Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Ideological Knot, How to liberate the Middle East?

The last dictatorship in Europe came to end this month as Belarus goes to the polls to elect a president on March 19. Over the past few days, I was thinking what is missing that does not let the Middle Easterners or Egyptians make the same choices as Eastern Europe peoples. The world is helping Eastern Europe to stand on its foot. It is in the best interest of Western Europe to push democracy and freedom in the second half of Europe. Rich strong neighbors are helping emerging democracies. Who are our democratic neighbors in the Middle East? Israel. Arabs hate Israel for several reaoms but mainly on religious basis. Southern Europe is doing its best to curb illegal migrants coming from Africa. The Middle East States are not part of any democratic world. East Europe, at the end of the day, is part of Europe. The winds of democracy and freedom must be blowing towards East Europe at some point. Also, the US stepped in to support the new emerging democracies through many ways after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. As the USSR decided to abandon the Brezhnev doctrine that allowed USSR to use force against anti-socialist forces, the Russian President, Mikhaïl Gorbachev, at that time made up his mind to resign to the democratic transformation that saved his country through an innovative policy based on restructuring (known as Perestroïka). Since that day in history, the doors of Eastern Europe were opened wide for democracy and mainly reconciliation. Despite the harshness of life in those communist satellite countries, their rulers did not ruin their taste or appreciate for life as Middle Eastern rulers did; hence the challenge is bigger in the ME.

In the Middle East, a bunch of presidents came to power following military coup d’etats in countries with oil and other resources that could sustain their lavishing lives while guaranteeing sustainable poverty for their peoples. They silently took the decision not to relinquish their offices until they are dead or have a son to take over as the case in Syria the potential scenario in Egypt. The problem is that those presidents did not only decide to take countries forever, but also corrupt the peoples’ lives with Pan-Arabism and extremist Islamism. The Pan-Arabism is the baby of Syria. Extremist Islamism is the baby of Wahabism of the oil-rich country, Saudi Arabia. Of course there are other factors that helped dictators to take control. The result is that for half a century, Middle Easterners’ lives are deteriorating from worse to worse.

Apparently, Europe’s socialist ideology was beaten by another ideology. The people were freed without blowing themselves and they sought the right supporters as in the case of Georgia. Georgians won the US as one of their biggest supporters. The US is committed to supporting it.

Over the past couple of years, conditions have been improving in favor of bringing democracy to the Middle East. There have been many positive changes but still there is no one single leader who wants to step down to give his people the right to rule. And this will never happen.

So what is the ideological or psychological knot that keeps the Middle Eastern people at the camp of freedom losers? That will be the eternal question in my mind.

The US stepped in to liberate Iraq that was ruled by military dictatorship for 35 years. Iraq was liberated from the military rule by a big military operation in March 2003. I had never imagined Saddam Hussein out of office waking up one day to play the kind guy and leave his people to live in peace under the umbrella of freedom and democracy. If the rulers in the Middle East do not want to strike true allies with forces of democracy in the world, what is hindering the people? Why do most Egyptians stand unconsciously in support of dictatorship?

Most of seculars in Egypt are socialists or communists, hence enemies of the capitalist free world of Europe and the United States.

Majority of Egyptians are pro-Arab nationalism. This ideology that kept all Arabs, including Egyptians, slaves to their dictator rulers. To be a successful dictator, you need to create an external enemy. The enemy was created through this ideology, hence the sustainability of the no-individualism and continuous hatred against invented enemies, mainly the US and Israel. The happy relationship image between the US and the regime in Egypt spread frustration feelings among Egyptians that the US is supporting their torturer and helped the US to lose credibility among Egyptians. That gave opportunity to regime to strengthen political Islam, hence creating an enemy to the US. The over-blown stories of victory in media over Israel strengthened the idea of Israel the enemy and not the peace agreement. After the death of President Sadat, the only culture that was instilled was that Israel is the enemy. It was important to isolate Egyptians from Israel to kill peace and maintain an everlasting enemy that serves dictatorship. Also, because the true battles that should be won at the domestic level, like alleviating people’s poverty is not a priority, however, making people believe that the regime is watching Israel, the enemy, is the worthwhile battle.

