Roger’s Rules

Thoughts on the Arab Spring, Egyptian desk

Over at The Corner,  Andrew McCarthy has inaugurated what I suspect will be a long-running series called  “Annals of the Arab Spring.”

A couple of days ago, Andy dilated on the Egyptian demand that the so-called “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, be released from his life tenure as a guest of the U.S. government. Rahman, in case you’ve forgotten, is the head of that civic-minded society, The Islamic Group, an Egyptian fraternity perhaps best known for murdering tourists.  This gang of lovable rapscallions has been militating for Rahman’s release from prison for years. Now that Hosni Mubarak has made his congés  and the heirs of James Madison are flooding the streets of Cairo, warning against the dangers of faction, urging the advantages of decentralization and orchestrating all those “auxiliary precautions” against the misuse of power, the cry for Rahman’s release has grown louder and more insistent. “This campaign,” Andy notess, “has been ongoing since Abdel Rahman was first imprisoned following his 1993 arrest” — you remember the attack against the World Trade Center that year? One of Rahman’s many gifts to the world. “It was,” Andy writes,

from this confinement that he issued the fatwa Osama bin Laden has credited as the Islamic authorization for the 9/11 attacks. The Sheikh had decreed that Muslims must fight for his release, exhorting “Muslims everywhere to dismember their [i.e., our] nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, shoot down their planes, [and] kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them.”

Thoroughgoing chap, Sheikh Rahman: nary a stone unturned or an infidel left standing.

Andy’s piece is full of similarly encouraging bulletins. I was musing on this latest efflorescence of democracy in the Middle East when a friend send me a couple of dispatches from Cairo by an Egyptian doctor I’d met once or twice when he was living and practicing outside Chicago. He had just returned with his family to  Cairo. As a Christian, he contemplated the arrival of the Arab Spring with special attention.

April 21

We arrived safely here about 4 hours ago.  The trip was uneventful.  Cairo is still on the surface the same but when you dig deep you find a hidden Tsunami about to be unleashed.  There is a significant sense of uncertainty, anxiety, and apprehension.  There is no real government.  The police force is still absent and the state of lawlessness prevails.

There are demonstrations on daily basis for different reasons.  The tone now is becoming more religious.  A big demonstration in Quena in upper Egypt has been going on for 10 days.  The people are sitting on the railroad tracks preventing the trains from running and in the highways cutting off all transportation to upper Egypt .  The reason for the demonstrations is the appointment of a new governor for the state of Quena.  The only reason the people don’t want him is that he is CHRISTIAN!!!  The newspapers are finally reporting the events with some honesty.

Christians here are very anxious and almost desperate.  I will give you some details in the next dispatch.

We are doing well.  We are about to go to attend the Easter service.

A few days later, the second dispatch arrived:

April 25

It is very remarkable what has happened in Egypt in the last 4 months.  At the beginning there was a lot of excitement about the revolution and its unlimited potential.  Now this is the day after and things are turning fast into the unknown.  Simply put no one knows what will happen in the next few months.

Now there is a state of chaos in the country.  There is no effective government. There is no law and no police force.  That has allowed the criminals to roam the city and commit crimes with impunity.  There are many stories of people stopping motorists and forcing them to sign a sell contract to sell their cars by force for free to those criminals.  Even some people started building illegal buildings with no permits since no one is watching.

But the most significant thing is the emergence of a new group called “Salafeyeen” who aspire to return Egypt to the early days of Islam.   I had never heard of them before.  They are very radical and they are not bashful to broadcast their manifesto which is essentially against any progress, against women and against Christians.  By comparison the Muslim brotherhood is like the Boy Scout.  The Salafeyeen have been attacking mainstream Muslim mosques and taking them over. They consider the Muslim brotherhood not Muslim enough. They want to impose a very strict Sharia law.  They also hint that the revolutions in other Arab countries will lead to a new Caliphate of pure Islam in the Middle East.

Thank goodness we have it on the authority of our Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” organization and “heterogenous” to boot. (Just like Islam itself: it argues intolerance and a smallness of spirit it to treat it as a “monolithic” phenomenon. Let a thousand jihads bloom.)

Our correspondent noted one or two other impediments to Egypt’s rebirth as the Switzerland of the Middle East.

Every day new discoveries are revealed of the huge amount of money amassed by Mubarak and his cronies.  It is unreal in a poor country.  Billions of dollars and Sterling pounds have been stolen by almost every cabinet member in the last 20 some years.  It is very frightening to think that the corruption did not leave anyone at the top clean.

Still, he remains cautiously optimistic:

I am still hopeful.  In the middle of this uncertainty and anxiety there is a silver lining.  The youth who started the revolution still has the passion and the desire to change their country.  They have been silent recently.  Their voices have been smothered by the louder religious groups.  I still believe that they will not sit idle as their beloved country is being taken away by the vultures.  But in several discussions with a large group of Egyptians it seems I am the only one who is optimistic.

The Easter service here was muted and low profile.  The churches were not as full as they usually are..  People are still afraid of another explosion.  I must admit that during church services I expected some explosion somewhere.  It did not happen and that was a good start.

I am sure this ambiguous situation represents a nightmare for the Obama administration.  They don’t know what to do now except wait and see how the parliamentarian and presidential elections will turn out.  This in large will determine the direction of the country.  Will Egypt be another Iran or another Turkey? We don’t really know.  Let us hope.

As far as personal safety we feel safe.  I am not worried about that.  I am more worried about the direction of this country which 4 months ago was on cloud 9 after the revolution.  We need that feeling back.  The feeling of a country coming out of darkness into the light.  Let us hope that Light will prevail.

By all means, we should hope for the best.  We should also, if we are rational, prepare for the worst.