Saad’s Revolution: Cole at Truthdig

My tribute to Saad Eddin Ibrahim, with whom I studied, is out at Truthdig.


‘ Saad Eddin Ibrahim has spoken out forcefully on human rights and democracy for decades, and he is finally being vindicated. But his message that the United States needs to support democracy in the Arab world and put aside its paranoia about Muslim fundamentalist movements may be unpalatable to Washington’s elites. ‘

Read the whole thing.

Posted in Egypt | 13 Responses | Print |

13 Responses

    • for some in the streets, the one. For others, the other. Since the regime is non-democratic and presiding over a challenging economy for a lot of people, it would be hard for many to separate the two things out.

  1. Dear Dr. Cole:

    Muslim fundamentalist movements are unpalatable to a lot more than just Washington’s elites. Most obviously, they are also unpalatable to the democratic aspirations of millions of young Muslims who are not “fundamentalists.” The Iranian youth that came out in mass to oppose Iran’s theocratic rulers being the most recent case in point.

    What Washington (and many others) want is an Arab democracy that marginalizes Muslim fundamentalist movements because what Washington (and many others) recognize is that “fundamentalist movements” (Muslim or otherwise) are institutionally incompatible with democratic governance. Indeed, every time “fundamentalist movements” are put in power (by democratic means or otherwise), those same “fundamentalist movements” tend to end any democratic processes that could possibly threaten their governance, since, in their own minds, their rule is ordained by the will of God, or some other Divine or quasi-Divine edict, rather than the consent of the governed.

    What would be helpful to many of your readers, I suspect, is a discussion of how the Muslim brotherhood and the other forces in Egypt (secular, military, etc.) might wind up sharing power in a post Mubarak Egypt.

    The $64 question is:

    Will Egypt wind up having a secular government that accomodates Muslim theocrats, or will the secular forces driving the protests in Egypt wind up trading Mubarak’s secular tyranny for the tyranny of a “fundamentalist movement” that is not currently at the forefront of the protests?

    Since we a very likely to see Mubarak fall, providing your predictions/thoughts on what is likely to replace him would be an excellent place to put your expertise to work.

    • I think that you are making a common error : you are thinking of islamist parties as a single radical block. They are not. There are many tendencies among them, even among the Muslim Brotherhood itself. Also think to the Turcs and Erdogan : his party is a Muslim party, but is it radical ?

      Further, neither Egypt, nor Tunisia are Shiites, so they don’t have the same conception of the relationship of religion and state.

      The Egyptian and the Tunisians will have to sort out what they want by themselves. And given the fact that dictators were supported by the US, chances are that the new governments won’t be as pro-Americans as the dictators.

      • No, I am not making a “common mistake” of assuming Islamist parties are a “single radical block.”

        Perhaps we can first agree that there are at least some fundamentalist Muslims in Egypt? Whether they are accurately termed a “single block” or not is mostly a matter of how you choose to define your terms. I am not characterizing them one way or the other. I am merely asking for someone to share some insight as to how these groups, (be they a single block or otherwise), will likely fair in the inevitable struggle for power that will follow Mubarak’s ouster.

        Parrotting obvious cable news talking points that “the Egyptian and the Tunisians will have to sort out what they want by themselves” and “chances are that the new governments won’t be as pro-Americans as the dictators” adds little to the discussion.

        Also, when you examine the evidence, the distinction between Suuni and Shiites appears to make little practical difference in terms of their willingness to adopt democratic institutions. In fact, the evidence seems to point the opposite direction of your inference that Sunnis, as a religious sect, are more likely to adopt democratic governance.

        The Taliban are Sunnis. So is the Saudi Royal family. They are hardly practitioners of Democracy. The Iranians, on the other hand, DID have a functioning democracy under Mohammad Mossadegh, prior to the Western backed coup in the early 50s.

        • Saudis are Wahhabis, not traditional Sunnis, and the Taliban are heavily influenced by them. Hanafi or Shafi’i Sunnism has not typically been against parliamentary democracy. On the other side, Khomeinism has, but not Shiism per se.

    • Opposing a dictator does’nt make one a “theocrat”. I for one do not see the Egyptians embracing theocracy anytime soon. We here in the US have our own fundamentalist problem,and IT is every bit as antidemocratic as anything that has emerged from any Muslim seminary!

    • Would that, also, be true of Christian fundamentalists in the US? Or the lack of a true left wing in the US? If it should be true then the obvious conclusion is US democratic governance has ended or, perhaps, never existed except in the illusions of the masses from the get go.

      The $64 question for me is: Do we simply have a fundamentalist Washington government that prefers a fundamentalist Muslim government? I cannot imagine the US isn’t working, frantically, behind the scenes to put a controllable government into place in Egypt.

  2. I wish more people were calling the US/UK/Israel on what self serving nonsense their supposed fear of islamic fundamentalism is.

    The US and its allies are fine with islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. They also backed them in Bosnia.

    Israel funded Hamas in its early days to undermine the secular PLO.

    Some are invoking the Iranian revolution as the great fear but independece was the great crime of Bush’s dreaded “moolahs” in Iran – not brutality and backwardness which is surpassed in Saudia Arabia.

    Venezuela is as secular democracy – more democratic than the US in meaningful ways – but is relentlessly demonized. Again, Independence from the US is the real fear for Obama.

    Israel, as always, fears not for its own security but an end to impunity with which it can dispossess Palestinians

  3. What I enjoy most about the Egyptian revolt is here at last we have an event in which Realist and Moralist could both agree on the same position to be taken by the US.

    Realist have an opportunity to learn that ‘doing the right thing’ ‘is’ ‘the real politic’ in the long run of US interest…cultivating the good will of an entire population trumps the value of remote control by US puppets.

  4. I see that Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R – AIPAC) is now saying that democratic elections in Eygpt would be OK, but only parties that “support Israel” should be allowed to run.

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