Mohamed El Dashan

Foreign Policy, March 7, 2011


While the world turns its attention to the riveting drama in Libya…the revolution next door in Egypt is entering a new phase—one that is just as exhilarating and consequential as the protests that drove President Hosni Mubarak from power in just 18 incredible days.…

The Egyptian people endured Mubarak’s reign for 30 years, but 33 days of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq was all it took for them to threaten to take to the streets en masse to demand his ouster. Shafiq, who was appointed by Mubarak during the early days of the revolution in a blatant bid to seem reasonable without conceding much power, was widely seen, along with much of his cabinet, as a relic of the pre-revolutionary era and the man who had overseen—or at least failed to stop—some of the most violent attacks against peaceful demonstrators in Tahrir Square.

Shafiq has been replaced by Essam Sharaf, a former minister of transportation and member of the National Democratic Party’s Policies Committee—Mubarak’s Politburo, if you will. Sharaf has nevertheless acquired the reputation of being an honest civil servant.… He also earned points with the revolutionaries, having himself led a small protest at Cairo University a few days before Mubarak stepped down.

Shafiq’s sacking came just hours after a historic TV interview that saw the prime minister sourly criticized and altogether humiliated by the other panelists, and not long before a massive protest had been scheduled to call for his removal along with several members of his cabinet.… With Shafiq’s metaphorical scalp still fresh, the protest went ahead as planned, and Prime Minister Sharaf himself took the podium immediately after the Friday midday prayer. Flanked…by Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed El-Beltagy (who occasionally grabbed the mic to shout a slogan or two), Sharaf was deferential. He saluted the revolution’s “martyrs” and pledged allegiance to the crowds.…

The events that followed took both the state and the revolution’s loose leadership by storm.… The evening of the protest, protesters raided the Alexandria headquarters of the state security apparatus. The next day, as the Army looked on helplessly, a crowd of about 2,000 people barged its way into the state security headquarters in Nasr City, an eastern neighborhood in Cairo, while another group of demonstrators demanded to enter the enormous state security building in 6th of October city, a western suburb of the capital—a sight that was repeated countrywide, from Marsa Matrouh in the northwest to Qena in the south.

The Nasr City takeover…was astonishing.… Amid the chaos, some offices were ransacked.… People entered the interior minister’s office and his private quarters…[and] sat on the bed or at his desk, posing for photos. Some pilfered souvenirs—a paperweight, a pen; some went all the way to unhook the “State Security Investigations” metallic signs and carry them out.… After the initial storming in, the Army had guarded the main door, blocking passage to new incoming protesters.… Only after several hours did they start shooing people out of the complex.

The next day was rather different. A small group of protesters surrounded the state security offices by Lazoghly Square, next door to the Interior Ministry. From the onset, the Army was less friendly and reacted unexpectedly violently as the crowd grew to a few hundred, beating them up with batons and electrified sticks. Later, hosts of thugs armed with batons, machetes, and swords joined from the opposite side of the square, pushing them back toward the soldiers. Eventually, as the Army fired in the air, protesters managed to run out of the square under the thundering sound of machine guns. Twenty-seven protesters were arrested.

The renewed demonstrations have provoked a fiery debate in Egypt. Some demand that protests be halted, as the Army…was, albeit slowly, responding to…requests. Others maintain that the demands go deeper than Shafiq’s head; the cleanup of the Mubarak gang is far from complete, and many pre-revolution grievances endure and need to be addressed. The Lazoghly debacle has only reinforced these concerns.

It was not the first time such a discussion has taken place—after every Mubarak speech since the beginning of the revolution, a number of voices suggested that this was “good enough” and that “we wouldn’t dare wish for that much three weeks ago.” But it was the first time this discussion has arisen since Mubarak’s abdication and the ensuing collective euphoria, which may be less unanimous than the past days have made it seem.…

All this debate may not ultimately matter much. As it stands today, Egypt is heading toward sharp bends and, save popular concerted action, there will be no one to pull the brakes. The revolution had no organized leadership, no public face—only occasional guidance. It now seems to have outgrown this phase and, whether it’s a peaceful demonstration on a Friday afternoon or the vengeful storming of a police dungeon, it will be difficult to get the street to listen to anyone.


