Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Thoughts About Egypt?

Sheesh, I’m running late. I got caught in a lunch meeting and am just now getting a chance to offer you guys today’s Inquisition. Is there any bigger waste of time than corporate meetings?

(That’s not the AI, but feel free to opine on that, if you’d like.)

Actually, for today, since we haven’t talked about it much here, and since this is a very import world event, I was hoping to open up the floor to you all to discuss the situation in Egypt (and Tunisia, as it ties in). Hopefully there are some native Egyptians that can offer their insights.

So . . .

Thoughts on the protests? The current regime? The transfer of power? The secret police/goon squads? The role of the international community? The pummeling of Anderson Cooper? What about the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Honestly, I am just inspired beyond belief that despite the best efforts of pro-Mubarak mercenaries, protesters were/are willing to hold out, not cave in to the violence, threats of violence, death and overall tactics.

    I know some individuals on the democracy side were not exactly angels either, but the whole of the movement stuck together in a way I didn’t know would be possible. Also, I lived in the Middle East and stayed in Egypt for a time in the late 80’s and loved the country, so I am cautiously optimistic about its future.

  2. I think this is the first time I have watched a world-changing event happen with some perspective. In the past I’d choose sides easily and come to simplistic decisions. It is easy to side with protesters and want an early exit for Mubarak, but this may not be the best thing. Ugly things can happen if there is a large power vacuum and it is important to remember that there is no strong opposition leader in waiting. Mostly I am watching with some detachment.

    I think what is inevitable at this point is that Mubarak will not make it to the next election and the state will be largely under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood at some point. I don’t think there is much we can do at this point to make the outcome better for Egypt or for us, but we can certainly make it worse by propping up the current government too enthusiastically.

    What we can most hope for is an Egypt that can provide a better economy for its people in a moderate Muslim state. The silver lining might be that Israel, deprived of yet another rubber stamp, might feel more pressure to make substantial concessions to the Palestinians by not, for example, stealing their entire country a few acres at a time.

  3. @scribe999:

    Yeah, was reading this:

    Mubarak said:

    “I will not submit to any international pressures,” he says, according to an unofficial translation. “I have preserved my dignity and preserved the peace for Egypt and I have worked hard for the renaissance, I have never tried to have more authority, and I think the majority of people know very well who Hosni Mubarak is, and it hurts my heart when I see and hear from my own colleagues and my own people, but I –I know the juntion that we are facing right now, but I am fully convinced that Egypt will pass these difficult times.”

  4. @davew:

    Have you read up about the Muslim Brotherhood? I’ve been trying to research the group a bit and it seems like everything I read has a completely different view of things. Quite frankly, I don’t know what to think and I have to leave it at that.

    I did read an article that talked about the age split in the Brotherhood and that the younger members seem much more in line with the more secular protest movement. I pretty much just hope that this is true.

    All I do know, is that I hate all the knee-jerk conclusions that because they are Muslim group, it must mean they are a radical hate-filled group.

  5. @scrapps: Have you read up about the Muslim Brotherhood?

    Mostly I listen to the BBC and read their website. I just checked out Wikipedia’s entry and it corresponds to what I thought I knew. There are reasons to be pessimistic: they might repress women, institute Islamic law, and abrogate the peace treaty with Israel, and reasons to be hopeful: the Egyptian branch has said they won’t do any of these things. It’s hard to tell because a party out of power is very different beast than a party in power.

    What we think about the MB, however, is moot. The majority of Egyptians will vote for the Muslim Brotherhood so if Egypt becomes a democracy it looks like we’ll have to deal with them. Best to start making nice now.

  6. @infinitemonkey: This is the world you and other human beings live in. Some human beings want to change their part of the world to, in their belief, make life better for them. That part of the world has influence that will likely significantly impact much of the rest of the world—if not directly, then indirectly.

    Does that help toward piquing your interest?

  7. I thought I knew a bit about the Muslim Brotherhood but decided on second thought I only knew a few brief descriptions you’d hear on the news. So when I saw this AI I thought it would be fun to take ten minutes to Google around and find statements and claims from a number of different sources about the Brotherhood and here’s what I found.

    The Muslim Brotherhood wants religious governments based on the Qur’an.
    The MB have denied being a terrorist group and condemned the 9-11 attacks.
    Members of the MB have called for jihad and called for the killing of westerners in “Islamic” countries.
    The Brotherhood’s founder, al-Banna, was a devout admirer of Hitler and the Nazi regime. (I know, Godwin and not even half way through.)
    In the 1960’s the MB in Egypt was supported by the CIA because they were anti communist.
    The MB killed a lot of folk in the 1980’s they did not like or who they thought were fake Muslims.
    The MB helped fight the Soviets during the 1980’s in Afghanistan.
    Most experts view the MB as moderate especially compared to al Qaida.
    MB leadership denies any current or historical acts of violence.
    Some security analysis organizations’ claim the MB is trying to establish a worldwide theocracy.
    The motto of the MB: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
    Many sources report that the MB aspires to establish a caliphate unifying all the Muslim nations.

    I’m not optimistic given mixing religion and politics is almost always a bad thing. And who knows where the actual truth lies in the above statements.

  8. @infinitemonkey:

    I get like that sometimes, but I want to at least try to be aware of events that affect so many and can affect them further in very negative (and far-reaching) ways. It’s a personal choice though.

    @James Fox:

    And I was ashamed I didn’t know more of the details of this story, so I did what James Fox did.

    Thanks for adding that information to this thread, J. It doesn’t seem to be a very popular topic for the commenters so far, but your input is always appreciated.

