Many in the media may not be representing the most authoritative interpretation of what is happening in Egypt. The following is from an article in Ahram online published by Al-Ahram Establishment, which has since 1875, published the Middle East’s oldest newspaper, The Daily Al-Ahram. ((About the Daily Ahram. Availiable: http://english.ahram.org.eg/UI/Front/Aboutus.aspx)) This article puts into perspective Obama’s support of the Brotherhood in Egypt, and the scorn his policies have received from the right.
There has always been a certain amount of mistrust between the Saudi royal family and the brotherhood. It’s true that the Al-Saud family has supported the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations since the time of President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and 60s, but this is because they both opposed Nasser’s policy of exporting to the Arab world a socialism and Arab nationalism hostile to the West. The Islamists were useful to the Saudis in resisting Nasser, although they have always had ideological differences. Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism is a form of Salafism, which is ‘austere, puritanical, and rigorous’, while the doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood movement is more flexible. The Brotherhood sought to reconcile Islamic tradition and Western political experience, while it also tried to counter socialism and Nasserism in the Arab world. While this alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood served their purpose, “…the Al-Saud family saw the activist and “republican” formula of Islam promoted by the Brotherhood as a threat to the absolute monarchy formula established in Saudi Arabia, which advocates popular obedience and prohibits revolt against the political regime.”
Not only do the Saudis fear the challenge to their rule of the Brotherhood’s doctrine, some Saudi leaders fear an alliance of Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, which would reduce their influence. These fears came to a head when the Brotherhood came to power in Egypt and Tunisia. ((Mourad, Hicham. The Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia. Ahramonline. May 15, 2003. Available: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentPrint/4/0/71498/Opinion/0/The-Muslim-Brotherhood-and-Saudi-Arabia.aspx))
It’s probably not news to most of you that we have been given an inaccurate picture of Egypt’s situation, but it goes deeper than that. For years we have been given an oversimplified, if not completely wrong, view of Islam. Islam is far more complex that we realize. For example, there are distinct factions that have been locked in struggle for generations, and they are represented today in Egypt. There is fundamentalist versus extremist Islam. Americans tend to confuse the two, but they differ in many ways: basically, fundamentalists want all of life to be influenced by religion, while Extremists want a puritanical system influenced by an anachronistic vision of history. Iran is fundamentalist; Wahhabism is extremist. ((Didier Chaudet, Florent Parmentier, Benoît Pélopidas. When Empire Meets Nationalism. Sciences Po, France, University of Geneva, Switzerland and Monterey Institute of International Studies, USA. Ashgate. 2009)) More to the point, the Muslim Brotherhood combines fundamentalism with activism and republicanism. Then there is the secular faction. The heroes of this faction include Nasser in Egypt and Kemal in Turkey. Secularism often coincides with military rule. This is the faction behind the current military coup in Egypt. In his support for the coup, Dreyfuss has some strange bedfellows. The neocons also happen to prefer secular government in the Middle East.
You will recall that Obama’s previous efforts to be conciliatory toward Islam have consistently resulted in accusations that he is a Muslim. The good news here is that the U.S. government’s factions are alive and well. The bad news is that we don’t see these factions at work because of the incestuous relationship between the ‘democratic imperialists’ and the media.
The neocon view of Islam has been disseminated by specialists such as neoconservative Stephen Schwartz and neocon followers like Bernard Lewis. They begin by making a distinction between two types of Islam: Arabic, which they reject; and European, Turkish, preferably Sufi Islam, which they represent. Yes, even as the Muslim label continues to hover over Obama, the neocons are in deed Muslims:
“Ahmed Chalabi is a friend of Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, and Stephen Schwartz converted to Islam under the name Suleyman Ahmad Stephen Schwartz. He was influenced by a group who is favored by Pipes and by neocon Orientalists, the American Naqshbandi Sufis, led by Sheikh Hisham Kabbani.”[backref name=”When Empire Meets Nationalism”]
Kabbani shares the neocons rejection of Arabic Islam. The neocons’ sufi-ness serves this agenda and allows them to assert that Islam is an individual religion chosen by individuals in a spiritual rather than political perspective, whereas Islamism (Arabic Islam, i.e. Wahhabism) is a political ideology. However, the effects of these assertions are much broader than the condemnation of Wahhabism. They have allowed the neocons to appear supportive of Islam while discounting the beliefs of the majority of Muslims.[backref name=”When Empire Meets Nationalism”]
If we believe the media, Islam as it is practiced by the majority can’t win. On the one hand, they argue that it has always had imperialistic politics. On the other hand, economic, social and political explanations for terrorism must be rejected. Terrorism is merely evidence that dialogue is futile. The only option that remains is to conquer enemy territories regardless of what the populations of those territories want.(When Empire Meets Nationalism”)