Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Springtime for Qutb and the Caliphate

Forty-five years after his death, springtime has finally come for Sayyid Qutb and Egypt.

Mr. Qutb took over as leader of Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen — better known as the Muslim Brotherhood — in 1949. He succeeded its founder, Hassan al-Banna, after the latter was assassinated by King Farouk’s government. Mr. Qutb himself was hanged by Nasser regime in 1966, but by that time he had become a popular and influential writer, read by millions of Egyptians and other Muslims. He was the principal theoretician of the modern Islamic revival, and his works have continued to inspire Muslim readers since his death. From Yogyakarta to Casablanca, from Dushanbe to Abuja, in Arabic or translation, Sayyid Qutb remains the most popular writer of fundamentalist Islamic literature.

The patience of the Muslim Brotherhood has been rewarded at last. With the exception of Algeria — where the military is still keeping the fundamentalists from gaining control — Ikhwan regimes have been installed in power across the whole of North Africa. The Brotherhood took control in Libya thanks to NATO’s destruction of the Qaddafi regime, but the other countries have chosen it through the ballot box. Tunisia elected Ennahda, an MB affiliate, just a few weeks ago. But the country hasn’t settled into a stable, peaceful situation as a result — Islamic fundamentalists continue their violent demonstrations, demanding the abolition of the country’s remaining secular practices and institutions. As a result, the Tunisian government has extended the state of emergency until the end of the year.

Last week Morocco followed Tunisia’s lead, and yesterday the Moroccan king appointed an Islamist as prime minister:

Morocco: King Appoints Head of Islamic Party as Premier

New Premier will listen to Feb. 20 Movement

(ANSAmed) - RABAT, NOVEMBER 29 - King Mohamed VI of Morocco has officially appointed the head of the moderate Islamic “Justice and Development” party, Abdelilah Benkirane as the country’s Premier. The PJD took 27% of votes in last week’s political elections, winning 107 of the 395 seats in parliament.

“The King has today nominated the General Secretary of the Party of Justice and Development, Benkirane, who now should form a coalition government with the other parties,” an official communiqué from the royal palace says. Abdellilah Benkirane expressed his willingness to listen to the militants of the February 20 Movement: “if they make serious proposals, one should listen to them. If one single Moroccan makes a serious proposal, they should be listened to. They are in their thousands”.

Egypt is next in line. The Egyptian parliamentary elections are being held in stages, so the official tally will not be certified until January. However, initial results make it obvious that the Muslim Brotherhood will be claiming the largest share of the vote. According to The Daily Mail, the Ikhwan’s portion of the count is 40%, but ANSAmed projects it as significantly higher:

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood in the Lead, Press

(ANSAmed) — Cairo, November 30 —
The Muslim Brotherhood are the top party in Egypt according to the first reports by local press outlets. While vote counting continues for the uninominal part of the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, indications show that the Freedom and Justice party, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salafi party coalition Al Nour are in the lead in six governorates, according to the daily paper Al Ahram. According to the daily Al Shouruk, Freedom and Justice raked in 47% of the votes while the secular and moderate Egyptian Bloc coalition received 22%. In the first round of voting, which ended yesterday, the residents of nine governorates cast their votes, including those in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Asyut and Port Said.

The next Egyptian government will be a coalition headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, and a spokesman for the Ikhwan reminded the public that sharia will be the basis of the government’s judicial system:
Egypt: Govt to be Chosen by Majority, Brotherhood Party

While announcing its lead after 1st round of voting

(ANSAmed) — Cairo — The next government will be a coalition, and it will be the parliamentary majority resulting from the elections to form the new government. This was explained by Mohamed Morsi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, according to Al Ahram online. Morsi also said that he could not imagine the Egyptian constitution without Article 2, which provides for the Islamic law of the Sharia to be the nation’s judicial foundation.

In a statement, the brotherhood confirmed initial rumours circulating this morning in the local press regarding the Justice and Liberty Party, stating that “based on preliminary figures” the party is leading after the first round of elections in 9 out of 27 governorates. In second place is al-Nour, a Salafi movement, continued the statement, while ranking third is the Egyptian Bloc, a moderate alliance, which includes the Free Egyptians Party of Coptic business tycoon Naguib Sawiris.