Our neighbor Saudi Arabia was given the keys to our lands to establish mosques that worth millions everywhere while true poverty stand few meters from the luxurious mosques. Poverty is on the rise, and fatalism struck the balance. Theology is closely related to the development of all other corners in life in general. A third enemy was created here but from within the Egyptians. Egyptian Copts became another enemy to Egyptian Muslims. The reason why they became enemies is because citizens are not treated on the basis of their citizenship rights but on their religions. That also is another justification why we should hate Israel and the US, the Jewish and the Christian enemies. The Copts became the American agents because they are Christians like the US.

Those whom the US considers pro-US educated Egyptians as some of them had their degrees in the US universities are double-agents. They are using the US and working with the regime against the causes of freedom and democracy and against the Egyptian people.

Non-partisan opposition groups in Egypt are writing in their mission statements as preamble; “the Zionist enemy, the US occupation …etc”. They are recycling and singing the broken records of the fascist regimes in the Middle East. They make no difference to impress anyone and that’s why their base will always remain weak domestically and internationally. They do not promise a dream, they promise victories based on more hatred and revenge. Islamists in Egypt are successful because they are singing their own song.

Read my post I think they are going to like you to know why emerging opposition will remain weak with no popular base. I recently met a Palestinian friend of mine and we were talking politics as usual and guess what she told me, "I wish Egypt get us (Palestinians) out of their mind. Why do not they let us alone. They include us in everything, I wish they stop and solve their own problems". And that's in her own words.

6 Comments:

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Arabs hate Israel for several rea[s]o[n]s but mainly on religious basis."

If we start generalizing like this, we will be doing the same exact thing Mubarak's regime and others are doing: Labeling, defining, and categorizing an entire people and how/what they think.

I am sure SOME Arabs hate Israel based on false religious logic. As I am sure that SOME Israelis hate Arabs based on similar logic.

The same way SOME Arabs dislike those in power in Israel due to the human rights abuses Palestinians suffer under Israeli occupation, regardless of any religous rhetoric.

Why Arabs "mainly" hate Israel, we cannot say for sure.

The same logic can be applied when describing Arabs' (people, not regimes) relationship with the US. i.e. Some Arabs dislike the current US administration for xyz, while some Americans dislike the current Arab regimes for abc. And: Some Arabs hate all of America for xyz, while some Americans hate all Arabs for abc.

Lets not generalize, lest we turn into those we are standing up against.

 
At 1:34 AM, Blogger Col. B. Bunny said...

Anonymous your criticism is not a useful one.

Freedom for Egyptians lives in Egypt and knows something about thinking there. She's obviously temperate in her manner of expression and equally as obviously is a thoughtful person.

Consequenly, in the swirl of ideologies and mendacity that envelops any issue of importance in the Middle East, where it is difficult for an outsider like myself to understand who the players are and what their interests are, it is useful to me to read what an informed person thinks is behind the enmity of Arabs toward Israel.

When FFE writes about "a group of Muslims [who] attempted to stop Christians converting a house into a church" that is a pretty clear indication of the hostility in ordinary Egyptian Muslims towards infidels.

Also, the extreme hostility toward infidels in Saudi Arabia is well known.

It hardly seems a tremendous intellectual leap to conclude that Arabs are hostile toward a presence in their very midst because it is an infidel nation.

The beheading of some Christian girls in Indonesia and the attacks on Buddhists in Thailand suggest that FFE vastly understates the hatred that all Muslims in general feel toward infidels.

FFE's generalizations are subject to debate and analysis, just like anything else on the internet. I am sure she will be willing to retract or amend her remarks when faced with better evidence than her own experience and study has provided for her so far, if there is any such evidence.

It would be more helpful, therefore, if you could provide your own theory as to the basis or bases of Arab hostility toward Israel rather than decrying generalization in principle.

It may have been a generalization in World War II to say every German soldier was dedicated to killing all Allied troops who opposed them in the field. As an intellectual matter than probably did not take into account the occasional coward or pacifist in the German ranks who would never have fired at an attacking soldier. If you happened to be an attacking soldier, however, you would have been on 100% solid ground in acting upon the less-than-perfect generalization and killing every German you could.

Just because it's a generalization does not mean that there isn't clear evidence that supports it.

 
At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Ayman said...

Bunny:

C'mon Colonel, your anologies and conclusions are blatent racism:

"The beheading of some Christian girls in Indonesia and the attacks on Buddhists in Thailand suggest that FFE vastly understates the hatred that all Muslims in general feel toward infidels."

