The Arab Spring, which erupted in Tunisia in December, quickly spread to Egypt. Due to massive protests, the president for the past thirty years, Pharaoh Hosni Mubarak, was forced from office February 11. In the wake of this tectonic change in Egypt, the promise of change for the betterment of the population has yet to be realized. To its eternal credit, unlike Syria, the Egyptian army did not fire upon the protesters and without civilian institutions, remains in control.
The change that Egyptians hoped for will most likely be compromised when elections are held because the Muslim Brotherhood is seemingly the most powerful non-military institution in the land of the pyramids. The Brotherhood’s agenda is Islamist and anti-Western.
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: May 28, 2011
I had some time to kill at the Cairo airport the other day so I rummaged through the “Egyptian Treasures” shop. I didn’t care much for the King Tut paper weights and ashtrays but was intrigued by a stuffed camel, which, if you squeezed its hump, emitted a camel honk. When I turned it over to see where it was manufactured, it read: “Made in China.” Now that they have decided to put former President Hosni Mubarak on trial, I hope Egyptians add to his indictment that he presided for 30 years over a country where nearly half the population lives on $2 day and 20 percent are unemployed while it is importing low-wage manufactured goods — a stuffed camel, no less — from China.
That’s an embarrassment for Mubarak and America, which has donated some $30 billion in aid to modernize Egypt’s economy over the last 30 years — and President Obama just promised a couple billion more. Egypt’s economy has nose-dived since the uprising, and the new government really does need the money to stay afloat. But I only hope that Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton understand that right now — right this second — Egypt needs something more from Washington than money: quiet, behind-the-scenes engagement with Egypt’s ruling generals over how to complete the transition to democracy here.
Here’s why. After the ouster of Mubarak in February, his presidential powers were shifted to a military council, led by the defense minister. It’s an odd situation, or as the Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany, author of “The Yacoubian Building,” put it to me: “We have had a revolution here that succeeded — but is not in power. So the goals of the revolution are being applied by an agent, the army, which I think is sincere in wanting to do the right things, but it is not by nature revolutionary.”
To their credit, the Egyptian generals moved swiftly to put in place a pathway to democracy: elections for a new Parliament were set for September; this Parliament will then oversee the writing of a new Constitution, and then a new civilian president will be elected.
Sounds great on paper, and it was endorsed by a referendum, but there’s one big problem: The Tahrir Square revolution was a largely spontaneous, bottom-up affair. It was not led by any particular party or leader. Parties are just now being formed. If elections for the Parliament are held in September, the only group in Egypt with a real party network ready to roll is the one that has been living underground and is now suddenly legal: the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
“Liberal people are feeling some concerns that they made the revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood can now take it. This is not true,” Esam el-Erian, one of the party’s leaders, insisted to me.
But that is exactly what the urban, secular moderates, who actually did spearhead the Tahrir revolt, fear. They are only now forming parties and trying to build networks that can reach the millions of traditional Egyptians living in the countryside and persuade them to vote for a reform agenda and not just: “Islam is the answer.”
“The liberal parties need more time to organize,” said Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian billionaire who’s heading the best organized of the liberal parties, and is urging all the liberal groups to run under a single banner and not divide their vote.
If elections happen in September and the Muslim Brotherhood wins a plurality it could have an inordinate impact on writing Egypt’s first truly free Constitution and could inject restrictions on women, alcohol, dress, and the relations between mosque and state. “You will have an unrepresentative Parliament writing an unrepresentative Constitution,” argued Mohamed El Baradei, the former international atomic energy czar who is running for president on a reform platform.
“Because the Muslim Brotherhood is ready, they want elections first,” adds Osama Ghazali Harb, another reform party leader. “We as secular forces prefer to have some time to consolidate our parties. We must thank the army for the role it played. But it was our revolution, not a coup d’état. … If there are fair elections, the Muslim Brotherhood will only get 20 percent.”
Free elections are rare in the Arab world, so when they happen, everybody tries to vote — not only the residents of that country. You can be sure money will flow in here from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to support the Muslim Brotherhood.
America, though, cannot publicly intervene in the Egyptian election debate. It would only undermine the reformers, who have come so far, so fast, on their own and alienate the Egyptian generals. That said, though, it is important that senior U.S. officials engage quietly with the generals and encourage them to take heed of the many Egyptian voices that are raising legitimate concerns about a premature runoff.