As far as The Guardian is concerned, the ascension of the Brotherhood is a good thing. It is a sign of true democracy in action, and should be welcomed by Western progressives (strangely enough, the same progressives don’t regard democracy so highly when Geert Wilders or the Swiss People’s Party win elections):

Those Who Support Democracy Must Welcome the Rise of Political Islam

From Tunisia to Egypt, Islamists are gaining the popular vote. Far from threatening stability, this makes it a real possibility

Ennahda, the Islamic party in Tunisia, won 41% of the seats of the Tunisian constitutional assembly last month, causing consternation in the west. But Ennahda will not be an exception on the Arab scene. Last Friday the Islamic Justice and Development Party took the biggest share of the vote in Morocco and will lead the new coalition government for the first time in history. And tomorrow Egypt’s elections begin, with the Muslim Brotherhood predicted to become the largest party. There may be more to come. Should free and fair elections be held in Yemen, once the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh falls, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also Islamic, will win by a significant majority. This pattern will repeat itself whenever the democratic process takes its course.

Bashar al-Assad of Syria is the next dictator that the “Arab Spring” hopes to topple. Despite his brutal ways, the Christians of Syria understand very well that he is the only force that stands between them and the Islamic mob. They’ve seen what happened to the Assyrian Christians of Iraq and the Copts of Egypt, and they’re in no hurry to share the same fate:

The Tolerant Dictator: Syria’s Christians Side With Assad Out of Fear

Many of Syria’s 2.5 million Christians are supporting President Bashar Assad amidst ongoing protests in the country. They prefer a brutal dictator who guarantees the rights of religious minorities to the uncertain future that Assad’s departure would bring. The president is exploiting their fears of Islamists for his own ends.

[…]

The regime has killed at least 3,500 people since March. There are reports of torture, executions of unarmed individuals and mass executions of army deserters. But none of this has dissuaded members of the opposition. Shaky Internet videos show thousands continuing to march through the streets of Homs, Hama, Daraa and Damascus, chanting: “Down with Bashar!”

Christian neighborhoods and villages, meanwhile, have remained largely quiet, with no large demonstrations and little chanting or graffiti critical of the regime. Instead, there is silence. Or, worse still, expressions of open loyalty to the regime.

[…]

“We’re a nation of 23 million,” Tabé says, “and no law can ever satisfy everyone. That’s true in every country -- there are always 10 percent who are sacrificed.” It’s a state of affairs he can accept, as long as Christians aren’t the segment of the population being sacrificed.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

That’s an outline of the Arab Spring in the Maghreb. Now let’s take a step back and look at the larger picture.

The United States and the European Union actively abetted the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to fill the resulting power vacuum. When the uprisings spread to Libya, Col. Muammar Ghedafi proved surprisingly resilient. After initial successes, the rebellion against him seemed to stall, and the wily Colonel looked like he just might manage to cling to power. The Europeans were having none of that, and, backed by President Barack Hussein Obama, they initiated a “humanitarian” air war (and covert ground war) against the regime, driving Col. Khaddafi from power and allowing him to be tortured and slaughtered by “freedom fighters”. Not only did this bring the Muslim Brotherhood into the new government in Libya, but an actual Al Qaeda veteran was put in charge of military forces in the capital.

From a geo-strategic point of view, does all this make any sense? Why behead the governments of half a dozen Arab dictatorships and allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take over? The earlier regimes, after all, provided what the State Department and Brussels have always claimed to value the most: stability.

One theory speculates that the “Arab Spring” revolutions were deliberately aided by the CIA and other Western intelligence services as part of a grand bargain with the Muslim Brotherhood. Pitch out the dictators, allow the Ikhwan into power, and in return the Sunni extremists will help the Western powers destroy the Shi’ite nuclear program in Iran.

So the story goes. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, but I’m not privy to all the intricate secret data that drives top-level foreign policy decisions. It might work; we’ll find out soon enough.

