An Exiled Muslim Cleric Takes the Stage in EGYPT

New York Times – 2-19-11

Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric who is banned from the United States and Britain for supporting violence against Israel and American forces in Iraq, delivered his first public sermon here in 50 years on Friday, emerging as a powerful voice in the struggle to shape what kind of Egyptian state emerges from….

So it begins.

Think about how far we have come from the heady days of innocent idealism.


Investor’s Daily OP Ed

“Obama invited 10 Brotherhood leaders to hear his ‘New Beginning’ speech to the world’s Muslims in Cairo in mid-2009. In that speech, Obama snubbed Mubarak, adding that ‘people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind’ and ‘government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people.’

“You just can’t say such things in a country with thousands of political prisoners — and under an army-enforced state of emergency since the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat — and not expect trouble.”


“Majority rule without liberty amounts to the tyranny of the majority — a chilling prospect in the Mideast. But it’s the only ‘democracy’ the Brotherhood will back.”



San Francisco Chronicle 2-13-11

[The Egyptian military] “owns companies that sell everything from fire extinguishers and medical equipment to laptops, televisions, sewing machines, refrigerators, pots and pans, butane gas bottles, bottled water and olive oil.

“Its holdings include vast tracts of land, including the Sharm el-Sheikh resort, where ex-President Hosni Mubarak now resides in one of his seaside palaces. Bread from its bakeries has helped head off food riots.

“In a September 2008 classified cable recently released by WikiLeaks, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey wrote, ‘We see the military’s role in the economy as a force that generally stifles free market reform by increasing direct government involvement in the markets.’ The cable noted ‘the military’s strong influence in Egypt’s economy,’ with military-owned companies, often run by retired generals, ‘particularly active in the water, olive oil, cement, construction, hotel and gasoline industries.’

“As for the civilian government’s privatization initiatives – headed by Mubarak’s son Gamal before he was ousted from his party post – they were viewed ‘as a threat to (the military’s) economic position, (which) therefore generally opposes economic reforms,’ according to the cable.

Business News

Andrew Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle Section D 7


The overall effect of the Obama administration’s actions was to promote a military coup. That action, dissolving parliament and nullifying the national constitution has opened a door through which an even worse tyranny can enter under the cover of legitimacy. As I have argued from the beginning, the pathway to a real democracy in Egypt requires fruitful economic development, the rule of law, including constitutional continuity. The economic fascism of the military, the real reason for the generals’ demand that Gamal Mubarak not be allowed to succeed his father, goes a long way to explain events.

All of that acknowledged, there is a solid basis for hope, provided that we in the West, and the key members of this administration achieve a balance between tough minded prudence and loopy idealism.

What this means is an about face in core attitudes and approaches, something already in play in Germany, France and the UK, but not yet in the USA: We need a tough, unsentimental insistence on the outcome of a quasi-democratic process, instead of a giddy obsession with gesture and appearances.

In Egypt’s case, this means a hard-edged Kissingeresque realpolitik that leavens and adds spine to the West’s approach to change in the Middle East. We cannot get to a peaceful balance in that region (yes, it teeters on the edge of a regional “civil war”), without a clear eyed objective, to wit: a freedom-friendly, version of Islamic rule, committed to creative change.

And here’s the rub: The only kind of Islamic rule that will work as an engine of creative change does not yet exist anywhere in the world. Among its features: (1) Economic liberalism as against theocratic or kleptocratic socialism; (2) A commitment to religious freedom that absolutely forbids force, violence, repression and intimidation of Christians, Jews and the softer versions of Islam such as the banned Sufi sects; (3) The recognition of the moral and juridical legitimacy of Israel, seen, not through the religious lens as the hated Jewish enclave, but through the lens of a fellow haven for creative economic, technological and cultural forces.

Without moral and practical clarity there is no progress. Without a sense of history there is no balance. Without moral and practical courage the forces of good will be rolled.

Where is that old, fire breathing liberal, Winston Churchill, when we need him?


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