In short, the Egyptian revolution is not over. It has left the dramatic street phase and is now in the seemingly boring but utterly vital phase of deciding who gets to write the rules for the new Egypt. And how Egypt evolves will impact the whole Arab world. I just hope the Obama team is paying attention. This is so much more important than Libya.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011 12:12 PM
Egypt’s long-banned Muslim Brotherhood has been legally recognized as the Freedom and Justice Party, Egypt’s official news agency reported on Tuesday.
The announcement would allow the group to run in parliamentary elections set for September.
The Brotherhood is considered one of Egypt’s best organized blocs following the fall of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February. It was founded in 1928 but outlawed since 1954.
Even so, it has built and maintained a powerful social welfare network. Its candidates, running as independents, won 20 percent of the vote in a 2005 parliamentary election.
The group has said it plans to field candidates in about half of Egypt’s districts.
To qualify as a party under new regulations, the party has declared it will be open to Muslims, Christians and women.
The Freedom and Justice Party announced last month that it had almost 9,000 founding members.
Hamas Moving HQ from Syria to Egypt, Warns Netanyahu
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Hamas is moving its headquarters from Damascus to Egypt, and the terror group is strengthening itself in the Sinai, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Monday.
He also noted that the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas sprung, also has become a more powerful force in Egypt since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. The Prime Minister stated his concern about the inability of the provisional military regime in Egypt to exercise sovereignty in the Sinai, which borders Israel and from where Bedouin and Hamas terrorists smuggle weapons from Iran, Sudan, Syria and elsewhere into Gaza.
Al-Qaeda also has brought 400 terrorists into the area, according to an Egyptian official quoted by an Arab news agency.
The Prime Minister confirmed previous reports that Hamas supreme leader Khaled Mashaal has pulled out of Damascus, where his presence and welcome by Syrian President Bashar Assad is an additional worry for him in the face of the continuing uprising.
The vacuum of power in the Sinai has been illustrated by “the two gas explosions that occurred there” this year, Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Knesset committee. “Global terrorist organizations are interfering, there and their presence is increasing because of the geographic connection between Sinai and Gaza.”
The Sharon government agreed to pull out of Gaza following the 2005 expulsion of nearly 10,000 Jews in the area. Agreements with Egypt on security in the Sinai began falling apart after Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza four years ago.
Following the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, Israel relied on American and European guarantees to monitor the transfer of goods and merchandise from the Sinai to Gaza, but these also have eroded. The opening of the Rafiah crossingthis past Saturday has further harmed security.
The de facto dominance of Bedouin tribes and allied terrorists in the Sinai has set the stage for further stockpiling of advanced arms by Hamas and for plotting terrorist attacks at tourist and holy sites in Egypt.
Egypt’s Christians Fear Violence as Changes Embolden Islamists
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: May 30, 2011
CAIRO — The headline screamed from a venerable liberal newspaper: Coptic Christians had abducted a young Muslim and tattooed her with a cross. “Copts kidnap Raghada!”
“They tied me up with ropes, beat me with shoes, shaved my hair,” Raghada Salem Abdel Fattah, 19, declared, “and forced me to read Christian psalms!”
Like many similar stories proliferating here since the revolution, Ms. Abdel Fattah’s kidnapping could not be confirmed. But for members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, the sensational headline — from a respected publisher, no less — served to validate their fear that the Egyptian revolution had made their country less tolerant and more dangerous for religious minorities. The Arab Spring initially appeared to open a welcoming door to the dwindling number of Christian Arabs who, after years of feeling marginalized, eagerly joined the call for democracy and rule of law. But now many Christians here say they fear that the fall of the police state has allowed long-simmering tensions to explode, potentially threatening the character of Egypt, and the region.
“Will Christians have equal rights and full citizenship or not?” asked Sarkis Naoum, a Christian commentator in Beirut, Lebanon. A surge of sectarian violence in Cairo — 24 dead, more than 200 wounded and three churches in flames since President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall — has turned Christian-Muslim tensions into one of the gravest threats to the revolution’s stability. But it is also a pivotal test of Egypt’s tolerance, pluralism and the rule of law. The revolution has empowered the majority but also opened new questions about the protection of minority rights like freedom of religion or expression as Islamist groups step forward to lay out their agendas and test their political might.
Around the region, Christians are also closely watching events in Syria, where as in Egypt Christians and other minorities received the protection of a secular dictator, Bashar al-Assad, now facing his own popular uprising.
“The Copts are the crucial test case,” said Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch here, adding that facing off against “societal pressures” may in some ways be ever harder than criticizing a dictator. “It is the next big battle.”
