Rasheeda Bhagat

Bogey of Brotherhood

RASHEEDA BHAGAT | Updated on February 08, 2011

For the US to try and pump some oxygen into the beleaguered Mubarak regime by raising the bogey of Islamists is a disservice to the cause of democracy.

As one watched the unfolding saga in Egypt, where millions of anti-Mubarak protestors have launched a movement for the removal of their long-lasting President Hosni Mubarak, and end his 30-year old repressive rule, it was an amusing and educative experience to watch comments of the western media, particularly the CNN.

“Exit Mubarak, enter terror”, said one segment of the programme. Another one worried about how the vacuum created by Mr Mubarak's exit would be filled up quickly by the banned Muslim Brotherhood and how quite a few Islamists from Egypt, including Ayman al Zawahiri, are close confidantes of the dreaded al Qaeda head, Osama bin Laden.

Christiane Amanpour, who is now with the ABC, got a couple of interviews with the Egyptian President, but not on camera, and she quoted him saying that he would gladly bow down to popular demand and resign but for fear of the Muslim Brotherhood moving in to grab the political space he vacates! How very convenient… the man most Egyptians want out for reasons of repression, corruption, social inequity and the like, expresses concern about the possible chaos after him.

Also, in the western media, along with concern for the future of Egypt, there was considerable comment and analysis on how the end of the Mubarak regime would make Israel vulnerable.

While there is no denying that the Muslim Brotherhood has been quick to jump on to the anti-Mubarak protest bandwagon, a close observation of the huge groups thronging Cairo's Tahrir Square shows that Islamists with their trademark beards, shorter trousers and a particular kind of headwear are not there in great numbers. The people thronging Egypt's streets are mostly beardless youngsters.

Of course, no well-wisher of Egypt would wish a Sharia-law regime on this Muslim nation which has managed to keep fanaticism at bay for long years. The outcome of some modern and one-time progressive Muslim nations such as Iran and Afghanistan having been pushed backward — Afghanistan more by the greed of external forces than internal — is there for all to see.

But, for a superpower such as the United States, or a section of the Western media, to try and organise some oxygen for the beleaguered Mubarak regime by raising the bogey of Islamists or the Muslim Brotherhood, when there is as yet no evidence to suggest Egypt's youth prefers the latter, is to do disservice to the cause of democracy. It is well-known, however, that the Americans are past-masters at using the democracy card as and when it suits them.

Lip service to democracy

So, for the George W. Bush administration, Saddam Hussain, the dictator, had to be toppled so that those oppressed during his rule could move to a democratic regime. The devastation and misery heaped on Iraq and its people by the dismantling of the Saddam regime through the might of the US-led war on Iraq is there for the world to see.

It is eight years since the bombing of Iraq stopped in March 2003, but there is no sign of any meaningful democracy benefiting the people. If anything, the nation is in the grip of a civil war and, as the Shias and Sunnis fight each other and chaos reigns supreme, Iraq is being plunged deeper into a gloom from where no light is visible at the moment. The Egyptians' aspiration for a democratic regime has to be weighed delicately in the balance of what is good for the Western powers and, of course, Israel's interest has to be always kept in mind. So, such dictators as Hosni Mubarak, and Tunisia's ousted President Ben Ali were allies of the West; they kept the fundamentalist elements at bay. Western tourists could safely bask in the Mediterranean sun of Tunisia and get acquainted with the historical treasures of Egypt. Till the Tunisians threw out Mr Ali, and the Egyptians rose in revolt against Mr Mubarak, that is.

The Obama regime is, of course, seen as putting “pressure” on Mr Mubarak to put in place a “transition plan”. At first, the Egyptian President promised to step down in September and thought the protestors would bite the bait.

What transition?

But who is to tell in what manner a repressive regime can swoop down on the leaders of such a movement, once the protestors have moved out of Tahrir Square and other streets and gone back to their day-to-day lives? The attempt by the Egyptian regime to send out a rival group of Mubarak supporters, riding horses and camels — it surely felt like Lawrence of Arabia — and the war of stones that followed, was a crude and futile attempt to crush the popular uprising.

And then there was this fantastic policy initiative from the US State Department — sending Mr Frank Wisner, a former Ambassador to Egypt and India, as an envoy to Egypt. He came out with an even more fantastic statement that President Mubarak's “continued leadership is critical to Egypt”. Mr Wisner's touching faith in the Egyptian President's leadership became evident enough when it was found that he actually works for an American law firm (Patton Boggs) that serves Mr Mubarak's government! Later, of course, Washington tried to paper over this goof-up by saying that Mr Wisner's comments were made in a “personal capacity”. What a strange time and place for an official US envoy to express his personal opinions!

Little surprise, then, that Muslims around the world, Islamists or otherwise, have little faith in American initiatives when it concerns their countries or lives. The pity is that, for long years, the Muslim nations have been at each other's throats; it is the internecine quarrels within the Arab world that have prevented the Arab community speaking in one authoritative voice that could have pressured Israel to give Palestinians justice instead of making them refugees in their own land, and then condemning them as terrorists.

Published on February 08, 2011

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