But step back a little further and look at the rest of the picture. The debacle in North Africa is unfolding as the Eurozone economic meltdown reaches its endgame. The United States and the EU have effectively neutered themselves in international power politics; they can no longer project a credible deterrent much past their own borders. Evidence of this impotence can be seen in the Iranian attack on the British embassy in Tehran — the mullahs are obviously confident that the Western response will be noisy but toothless.

Or consider the recent behavior of Russia. During the past week the Russian navy has entered the Mediterranean to help the Israelis guard the natural gas fields — which are coveted by Turkey — beneath the waters off the coast of Cyprus. The same Russian navy has also been deployed to Syrian ports to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

These two operations may seem to be contradictory from an Israeli point of view. However, like the Syrian Christians, Israel has an interest in keeping Mr. Assad in power. The Alawite thug is a known quantity, and the devil they know is preferable to the Beelzebubs of the Muslim Brotherhood. In this respect the Israelis are acting far more rationally than Europe or the United States.

The Western powers have backed off from any serious enforcement of their international interests. One may be forgiven for doubting whether they even recognize their international interests, caught up as they are in fighting global warming and increasing transsexual participation in their armed forces. Who cares about the Great Game, anyway?

Well, the Iranians do. The Russians do. So do the Chinese, and presumably the Indians. Now that the West has abdicated power, there is no one to stop the second-tier states from doing whatever they want, except for other second-tier states. Watch them circle each other warily like knife fighters, eyeing each other sidelong, picking temporary allies for the sake of expedience, and waiting for the chance to slip the blade into their likely victims.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood is planning to set up the new global Caliphate in the ruins of the old order.

We live in interesting times. Come back in ten years and see how things look — it’s not your Dad’s war anymore.


Hat tips: Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, and C. Cantoni.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

It’s a state of affairs der Spiegel can accept, as long as Christians are the segment of the population being sacrificed.

Chiu said...

This is the great fallacy of "Democracy", the failure to distinguish between the interests of the criminal and idle as opposed to those of the defenders and producers of the nation.

The idea that "Democracies" would not go to war with one another was always based on the idea that "Democracy" encourages common values to be enshrined in the governments of whatever nation practices it. But this could only be true if "Democracy" only allowed the part of their national populations adhering to such values to have a voice in the government.

That is not what "democracy" means. In a democracy, all the people have a say in the running of the government regardless of whether they make any positive contribution to society. It is only in a republic that the contribution a person makes to the public good is a necessary qualification for having a say in the government.

Republics based on similar criteria for making a positive contributions will have governments that share common values and interests. But two republics based on divergent criteria for what constitutes a contribution that qualifies a person to have a voice will have divergent values and divergent interests.

Tyrannies, in which the interests of the nation are established by a small group of unaccountable leaders, can have their interests swayed much more easily by bribing or threatening just the leader.

If a nation where racism and bigotry are rampant is governed democratically, of course it will be naturally hostile to all nations with a different racial and religious composition. If it is a tyranny, then it can be swayed to be less hostile by a combination of bribes and threats. But if it is a republic based on the productive class and those that defend against crimes rather than commit them, then at the national level the benefits of cooperation with other republics based on similar values will seem more advantageous than indulging in hostility rooted in racism and bigotry.

This is because racism and bigotry are, like all hatreds, the salve of an ego that is bruised by the essential lack of any meaningful contribution to society. It will be greatly attenuated in those who are confident of their own value as both independent individuals and members of their community. They may give lip-service to such sentiments if they are strong and widespread, but they will not sacrifice the value of their own contributions when there is a conflict.

Continued...

Chiu said...

Unfortunately, while the majority of almost any national population can be persuaded to participate in a democracy, only a nation with a favorable proportion of people who make positive contributions can meaningfully form a republic on the basis of such values.

The tyranny characteristic of nations outside of Western Civilization (with its tradition of the Rule of Law and natural rights derived from natural law) has tended to punish productive citizens with near-slavery or serfdom and failed to distinguish between the criminally violent and those who uphold the values of civilization. The result is an undesirable proportion of idleness to diligence and a spirit of brutality rather than discipline in those that uphold the nation.