But so far, there is little encouragement in the debate over how to address the sectarian strife. Instead of searching for common ground, all sides are pointing fingers of blame while almost no one is addressing the underlying reasons for the strife, including a legal framework that treats Muslims and Christians differently.
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the 80 million Egyptians, say the revolution has plunged them into uncharted territory. Suppressed or marginalized for six decades here, Islamists entering politics have rushed to defend an article of the Egyptian Constitution that declares Egypt a Muslim country that derives its laws from Islam. Christians and liberals say privately they abhor the provision, which was first added as a populist gesture by President Anwar el-Sadat. But the article is so popular among Muslims — and the meaning so vague — that even many liberals and Christians entering politics are reluctant to speak out against it, asking at most for slight modifications.
“Our position is that it should stay, but a clause should be added so that in personal issues non-Muslims are subject to the rules of their own religion,” said Naguib Sawiris, a secular-minded Christian tycoon who has started his own liberal party.
He would prefer to remove religion from the laws entirely the way Western separation of church and state does, he said, but that idea could not prevail in Egypt. “Islam doesn’t separate them,” he said.
The most common sparks for sectarian violence, however, come from Egyptian laws dating from the end of the colonial era. One imposes stricter regulations on building churches than on mosques. Christians often look to get around the restrictions by constructing “community centers” with altars and steeples — sometimes provoking Muslim accusations of deceit and Christian charges of discrimination.
Egyptians say economy tops their list of concerns, not democracy
By Mary Beth Sheridan, Published: June 4 | Updated: Sunday, June 5,12:23 PM
CAIRO — A majority of Egyptians who supported this year’s revolution did so mainly because of their poor economic situation, not because they yearned for democracy, according to a U.S. government-funded poll released Sunday.
The survey also underlines Egyptians’ sky-high expectations for their next government. Eight in 10 respondents said they anticipated their economic situation would be better in the coming year. That presents a daunting challenge for whomever takes office, with a recent drop in tourism and foreign investment exacerbating the country’s already severe economic problems.
The survey was carried out for the International Republican Institute (IRI), a pro-democracy group that is close to prominent U.S. Republicans. The poll’s mere existence is a sign of the change that has swept Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular revolution in February. Previously, U.S.-funded groups promoting democracy faced strict limits on their activities here.
The poll, obtained in advance by The Washington Post, offers a glimpse of a nation in uncharted political waters. Seven in 10 respondents said they had never voted in past elections, which were riddled with fraud. In contrast, almost everyone surveyed — 95 percent — said they were very or somewhat likely to cast ballots in parliamentary elections scheduled for September.
U.S. lawmakers and secular Egyptian politicians have expressed fears that the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood could make a strong showing in the upcoming elections because of its extensive grass-roots network. But most of those surveyed — 65 percent — said they had no idea which party they would back.
Only 15 percent said they support the Muslim Brotherhood, which favors a government guided by Islamic sharia law. Less than 1 percent of respondents favor an Iran-style Islamic theocracy.
And only 15 percent said their political opinions were strongly influenced by religious figures, with many more citing family members and military leaders.
After Egypt’s revolution, malaise spreads
By Ernesto Londono, Published: May 24
KAFR EL-MESELHA, EGYPT — The main road in this dusty town on the Nile River Delta no longer bears the name of its most famous son. Hosni Mubarak Road is now simply Road No. 16.
Gone too are the once ubiquitous mosaics and framed photos of the ousted Egyptian president.
While millions of Egyptians celebrated Mubarak’s downfall three months ago as the rebirth of a nation, the mood in this village 45 miles north of Cairo was markedly subdued. Many here warned at the time that the revolutionaries were reckless enthusiasts without a morning-after plan. Mubarak, they argued, had kept the nation safe for three decades, and he deserved a dignified exit.
Instead, Egypt’s top prosecutor said Tuesday that the former president will stand trial on charges of corruption and conspiring in the deadly shootings of protesters — charges that could carry the death penalty.
But as Egypt confronts a surge in crime, an anemic economy, an outbreak of deadly religious violence and other aftershocks of the revolution, many here are feeling vindicated.
“The old days were better,” said Sabeen Mursi, 30, sitting in front of a wooden cart of fruit and vegetables that attracted few customers. “Even though there was no money, people would take care of each other. We would all find something to eat at the end of the day. Today, no one cares about one another.”
