Rejoice, rejoice. The man who tortured and terrorised his people for 30 years; the man who used dogs to rape inmates of his prisons; the man who was propped up with $1.3bn of US military aid each year . . . He’s gone. Resigned. Stood down. Toppled. By people power. God bless the brave people of Egypt, of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, who have inspired us all.
Once they took to the streets on 25 January, it was only a matter of time. As the New Yorker’s David Remnick pointed out in a blog post last night:
The delusions of dictators are never more poignant – or more dangerous – than when they are in their death throes. To watch Hosni Mubarak today in his late-night speech in Cairo, as he used every means of rhetorical deflection to delay his inevitable end, was to watch a man so deluded, so deaf to the demands of history, that he was incapable of hearing an entire people screaming in his ear.
But Mubarak has quit, leaving his vice-president, the former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, in charge. So what happens now? The danger is that Mubarak may have gone but the Mubarak regime stays in office. Others, including the neoconservative commentator Douglas Murray, with whom I appeared on Question Time last night, worry that the Muslim Brotherhood will seize control of the country.
But as Olivier Roy, one of the world’s experts on Islamism, points out in the New Statesman’s cover story this week, these uprisings in the Arab world have not been led by Islamists; on the contrary, Islamists have come late to the party. And as Bruce Riedel, former CIA official and adviser to Presidents Bush and Obama, pointed out last month:
They [the Obama administration] should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won’t be easy but it should not be seen inevitably as our enemy. We need not demonise it nor endorse it. In any case, Egyptians now will decide their fate and the role they want the Ikhwan to play in their future.
I’m no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood, nor do I share its political or theological views, but I do think it is important that we try to understand the MB rather than just dismiss or denounce it. Try some of these links for a more informed and intelligent alternative to Murray’s scaremongering:
– “Don’t fear Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood”, Brookings Institution
– “The Muslim Brotherhood after Mubarak”, Foreign Affairs
– “The moderate Muslim Brotherhood”, Foreign Affairs
– “The Muslim Brotherhood: should we engage?”, New Statesman
– “Wolves or sheep?”, Economist
– “Egypt can bring in the Brotherhood”, Financial Times
– “What the Muslim Brothers want”, New York Times
But the events in Egypt are about much more than the Muslim Brotherhood or the politics of Islamism in the Middle East. We are witnessing the glorious triumph of a peaceful and popular revolution in the most populous Arab country in the world. Let me end by once again quoting from Remnick’s excellent blog post:
The dramais far from over and its course is far from predictable. But there is no doubt of its revolutionary importance to the Middle East. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who was among the most prominent activists to spend time in Mubarak’s prisons, told me the other day that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt were proof that Arabs – particularly young Arabs – want no less than what other people want. They refuse powerlessness, they refuse kleptocracy, they demand the rule of law. “This is a revolution of the 21st century,” he told me. “It is a young person’s revolution, and we can only hope that it will not be stolen, somehow, by an older generation or a newer Mubarak. We have to hope this empowerment will transform the Arab world.