Westerners, Western journalists in particular
and Western liberal journalists to an almost obsessive degree like to think the
best of radicals and revolutions in the developing or less privileged world. In
some ways it’s kind and almost gentle; in others it’s downright naive and
dangerous. If you doubt me, ask Laura Logan how it felt being sexually abused
by a mob of Cairo men screaming for change and chanting “Jew, Jew” at the poor
woman. She is not, by the way, Jewish.
That, however, was one vile incident, which
was transformed into a debate about the safety of women journalists rather than
the nature of the Arab mob. How often, for example, are female reporters
concerned about how political crowds will treat them in Italy or Germany or New
But such a question, runs the argument,
implies the making of moral distinctions in cultures and societies and is thus
elitist and wrong. More horrible and far less reported was the abduction and
murder of Christians during the Egyptian revolution, or the burning of a
synagogue in Tunisia.
What we were told repeatedly was that the
unrest in the Arab world was spontaneous and secular. Actually much of it had
been planned long ago, and a great deal of the support mechanisms for the
demonstrations in Egypt in particular came from the Muslim Brotherhood. Who,
again according to the media, have abandoned violence and don’t even want to
Good Lord, reality cries out to be heard.
The crest of the Brotherhood boasts two
crossed swords, and the armed struggle aspect of the jihad is central to their
ideology. Both the Egyptian Prime Minister in the 1940s and the Egyptian
President in the 1980s were assassinated by Brotherhood agents, and a
particularly violent revolt in Syria thirty years ago was the direct result of
Muslim Brotherhood provocation. Hamas based its manifesto, aims and methods on
the Brotherhood, and the terror-linked Islamic Action Front in Jordan is little
more than a Brotherhood agency.
In the last election held in Egypt the
party representing the Brotherhood gained 20 percent of the vote, making it the
most important opposition group not only in Egypt but perhaps in the entire
Arab world. It believes in Sharia law, the implementation of an Islamic state
in the Middle East and, eventually, the entire world, the re-conquest of Spain
and Portugal and a tax on Jews and Christians fortunate enough to survive in
such a place. The entire Jewish population of Egypt was expelled in the 1950s,
even though it pre-dated Islam and was loyal and law-abiding.
The Muslim Brotherhood not only applauded
this ethnic cleansing monstrosity but helped make it possible. As for
Christians, while Brotherhood members have not been directly linked to the
numerous terror attacks of the Copts, they have created an anti-Christian
atmosphere and backed discriminatory measures.
The Society of the Muslim Brothers was
founded in 1928 by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna. He
was a man deeply shocked by the most innocent of pre-war Western recreations,
and believed that the non-Islamic world had nothing to offer Muslim culture and
society. He also embraced some of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and
Jew-hatred of the 1920s and 30s.
Today the organization is certainly more
sophisticated and less pointlessly violent than some of the Islamic terror
groups that routinely commit acts of grotesque violence, but it is just as
committed to Muslim triumphalism and the defeat of the West. In place of the
clumsy, though, it has mastered the more subtle. While the Iranians scream for
the destruction of Israel, the Brotherhood merely says that peace with Israel
will continue if the people of Egypt vote for it — knowing full well that the
vast majority of Egyptians do not want such a treaty.
The current leader of the group was asked
if war with the Jewish state was likely. No, he said, as long as Israel stops
its persecution of the Palestinians. And what constitutes that persecution? The
Israeli state in its 1948 boundaries, he replied; in other words, the most
basic existence of the country.
These are word games, but the words lead to
The coverage and perception is all worrying
similar to when the Shah of Iran fell from power, with his replacements given
almost unquestioning support from Western experts and journalists. Of course
they were wrong, and of course they have never said so. It is unclear how
Egypt, or for that matter Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya or anywhere else in the Arab
world will develop.
What we do know is that the Muslim
Brotherhood is not going to suddenly disappear from the scene, and that the Western
concept of secular revolt simply does not exist in a world where religion
informs every aspect of life, manners, culture and politics.
Nor is that essentially a bad thing. It all
depends on the nature of the particular religion, which is again a distinction
we are not supposed to make in a post-belief society that cannot possibly
understand a people whose aspirations go far beyond the personal and the
political. There is no Egypt without Islam and there is no Arab world and Arab
revolt without Islam. How we understand the religion, the Muslim Brotherhood,
and how honest we are to ourselves and to the people of the Middle East about
these issues will make most, perhaps all of the difference in the coming years.
Coren is a broadcaster and writer living in Toronto, Canada.