That sense of malaise is spreading throughout the country, even to supporters of the revolution in Cairo. And as similar uprisings in other autocratic states in the region flail, Egypt’s experience may serve as a cautionary tale.
Perhaps the most worrisome effect of Egypt’s revolution is the toll it has taken on the economy, which was softening even before demonstrators first took to the streets in January.
Egypt’s interim military leaders are scrambling to negotiate deals with foreign governments and world bodies to keep the country afloat as the budget deficit grows and the economy remains stagnant. The World Bank said Tuesday that it will provide up to $4.5 billion to help Egypt modernize.
Mursi said she barely pulls in enough money to eat these days, and she worries about the spike in prices for staples such as tomatoes and rice.
Ahmed Farid, a shopkeeper in this flat village surrounded by citrus trees and farmlands, said the economic slump is driving people over the edge. “We can’t find fuel,” he said. “Things are being stolen every day.”
In the new Egypt, there are knife fights at the pump over scarce gasoline, as well as armed robberies — a level of crime and violence unheard of when Mubarak’s feared security forces kept tight control.
Reverence for Mubarak is not universal in his home town, which the former president left after high school and seldom visited.
Hassam Atyia Suleiman, 58, a guidance counselor employed by the Ministry of Education, said even Mubarak’s supporters, himself among them, had become disenchanted with the regime in recent years as Egypt’s middle class shrank while the country’s elite became wealthier.
“The government started to abuse the riches of the nation,” Suleiman said on a recent morning, sitting on a small wooden chair outside his home. “The situation became unsustainable in the last few years.”
Egyptians decry ‘virginity tests’ on protesters
Posted 5/31/2011 2:32:13 PM
CAIRO (AP) — Activists and bloggers are pressing Egypt’s military rulers to investigate accusations of serious abuses against protesters, including claims that soldiers subjected female detainees to so-called “virginity tests.”
Bloggers say they will hold a day of online protest Wednesday to voice their outrage, adding to criticism of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took control of the country from ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.
In the face of the criticism, four journalists along with a prominent blogger were summoned for questioning by the military prosecutor, according to a rights group. They were released without charges.
Hossam el-Hamalawy, the blogger, tweeted: “The visit to the military prosecutor became a chat, where they wanted clarifications for my accusations.”
The virginity test allegations first surfaced after a March 9 rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that turned violent when men in plainclothes attacked protesters and the army intervened forcefully to clear the square.
One woman who was arrested spoke out about her treatment, and Amnesty Internationalfurther documented the abuse allegations in a report that found 18 female detainees were threatened with prostitution charges and forced to undergo virginity tests. They were also beaten up and given electric shocks, the report said.
Egypt’s military rulers have come under heavy criticism from the youth protest movement, which is upset at the pace of reforms that they hope will lead Egypt to democracy.
Egypt’s military warns media to censor critics
By David D. Kirkpatrick
New York Times
Updated: 05/31/2011 10:46:28 PM CDT
CAIRO – Even the mildest criticism of the Egyptian military was too much for Mahmoud Saad, a television host on the newly founded, independent Tahrir television network.
“Any institution of the country that takes taxes from us should be open to question,” Hossam el-Hamalawy, a blogger, said in a telephone interview with Saad.
“No, no, no,” Saad interrupted. “I will not allow you to say those things on this network.”
“Thank you, Mr. Hossam,” he declared, hanging up.
The next day el-Hamalawy and two other liberal television journalists, but not Saad, were summoned to a military headquarters for questioning about their remarks.
The Egyptian military – facing criticism for torturing demonstrators and admitting that it forced some female detainees to undergo “virginity tests” – is pressing the Egyptian media to censor criticism of it and protect its image.
The military’s intervention concerns some human rights advocates who say they are worried that such efforts could make it harder for politicians to scrutinize the military and could possibly undermine attempts to bring it under civilian control or investigate charges of corruption.
“Nobody believes corruption was limited to the civilian government,” said a prominent liberal politician, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal by the military.
In recent weeks military authorities have sent letters warning news organizations to review any discussion of the military before publication or broadcast.
A military court has also sentenced a blogger to three years in prison for what it called persistent attacks, and it has charged an outspoken liberal presidential candidate with libeling a general and insulting the military.
And military authorities have summoned many journalists and bloggers to headquarters for questioning about their reports and sources.
In a recent interview, a military official, demanding anonymity in keeping with military protocol, insisted that the military accepted the public’s right to criticize while it was playing the political role as Egypt’s interim ruler.
