s Holy Syndicate, said no one from the Military Council had been in touch since it came to power.

He said: "We do not know the result of this but we hope the committee will be wise enough to take into account the rights of all Egyptians."

And Islamists in general (using “Islamist” in the generally accepted sense of “religious radical”)?

In another sign of increased freedoms for Islamists, the Gama’a Islamiya, the radical group responsible for a wave of terror attacks in the 1990s, held a public meeting in a town in southern Egypt on Monday night, according to a local newspaper, Al-Masry al-Youm.

Nice – radical terror groups go main stream and hold public meetings. 

Back to the head of the committee …. a person who knows Egypt pretty well has weighed in:

Wael Abbas, the best-known human rights blogger in Egypt, who was sentenced to prison by the Mubarak regime last year, said it was a "worrying" choice.

"There is no such thing as a moderate Islamist," he said. "We want a secular state that respects all religions and which belongs to all religions."

Take that one sentence to heart – “there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist”.  We’ve come to understand that over the years, yet many of us seem to want to ignore that when it comes to Egypt.  Note that Abbas wants a real secular state as you and I might define it, not one as the Muslim Brotherhood would.

This move by the military council is one, I think, that is calculated to further calm fears that the military plans to continue to hold on to control.  The NYT says:

Though the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which seized power with Mr. Mubarak’s exit, has repeatedly pledged to uphold the goals of the Egyptian revolution, many in the opposition have questioned the army’s willingness to submit for the first time to a civilian democracy after six decades of military-backed strongmen.

So appointing the committee helps calm those fears:

“The move to appoint the panel is the first concrete thing the army has done since taking over,” said Hossam Bahgat, a prominent civil rights lawyer and Mubarak critic. “We have only had communiqués. We have been analyzing the rhetoric. But now is the first concrete move, and there is nothing about it that concerns us.”

That last sentence is very telling, especially the claim “there is nothing about it that concerns us”.  The fact that Bahgat isn’t concerned doesn’t mean others shouldn’t be concerned.   An Islamist judge heads the committee and:

The biggest surprise was the inclusion of Sobhi Saleh, an Alexandria appeals lawyer and former member of Parliament who is a prominent figure of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Mubarak government repeatedly portrayed Mr. Saleh as extremist. Mr. Saleh has espoused some views many here might consider excessive, like advocating a ban on public kissing in most places, and he was released from an Egyptian intelligence prison recently.

Is that a “moderate” position?  Would such bans be “secular” in scope?  My guess is the answer would be  “yes” from someone like Saleh if passed by a Parliament (using the democratic process to pass authoritarian laws).   Anyway, you then have to love this analysis of the committee by Saleh:

“The committee is technical and very balanced,” Mr. Saleh said. “It has no political color, except me because I was a member of Parliament.”

Well yeah, so who is it that will lend “political color” to this work?  A radical member of the Muslim Brotherhood on a committee headed by an Islamist judge.

There’s no question there’s a lot of “hope” going on in Egypt right now – but as when “hope” was a prominent word here in the US during the last election cycle, everyone is being left to write their own interpretation on the large blank page “hope” has provided.   The problem there, as it was here, is what the people of Egypt “hope” will come about and what they will actually get out of this process – as it appears to be lining up – are probably not the same thing at all.

~McQ

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