  9. The Muslim Brotherhood came late to the protests, and only make up a tiny percentage of the protesters, and have no real political sway in this. I’m worried that the western media’s attention on MB will give it more levy and political weight than it deserves.

    As @andiis says, the protests were started mainly by a young middle class wanting more freedoms and a democratic say in how their country is governed. I think the west needs to stop being so paranoid about extremist groups in Muslim countries, and (echoing @Jack99) to back off and let Egyptian people sort out their own country the best way they see fit.

  10. I care but I’m not sure what I should think. I know that the info that we are getting is heavily biased and it makes me question what I think.

    I didn’t believe the most extreme versions of these misconceptions but I learned something and I think we need to wait and see, as anathema as that is to the United States of by God America.

  11. @Jack99:

    The article you link to articulates my concerns about this subject very well. I’m not a great historian, but I was coming of age during the Shah’s exile from Iran, and the hostage crisis, and it was the first time I was able to follow unfolding world events and understand them.

    As to the premise of the article, I agree that historically, revolution has resulted in even more chaos, and the cases where it did not (the American Revolutions, etc.), there was established opposition leadership before the revolution started.

    I just wonder: Is it best to let the further chaos happen in Egypt (if it’s going to)? What are the global implications if that happens? What are the global implications if the international community has the bigger role in the transfer of power? Will the continuing/post-revolution chaos be worse? What form will it take?

  12. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak resigned as president and handed control to the military on Friday after 29 years in power, bowing to a historic 18-day wave of pro-democracy demonstrations by hundreds of thousands. “The people ousted the president,” chanted a crowd of tens of thousands outside his presidential palace in Cairo.

    There are reports of the cheers in several cities being deafening.

    This is exciting news. But much work left to do.

  13. @Sam Ogden: I think with the way this is playing out today makes concerns about chaos following Mubarak’s exit pretty moot, at least in the short term, since power is ostensibly in the hands of the military and Omar Suleiman…not a radical shift at this point. Perhaps there is a good chance for avoiding a Reign of Terror or October Revolution style change.

  14. @andiis: The word from Tahrir Sq is that the MB is small in number, and that the call to civil disobedience was from young middle class on txt and fb : refer change .org

    Indeed. An there was very little overly MB in the protest, but, according to everything I have read in a free and fair election in Egypt the MB will get a majority vote.

    How many points to I get for successfully predicting Mubarak’s exit before the next election? Zero? Yeah, thought so.

  15. I don’t know what’s going on, and I can’t bring myself to care. I don’t know why.

    While I sort of agree with @infinitemonkey‘s comment, I am going to expand on it.

    I have some idea of what’s going on, and I can’t bring myself to care very much. And I know why. It is because there are more than enough troubles — political, social, economic — right here at home to overload even the most energetic, carefull™, and activist thinker/feeler, without having to go overseas to look for troubles to troll.

    While what is going on in Egypt is very interesting, and in some ways even inspirational, it will have very, very, very little direct impact on issues here at home. And I, for one, honestly feel that focussing so much emotional attention on some place so far away and so uninvolved (directly) with “home” is more often than not a way to avoid looking more closely at and doing something activist about the issues in one’s home place.

    If some folks think that makes me an uncaring sod, so be it. What are you doing about the overwhelming troubles in your own town, city, state/province, country?

  16. So I ran out to find a TV to watch the events unfolding in Egypt.


    So moving to see. I know there is a lot of work left to do, and history tells us that situations like this can go bad. But it actually makes me think there is hope for humans yet.

  17. @davew
    I read that support of the Muslim Brotherhood among Egyptian population is 15%. What do you think?

    Edit: Never mind, maybe I misunderstood. More readings show higher percentages. At least 20%

  18. And one more thing. I read that the reason for Muslim Brotherhood’s success during Mubarak’s years is that they were the only viable opposition. Maybe with Mubarak gone, other parties can be formed for the September election.

  19. I don’t like to stick to American news or even post-Iraq BBC news coverage for my international news. So I check out a bit of Der Speigel, The Guardian, and Al Jazeera along with my BBC and CBC.

    What I find in coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood is that the closer you are to the US government, the more they are considered a threat to the Egyptian people.

    Al Jazeera made much more of unions and social justice activists.

    The way I look at it is that every news agency has their own propaganda slant. FOX is the Republican Party. CNN is the “inside the beltway” lobbyist, think tank, Washington establishment view. MSNBC is the news organ for the Democratic Party. BBC speaks for the British political establishment, which is heavily influenced by American neocons when it comes to the Middle East. The Guardian is more social democrat about the whole thing. The German services are focused almost exclusively on the effect these things will have on foreign investment.

    I haven’t been watching Al Jazeera long enough to be 100% clear on their views. I’ve never heard them say anything bad about life in Qatar, and they haven’t much good to say about Israel (though they’re more objective than American news would have you think).

    They’ve been very big on outlining all the participants in this revolution. They’ve been pointing out that there is a big socialist/union contingent (as one would expect due to the skyrocketing food prices, massive unemployment, and crony capitalism in Egypt). They’ve also made it clear that the protesters DON’T want to emphasize this to Americans as we tend to freak out at the thought of Social Democrats taking power, much less Socialists.

    I think a lot of insight into the Muslim Brotherhood can be gained by reading their web site. They have a point of view too, but it seems lazy not to check it out when forming an opinion on them.

    My impression from all of this is that there are a lot of different groups involved. Labor, opposition parties, human rights groups and Islamic groups. Egypt has a far more diversified economy than much of the Arab world, with oil taking a much smaller role and tourism taking a much larger one. So I imagine that if the military does relinquish power, there will be far less of a role for Islam in political life than Americans fear, and far more socialism than most expect (at least in the short term).

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