Thus it is an important step in the development of the Middle East for tyranny to be overthrown. But the shift to democracy doesn't immediately change the fundamental conflict between Western culture and Islamic culture. Nor is the shift to democracy from tyranny permanent, a rapid adoption of tyranny is almost characteristic of democracies.

What must be done is to recognize that the cultures of these nations are hostile, and that they will be prone to relapsing into tyranny until the proportion of productive and disciplined citizens can improve to the point that election of a republican government becomes possible. The way to encourage this is to force these nations to be economically self-reliant, dependent on their own productive class for goods and the availability of disciplined citizens for their security.

Criminal actions against other nations must be punished harshly, continued economic dependence must be made impossible. Consistently applied, this will force these nations to either civilize themselves or die. Some nations have chosen death rather than civilization. If that is the case, then it is the privilege of civilized nations to admit what portion of the population proves exceptional and utilize their productive abilities. The remainder can be left to rot in the savagery they have chosen for themselves.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

ChrisLA said...

Chiu Chun-Ling makes some important points about the need for people who have a stake in the prosperity of a nation to have a voice in its leadership. The harvest of the Arab Spring will be dismal because the struggle is over power, not what is best for the nations involved.

Says Qutb in "Milestones," "Islam did not come to support people's desires, which are expressed in the concepts, institutions, modes of living, and habits and traditions. . . It has come to abolish all such concepts, laws, customs and traditions, and to replace them with a new concept of human life, to create a new world on the foundation of submission to the Creator. . The argument that the people living under [jahili (ignorance)]are in a better condition than the people of a so-called Islamic country or 'the Islamic world' has no weight. The people in these [quasi Islamic] societies have reached this wretched state by abandoning Islam, and not because they are Muslims."

Qutb sees no compromise between economic progress and submission. Allah will provide, but meanwhile the Islamic Call is the source of power. Where, since the birth of the M.B., has this ever worked out?

Chiu said...

Well, whether or not you consider something to be "working" is a matter of what you want it to achieve. If Islam does not concern itself with the state of this life and only looks at the state theorized to exist in the next, then all the violence and desperation in the world is a positive good in that it provides opportunities for martyrdom and reduces temptations.

This will remain an essential problem with Islam as long as Muslims continue to disregard the teaching that Muhammad was not perfect, and that therefore his actions were not necessarily right. It is also difficult to make progress as long as the written Quran is promulgated as scripture rather than being recognized as being specific in application to particular historical situations that are long past.

Because of these basic distortions, Koranic Islam remains trapped perpetually in striving to reenact the life of an imperfect man living in a time of strife. Everything that would be considered moral or material progress is therefore an impediment to this. But if the goal is to reduce everyone to the state of poverty and insecurity that existed in Mohammad's time, then they are doing a good job of that.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

RonaldB said...

Chiu,

You reach the correct conclusions, generally, but I do not go along with your reasoning.

I think you misuse the term "Republic", although you are correct that "Democracy" is technically direct rule by the mob. Democracies are generally short-lived, done in either by one of their own, as Napoleon coopted the French Revolution, or by external forces, as the Khmer Rouge were deposed by their neighbors.

But, "republic" can be many types of government. Iran calls itself a Republic, and indeed, meets your definition, except its rulers are not productive. But generally, a Republic is a government whose power is limited by a constitutional process, and whose decisions are made by representatives.

So, when we describe a country as "democratic", we generally mean a Republic whose government is generally chosen by elections, and whose citizens are guaranteed some rights which cannot be infringed by the rulers.

This is important, because it implies a degree of freedom, security, and individual rights in countries we term as "democratic".

The reason democratic countries do not often fight is not because they do not share values. England and Germany of the pre-World War I era shared a great many values. The reason democratic countries do not fight often is that such countries have many centers of power and influence. They also have multiple commercial connections with potential enemies. China, no way democratic, but freer than it has been, is now a massive holder of US government debt. The US is a massive consumer of Chinese industry. The Chinese and the US have multiple incentives to smooth over differences leading to war. I'm not saying it can't happen, but a war would take enormous incompetency on both sides.