Matt Bradley & David Luhnow
Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2011


Clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims have killed more than a dozen people in recent days in Egypt, heightening a sense that the country’s post-revolutionary euphoria is yielding to enduring problems including sectarian violence, poverty and misogyny.

Coptic Christians angry at the burning of a church clashed…with thousands of Muslims in a largely Coptic Christian neighborhood near Egypt’s capital. At least 13 died and more than 100 wounded in a four-hour clash.… The fighting between different religious groups came just hours after several hundred men roughed up female demonstrators who had gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to mark International Women’s Day and demand expanded rights and opportunities.

In a separate tussle on Tahrir Square, the nerve center of Egypt’s recent revolt, scores of Egyptian troops and men armed with sticks moved…into the square and forced out several hundred protesters who had camped there for the past few days. Dozens of people were hurt.…

The military’s move came amid growing frustration that life hasn’t yet gotten back to normal after President Hosni Mubarak ceded power a month ago following massive nationwide protests. Various groups have continued taking to the streets to press their grievances. Workers have mounted strikes demanding their bosses be fired and salaries raised. Many police are reluctant to return to duty, fearing attacks by citizens angry at years of police corruption and alleged torture, and at police attacks on protesters during last month’s pro-democracy uprising. Egypt’s economy, meanwhile, is struggling to regain its footing after virtually all businesses shut down amid protests..…

Egypt’s latest sectarian unrest began last week after a mob of Muslims—furious over a rumored romance between a Coptic Christian man and a Muslim woman—torched a church near Helwan, an industrial city outside Cairo.… 2010 saw an…uptick in tension [between Muslims and Christians]. The year began with a shooting outside a church in Upper Egypt on Coptic Christmas that killed six worshippers.… Starting in the summer, Salafi Muslims began regular demonstrations outside churches in Alexandria and Cairo against the Coptic Church. The Salafis—who follow an ultra-conservative form of Islam widely practiced in Saudi Arabia—accused the church of having kidnapped two Christian women who were rumored to have tried to convert to Islam. [Then], on New Year’s Day in 2011, a bombing at an Alexandria church killed 23 people.…

Adding to sense of looming trouble is Egypt’s economy. The stock market was slated to reopen March 6 but a mob of angry retail investors demanded it remain shut until activity in the rest of the economy picks back up, avoiding what the protesters said would be unnecessarily large losses now.… Others want the market opened right away, saying the closed exchange is contributing to an overall sense of unease.… In a statement, Mr. Sharaf’s cabinet called on citizens to go back to work and “to delay factional protests and strikes so the government can return stability that would allow the national economy to overcome these difficult times.”


Ryan Mauro
FrontPage Blog, March 10, 2011


Al-Qaeda does its enemy a favor with its honesty. The Muslim Brotherhood does not make the same mistake. It is more politically savvy and aware of how it can manipulate the minds of Westerners with soft language. The Islamist group is trying to clean up its image, most recently by deleting its objectives from its English-language website.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism discovered that the English version of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website no longer includes its bylaws and it makes sense why. One of them is “the need to work on establishing the Islamic State, which seeks to effectively implement the provisions of Islam and its teachings” and “defend the [Islamic] nation against its internal enemies.” Another is to “insist to liberate the Islamic nation from the yoke of foreign rule, help safeguard the rights of Muslims everywhere and unite Muslims around the world.…”

There are other telling differences between the Arabic and English websites as well. The home page of the English site mentions “freedom.” The home page of the Arabic site has the official Muslim Brotherhood logo of two crossed swords and a Quran and an Arabic word that means “make ready.” Christine Brim writes that this phrase is taken from Quran 8:60 that states, “Make ready for an encounter against them, all the forces and well-readied horses you can muster, that you may overawe the enemies of Allah and your own enemies and others besides them of whom you are unaware but of whom Allah is aware.”