That's like saying:

"The Abu Ghuraib scandal proves the hatred and sadistic nature of all American troops towards Arabs in general."

Or:

"The violence in primarily African American neighborhoods proves that all blacks are uncivilized and inately violent beings."

As a Muslim, American and Egyptian, I can say that anonymous is right in her/his criticism, as much as Freedom is right to express her opinion (as she may not have intended on generalizing).

But the simple fact that Freedom is herself Muslim and does not seem to dislike or hate Israel, disproves your assertion that:

"Arabs are hostile toward a presence in their very midst because it is an infidel nation."

Moreover, I have Jewish Israeli and American friends and have nothing against them, "infidels" or not. I do however criticize Israeli policies toward Palestinians. And we debate the issues, not generalize and group all of Palestinians/Arabs with the terrorists that commit violent acts in Tel Aviv.

With all due respect, I think it may be beneficial for you to interact with Muslims and Arabs beyond the computer monitor.

 
At 6:02 AM, Blogger Col. B. Bunny said...

Ayman:

Nothing like livening up the debate by injecting racism. I find it helpful.

I am aware that his Eminence Grand Ayatollah al-Sayyid Ali al-Hussani al-Sistani of Iraq maintains a web site that clear states that I as a kafir am najis, i.e., on the same level as dogs, pigs, dead bodies, and much worse. Check it out on his site under "Islamic Laws-->Najis things." Since his own web site decribes the Ayatollah as having "the highest rank among the mujtahids [jurists] and scholars throughout the Islamic World, and especially in the hawzahs [seminaries] of Najaf Ashraf and Qum," I do not feel shy in asserting that there is some major hatred of kafirs being promulgated by a very eminent Islamic jurist.

OK, maybe not hatred. How about contempt? Does "contempt" work for you?

You are incorrect if you think I am saying each and every Muslim in the world hates infidels. Considering the general jubilation that was evident in the Arab streets on September 11, 2001, and the ghastly litany of Muslim killings around the world, I am, however, not inclined to be overly cautious in wondering if huge numbers of Arabs hate infidels or just a lot of them do.

It seems to me that a lot of Arabs are hostile to infidels and I suspect that a great many people in the West share that opinion.

Witness the decline in numbers of Jews, Christians, and Chinese living in Muslim-dominated areas. For example, something like 50% of Istanbul was non-Muslim in, I think, the early 1900s, whereas only something like 2 or 3% there now are non-Muslim. Is it unreasonable to infer that the departure of those people was due to their perception of hostility toward them?

You are familiar, I am sure, with the virulent anti-infidel hatred propagated by the Saudi Wahhabists. Forgive me if I do not think that this is a minority position within the Kingdom of Saud.

Of course, of course, individual instances of Muslim broadmindedness, compassion, tolerance, and rationality exist. I am of the belief, however, that such Muslims cannot freely express their views publicly lest they be attacked, and even killed. The reputation of the Muslim world for tolerating all but the narrowest views is not good. It is the greatest of tragedies that the voices of moderation within the Arab world cannot be heard but at the risk of grave personal danger.

I wish that there were public opinion polls to quantify accurately what percentage of any group thinks about important issues. There are few polls and they are not renowned for accuracy or impartiality. In the absence of more precise measurements, I choose to make the generalizations I do.

I will amend my statements to read "My belief is that the vast majority of Muslims . . . ." I am open to evidence to the contrary but the torrent of news about suicide bombings, hostage takings, hijackings, beheadings, church desecrations, assassinations, and adamant embracing of the killing of apostates, among other horrors, by its sheer weight informs me, sufficiently for my purposes, that the violence that flows from Dar al-Islam has widespread popular support.

One further point. Please describe for me the interactions I have had with Muslims and Arabs beyond the computer monitor.

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger Cairene said...

This is actually the first time i read any of your posts.

I dont know where to begin, really so i'll do this sequentially in the same disjointed manner of your post.

First of all, i will question some of your points though they do not bear much effect on the argument. The USSR did not really give up the doctrine so much as become unable to uphold it much longer. Conversely, the United States continues to have the resources necessary for mainting the quite similiar, though much older Monroe Doctrine (actual speach available at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/monroe.htm).

I'd then like to point out that you miss out on some significant differences between Eastern Europe and Arab (or Middle Eastern) countries. For one thing, European countries, including Easter ones, went through the Renaisance and subsequent eras long before the Russian Revolution that culminated in establishment of Soviet Russia and eventually, the Socialist Block. Further, they remained much more educated through their Socialist periods.