What the countries of the Middle East will lack, whether their governments take the form of a Republic or not, will be any degree of individual freedom. It simply won't be there. The Muslim countries like Tunisia and Egypt with a strong dictator has a semblance of progress and security precisely because he granted a greater degree of freedom than can be had under Islamic religious rule.

I think where we come together is our agreement that Western, democratic (in the Republican sense) countries must act in their own interests and must not economically support and prolong dysfunctional, religious-based governments not able to support their own populations.

I agree with the article itself, which asserts that US and Europe have totally given up acting in their own interests.

Chiu said...

I may have understressed the degree of variety that can obtain in the values of a republic depending on what is considered a positive contribution meriting citizenship in it. And I may also have touched too lightly on the defining characteristic of tyranny, that those exercising the authority of government office do not do so in accordance with fixed laws (it is not necessary that the laws be written, only that they be constant in application to all within the nation--thus Sharia, which applies unequally, cannot be considered "Law" in the fullest sense).

As the recognition of natural law is the foundation of natural rights, so all other rights (citizenship, property, familial) are the result of the consistent application of law. Because a law must produce consistent results, a system of laws cannot ever be "complete". That is, there must be many questions that are not decided by appeal to law if those that are decided by appeal to law are to be decided consistently (this is a result of certain fundamental limitations of logical systems generally). Hence true laws cannot be totalitarian in nature, any totalitarian system will entail inconsistencies in application of the 'laws'.

Iran is thus not a republic in any meaningful sense. The Rule of Law is not the only criterion, but it is an important one. I can't imagine how eligible citizens are to have a voice in government without some kind of representatives, though I can imagine processes other than election by voting (most alternatives are excessively time consuming or costly, but they can be imagined).

China also is neither a democracy nor a republic. It is clearly a tyranny. And I believe that dealings with China illustrate an important pitfall of dealing with a cleverly organized and run tyranny...they can be two-faced. That is, they can engage in a long-term plan of undermining and destroying you whilst pretending to be friendly (or at least not implacably hostile).

It is true that commercial connections can help secure nations against war, but only insofar as the values of both nations place material gain above other essentially competitive interests (such as national supremacy). The regime in Beijing does not care about increasing the material wealth of the Chinese people (indeed, much of the wealth being produced in China is shipped overseas or simply allowed to rot in place without any attempt to make it available to the people). For Beijing, commercial contacts are simply a way of "gaming" other nations.

Continued...

Chiu said...

Also, irreconcilable differences in values that take similar form are not therefore common values. If one nation aims for it's own national supremacy, and one other nation aims for it's own national supremacy, they do not therefore share a common value (even though the value of each nation can be described in nearly exactly the same terms...except for that "other"). If nation A aims for it's own supremacy, and nation B regards the supremacy of nation A as an essential component of nation B's historical identity, then they do share a common value even though the form is totally different (this example describes on interesting aspect of the relationship between the United States and Japan).

I'm not fully convinced that there is no situation in which it could be acceptable (or even preferable) for a nation to effectively abolish itself. The surrender of the Confederate army to the Union at Appomattox effectively meant the end of the Confederacy as a nation, and Lee was aware of this when he decided to surrender rather than disperse his army to fight a guerrilla war (a suggestion that was tabled and firmly declined). I am not inclined to regard this as a bad decision, though I admit to a theoretical interest in how things would have turned out if it had been made differently.

My thoughts place people above nations, nations merely existing for the purposes of people. People will act in their own interests as they perceive them. To change their actions, you must change how they perceive their interests. An idea of self-interest that is not naturally supported by the experience of interaction with reality must be maintained at great expense, through propaganda and the infliction of punishment. An idea of self-interest that is naturally supported by reality need only be simplified sufficiently to be comprehensible to ordinary human intellect, once this is accomplished, it should effectively continue to propagate on its own.

The latter approach is more interesting to me. There are those who would claim it is morally superior...I do not have the means to make such judgments myself. Aesthetically, indulging in the first path has limited variety before becoming essentially repetitive and boring. It limits rather than expands the potential of individual and social evolution.

But my personal preferences are not really a reason for anyone else to choose likewise.

Chiu Chun-Ling.