David Rusin, the director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, [says] that the cover-up is aimed at encouraging those who naively believe the Brotherhood is moderate. “By scrubbing its English-language site, the Brotherhood aims to make it as easy as possible for those Westerners predisposed to willful blindness—a trait rather common in the Obama White House—to continue fooling themselves about the Brotherhood’s ultimate intentions,” he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood will finally have an opportunity to be a part of the Egyptian government and is pulling out all the stops to cast itself as a democratic voice of moderation that should be of no concern. It is registering in Egypt under the name, “Freedom and Justice Party” and says it does not intend to control the government.… “The Muslim Brotherhood are not seeking power. We want to participate, not to dominate,” a member of the group’s media office says. This calming statement is almost meaningless. The Brotherhood knows it is unlikely that it will attain a majority in the next government all on its own and therefore “dominate.” Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, it will win enough seats to be a decisive voice in parliament. It is quite conceivable that the Brotherhood could be part of a parliamentary majority if it forms a bloc with other parties. It will then be in a position to decide the government’s agenda without overtly controlling it.…

The Brotherhood has told its protesters to refrain from using religious language during demonstrations. One official told a protester to hide his Quran and instead hoist up an Egyptian flag. “Open it [the Quran]…but not for the media,” he instructed.… The group is even trying to cover-up its long history for fighting for the destruction of Israel. “We will respect the peace treaty with Israel as long as Israel shows real progress on improving the lot of the Palestinians,” said deputy head Mahmoud Ezzat, inserting careful language that leaves room for the Islamists to find a pretext to end the treaty.…

This statement is simply not credible. The Muslim Brotherhood has fully backed the violent jihad by its Palestinian wing, Hamas, to destroy Israel. When the revolution in Egypt got underway, a senior official flatly stated that the Egyptian “people should be prepared for war with Israel” and another deputy leader said, “After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.…”

Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the most influential Brotherhood theologian who was asked to lead the group, is well-practiced in the game of semantics. He says Islam “has no problem with Judaism” but says Muslims are religiously obligated to fight the Jews for the Holy Land. He condemns killing American civilians but supports killing Israeli civilians, U.S. soldiers and says Muslims should fight alongside the Taliban. He says he is for freedom but supports executing apostates.

Al-Qaradawi speaks on behalf of the vague terms of “freedom” and “democracy” but Communists used the same terms as well. Al-Qaradawi’s “democracy” does not include secularism and he believes “freedom” can only truly be attained under Sharia. His vision of governance one where “any legislation contradicting the incontestable provisions of Islam shall be null and void because Islam is the religion of the State and the source of legitimacy of all its institutions.…” [Ed.—Please refer to the article Return of the (Genocidal) Native in the “On Topics” section for more anti-semitic quotations by Al-Qaradawi].

This deception is the central part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy in the United States as well. In 1993, the Brotherhood held a secret meeting in Philadelphia to plan its strategy. The president of the Holy Land Foundation, a charity later shut down for being a front for Hamas, said to Omar Ahmad, a co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, “War is deception. We are fighting our enemy with a kind heart and we never thought of deceiving it. War is deception. Deceive, camouflage, pretend that you’re leaving while you’re walking that way.… Deceive your enemy.” Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was recorded at that meeting saying that, “What is important is that the language of the address is there even for the American.” Omar Ahmad replies with, “There is a difference between you saying ‘I want to restore the ‘48 land’ and when you say ‘I want to destroy Israel.…’”

The Muslim Brotherhood is making over its image and is using carefully-worded language to put its adversaries at ease. The world must not be fooled. This group was created to establish a worldwide state governed by Sharia and for the Brotherhood, to abandon that goal is an act of apostasy.