However, he insisted the military also sought to balance “freedom of expression” against “respect for the institution,” drawing the distinction between criticizing individuals and insulting either those people or their institution.
“If someone presents proof that any officer is corrupt, then the officer would be subject to the law; if he doesn’t present any evidence then the journalist would be subject to the law,” he explained.
“If I call you a dictator, you can take that as an insult,” he said.
In short, he added, “criticize the military, but be sure of what you are saying.”
For his part, Hamalawy said the military’s request to question him was intended as intimidation.
He said that he was asked about evidence related to the torture of demonstrators that had already been made public in legal complaints, as well as online.
Egyptian journalists, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisal, said that the supposed distinction between criticism and insult was hard to pinpoint, especially under the threat of military justice.
June 3, 2011 Special Dispatch No.3887
Prominent Saudi Journalist: “Where Are the Founding Fathers of the ‘Arab Spring?’”
In a May 19, 2011 op-ed in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, titled “Where Are the Founding Fathers of the ‘Arab Spring?’” Adel Al-Toraifi explains that despite the much-acclaimed “Arab Spring,” there is no “genuine change in the ideas or characters of the region.” He adds, “The ‘Arab Spring’ has no founding fathers – because [it] is not based on progressive, enlightened thought,” and concludes by quoting Thomas Jefferson.
According to the paper, Al-Toraifi is editor-in-chief of the Arab magazine Al-Majalla.
Following is the full text of the article:
“We Are Not Facing a Genuine Change in the Ideas or Characters of the Region”
“Is there truly an ‘Arab Spring,’ or is there in fact a conflict internally against the authorities, and externally between the countries that we consider influential in the regional balance of power?
“The truth lies between this and that. There is no doubt that there has been a superficial transformation within the actual shape of government, its symbols, and its main pillars – in other words there has been a change of leaders, without there being any ideological or social changes affecting the citizens and the wider culture of governance in the region.
“Strong popular uprisings are still being staged across Arab cities and districts, and a state of congestion and rebellion prevails amongst a broad category of the youth generation. Yet part of this congestion and rage can be attributed to the economic situation, especially with soaring prices of foodstuffs since 2007, and worsening unemployment since 2008. The congestion can also be attributed to the stagnant situation in a number of Arab societies, with regards to reform, political participation, corruption and the total exclusion of the opposition from government.
“We should also notice that we have experienced some sort of disguised military coup d’etat in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, where the army, or parts of it, have seized the initiative and dissociated themselves from the head of the state. Perhaps this explains why the Syrian uprising is stuttering, because it can be considered civil strife [without military support] in the face of an imposing regime, indeed more violent than all its predecessors.
“In Yemen as well, tribal and sectarian alliances have played a significant role in reaching the current impasse between the president and his opponents, at least so far.
“However, the plain truth is that we are not facing a genuine change in the ideas or characters of the region, in what has been termed the ‘Arab Spring.’ There are no ‘Founding Fathers,’ nor is there an intellectual or cultural elite with a realistic project to change the ruling regime, raise the political awareness of the masses, or achieve the desired regional balance of power.
“David Ignatius once wrote about those whom he termed ‘The Founding Fathers of the Egyptian Revolution,’ such as [then-Arab League secretary-general] Amr Musa, [1999 Nobel Prize laureate for chemistry Egyptian-American] Ahmed Zewail and [Egyptian billionaire] Najib Sawirus (Washington Post, 14 April).
“With the exception of Sawirus, a businessman with a sense of initiative, the other two men have nothing to do with the notion of change in Egypt. Zewail is an American scientist who was awarded the Order of Merit by [Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak, whereas Musa was a pillar of the former regime, and has since sought to exploit the crisis after he was certain that the Mubarak regime would fall.
“These (hypothetical) Founding Fathers have no new political awareness, unless we consider Amr Musa’s public and contradictory statements as awareness, or a new vision for the region.”
“The Traditional Political Powers… Have No Intention of Implementing the Change Required In Our Region”
“A clear attempt is being made to portray the popular uprisings witnessed by some Arab states as ‘revolutions’ – which will entail a change in the way of thinking and the nature of politics as we know it.
“Some described what is happening as a democratic ‘revolution’ against despotic and authoritarian rule, yet reality shows that there are neither ideas nor political or intellectual elites who can lead the process of change towards a better future for the region. Rather, the traditional political powers and social dignitaries are attempting to ride the wave of change, although, as we can see, they have no intention to implement the change required in our region.