Moving along, I dont think it is accurate to claim that in a series of coups the emerging leaders "decided to corrupt" their people. Pan Arabism is not really the baby of Syria, it was an widespread emotion at the time, perhaps made even more so by Nasser and subsequently others such as the Baathists. The Saudis were Wahhabis long before they were oil rich, and to their minds they were not corrupting for power but rather enlightening.

Dictators, or anyone in power, will not give up power unless they are compelled to be it by institutions, external or internal force or otherwise. In most of the European countries there was enough of a balance of internal and external pressure to create systematic change, though not always successfully. So, of course no one will step down.

There is no real single ideological or psychological knot. There are a number of factors that include, for example, a lack of education and awareness of systems, theories, ideologies, civic rights, cultures (including religion) and so forth (beraing in mind, again, that these communities never went through the the gradual change that Europe went through). Egyptians are not in support ofdictatorships unconsciously. Some are afraid, some dont know any better, some are too busy dealing with the basic necessities of life. Many actually reap benefit from entrenched clientalistic networks of patron-client relations.

I agree with the exernal enemy tool used by the powers that be. Examples are plentiful across history. from the Crusades to the Cold War (at its worst in the United States during The McCarth Era) to the post-forties Arab-Israeli conflict and the 21st Century Bin Laden spectre governments of all colors have made used fear to rally their people around the flag. In the meantime, there is always somebody profiting at the expense of the masses. The Arab leaders are as guilty as all the rest down through the ages.

Arab regimes, such as the Egyptian one did not really cultivate political Islam. Quite the contrary, Islamism has been a constant thorn in the government's side. Israel being the enemy was not instilled after Sadat's death, it had been such since its establishment in a quarter of a century earlier.

Though the source of much of the recent rise in Conservatism (particularly the puritanical type) can be traced back to the Gulf, it was transferred mostly by Egyptian labor that returned from theere and subsequently continues to be by both the ongoing Egyptian presence in Gulf countries as well as the spread of satellite Tv.

As for the weaknesses of the secular opposition, the causises are manifold. For one, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, they have for decades been proclaiming lofty ideals in hopes of appealing to the masses, while only ever reaching the dismally few intelligentsi when instead they should have been forming netowrks and filling in, like the MB, where the government had failed by providing social services such as health care.

This is by no means exclusively why the MB demonstrated such popularity. The rise of conservatism and subsequent ability of Religios groups to attract political support is a very normal consequence of dictatorial regimes. People tend to turn to religion to seek comfort from their troubles. Further, it is much easier to stamp out non-religious groups by cooption, force and intimidaion and censorship. It's quite difficult to justify shutting down mosques.

 
At 2:57 PM, Blogger Cairene said...

Now, having read the posts on Arab hatred, let me again offer my two cents.

I think, if there were indeed accurate polls, you would find Arabs, or Egyptians at least, overall very anti-American policy/govt/etc.. However, if the same poll asked what they thought of American people, they would demonstrate surprisingly positive responses.

The jubilation you speak of on September 11th was not at the deaths of the 3000+ victims, but rather as a blow at the govt whose policies they (for whatever reasons) consider to be distasteful. I myself, though i was shocked by the incident and abhored the loss of life, could not suppress smug awa at the symbolic value of the incident.

Radical Muslim clerics are not really the best sources for the feelings of the average person. I have many American friends who have visited Egypt and found it to be a very enjoyable experience, to the point that some of them opted to stay. Having studied at the American U in Cairo, to which an increasing number of American students come for semester- or year-abroad programs, i would say that only a negligible minority of them return home unhappy with their sojourn. I think it is safe to say the same of tourists.

Having spent 16 years living in Saudi Arabia, i would say that as far as the population goes, the same can be said.

Admitedly there are those who do have such ill-sentiment and they are quite vocal.

But i think you would be just as incredulous if i were to base claims that Americans are xenophobic and racist on isolated incidents of ethnic violence, or even more significantly the fact that ethnic neighborhoods continue to exist on a large scale. Or that security, customs and immigration officials continue to treat non-white people with more suspicion, violence and general distaste. Despite having experienced this first hand, i could not make the claim that the American people, on a mass scale are racist.

I hope you see my point

 

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