Barry Rubin
Rubin Reports, March 6, 2011


President Barack Obama told Democratic Party contributors  in Miami: “When you look at what’s happening…in the Middle East, it is a manifestation of new technologies, the winds of freedom that are blowing through countries that have not felt those winds in decades, a whole new generation that says I want to be a part of this world. It’s a dangerous time, but it’s also a huge opportunity for us.’’

Obama also said that the United States should not be “afraid” of change in the Middle East. Well, that depends on the kind of change, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t be afraid if Iran, Syria, and the Gaza Strip had revolutionary upheavals that installed moderate democratic governments, for example. But let me remind you once again, my theme from the first day of the Egyptian revolution has been that I’m worried because others aren’t worried. The more they show that they don’t understand the dangers, the greater the dangers become.

President Franklin Roosevelt said about the Great Depression that there was, “Nothing to fear but fear itself.” That is, Americans should be confident about their abilities to solve problems. But he didn’t say, when German forces seized one country after another, that Americans shouldn’t be afraid of change in Europe. Nor did he say, as the Japanese Empire expanded, that Americans shouldn’t be afraid of change in Asia. President Harry Truman didn’t say that Americans shouldn’t be afraid of change in Eastern Europe when the Soviets gained power over the governments there or China became Communist.

These (Democratic) presidents recognized the danger and worked to counteract it as best they could under the circumstances. In contrast, while giving lip service to the idea that it’s a “dangerous time,” Obama never points to what the dangers are because, frankly, he has no idea. All the points he makes about these changes are positive, cheerleading.

Yet if he’s right on what basis does the United States not want some regimes—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority—to be overthrown? Why does he not make a differentiation between America’s enemies and America’s friends?

To show who is really being naive, he added: “All the forces that we see building in Egypt are the forces that should be naturally aligned with us. Should be aligned with Israel.” All the forces “should be” aligned with the United States and Israel! Well, maybe they “should be” but they aren’t. In fact, it is the exact opposite: all the forces that we see building in Egypt are forces that in fact are not aligned with the United States and Israel. Here we see the arrogance of someone who tells people in other countries what they should think instead of analyzing what they do think.

Of course, what happens—and we see this quite vividly—is that the intelligence agencies and media rewrite reality to say that these people are moderate because that’s what the president expects. Here are some historical parallels to Obama’s statements (I made them up):

1932: Germany should be aligned with the Western democracies and the United States because that is the way it will achieve prosperity and stability in Europe, two things that Germany desperately needs. Only 14 years ago, Germany lost a long, bloody war. Surely, the Germans have no desire to fight again and repeat their mistake of trying to conquer Europe!

1945: The Soviet Union should be aligned with the Western democracies and the United States because we have just been allies in a great war. Moscow must understand that the United States has no desire to injure it, wants to live in peace, and respects Soviet interests. Surely, Stalin will put the emphasis on rebuilding his country and not on expansionism abroad!

1979: The new Islamist regime in Iran should be aligned with the West and the United States because they accept the revolution there, want good relations, and are the customers for Iran’s oil exports.

1989: Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi regime should be aligned with the West and the United States because they backed him in his recent war with Iran and he fears the spread of revolutionary Islamism. Saddam will cause no trouble and will put the priority on rebuilding his country after a bloody eight-year-long war with Iran and providing better lives for his people.

1993: Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians should be aligned with the United States and eager to make a comprehensive peace with Israel since that is the only way they can get a state.  Now that they are going to have elections and be responsible for administering the West Bank and Gaza Strip certainly the PLO will cease to be revolutionary or terrorist.

Get the picture? And so when Obama says: “I’m actually confident that 10 years from now we’re going to be able to look back and say that this was the dawning of an entirely new and better era. One in which people are striving not to be against something but to be for something.”

Remember those words. He has absolutely no understanding of the Arabic-speaking world, the Muslim-majority world, or the Middle East whatsoever. How are these new regimes going to stay in power, smite their rivals, and make up for not delivering the material goods to their people? What is the world view of these forces? How do they perceive America, the West, and Israel? These are the questions that should be asked, and answered, in order to understand what the world will look like in a decade.

(Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center.)