“In more than one country, some of these political and religious figures at the forefront of the scene have rushed to manipulate public issues and causes, with the aim of achieving personal or political gains in the midst of the existing security and political chaos.
“In Egypt, for example, it became clear that the military council has made a deal, albeit silently, with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is preparing to seize control of the scene in the upcoming election, after it proved its strength in the recent referendum on constitutional amendments.
“At the same time, both Iran and Syria have attempted to exploit the current popular uprisings – yet the Iranian attempt was shocked by the strong Gulf intervention in Bahrain, and by the uprising fever extending to Syria. The Iranian elites are trying to aggravate the Bahraini issue by promoting radical voices in the sectarian escalation between the Sunnis and the Shiites.
“We have also seen demonstrations staged for the first time in the Golan Heights, Gaza and the Lebanese border against Israel, all being examples of [Iranian] regional maneuvers.
“Yet Iran still harbors domestic concerns, for the Iranian streets can explode at any time.”
‘In the… Middle East, Freedom Means Getting Rid Of Foreign Intervention and Regimes that Advocate It’
“In a climate rife with political and emotional agitation, we can distinguish between three levels of the existing crisis in the Middle East:
“The first level is an internal one, where political powers compete to seize control of the political scene. The second is the regional level, where discussions over the distinctions between a ‘monarchy’ and a populist ‘republic’ have surfaced. On the third level, the international level, some Western countries – including the U.S. – have placed their hopes on change, in the belief that regime change will result in creating a better environment.
“Such a belief is a misconception based on ‘interventionist liberalism,’ which portrays the Arab countries as currently undergoing a troubled phase in order to become liberal economies. Those who adopt such an illusionary conviction fail to realize that ‘freedom’ in the American context does not necessarily mean freedom in the Middle Eastern context. In the former case, freedom means an individual’s freedom with regards to economic options, whereas in the latter case of the Middle East, freedom means getting rid of foreign intervention and regimes that advocate it.
“At the regional level, the attempt made by the Gulf countries to include Jordan and Morocco in the GCC is evidence of a serious existing geopolitical vacuum, which has prompted these states to approach one another and cooperate, despite the significant distance between them. This is because the countries in the region, such as Iran, Syria, Iraq – and even Egypt – now have become unreliable to the Gulf states with regards to their foreign policies.
‘The ‘Arab Spring’ Has No Founding Fathers – Because [It] Is Not Based on Progressive, Enlightened Thought’
“Some may ask: What about the role of the Facebook generation? This category is active on the virtual scene, and was once active on the ground. Yet in reality, whether they agree or not, they are influenced by the American model.
“Just as their predecessors in Iran did, at the time of the revolution, the Facebook youths believe that it is possible to establish European-style democracies in the Arab states, without having to adopt Western culture or thought.
“Now, some of these youths will be exploited to serve as a justification for the practices of future populist regimes. Other youths, or the sincere ones amongst them, will find themselves left out of the game, because traditional parties and characters in the region are still more capable of guiding the masses, for one simple reason: the region, whether culturally, intellectually or religiously, still immerses itself in the past, and continues to suffer structural problems in its understanding of the concept of modernity, and the prerequisites for economic and scientific renaissance.
“Therefore, the region can be easily steered and directed using religious and nationalist slogans – such as the Palestinian cause – and populist slogans that oppose monarchies or foreign intervention.
“The ‘Arab Spring’ has no Founding Fathers, because this ‘spring’ is not based on progressive, enlightened thought. Rather it occurred, firstly, as a reaction to Arab regimes that have long been involved in corruption, and secondly, this reaction did not reject the slogans and values which these regimes long used to justify their existence in power i.e. the liberation cause, resistance, challenging the West, and conspiracy theories linking everything with Israel and America.
“The most convincing evidence of signs that the ‘Arab Spring’ may be faltering, in a country like Egypt for example, comes from the fact that those in the interim – and unconstitutional – government are more concerned with pursuing the ‘remnants’ of the past regime, releasing fundamentalist prisoners, and paying useless regional visits under the slogan of searching for investments.
“This all is happening at the time when Gulf and foreign projects in Egypt are being illegally nationalized. The government is doing this instead of addressing the deplorable economic situation, which we see every day with the lack of wheat and fuel supplies, stagnant public corporations and banks, and the uncontrolled security and sectarian chaos.
“Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, once said ‘The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.’ Perhaps this is what we lack amidst the current chaotic stage.”
Endnote: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 19, 2011. The text has been lightly edited for clarity.