Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sheehan: Liberate Egypt from... Islam

In writing about an event such as the Egyptian intifada, Fairfax pundit and Israel luvvie Paul Sheehan predictably adopts an It's all about Islam frame, taking us back to the October 6, 1981 assassination of Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, by jihadi Lieutenant Khalid al-Islambuli.

Sheehan cuts and pastes history with the best:

"The trigger for the [jihadi] group's desire to decapitate the government was Sadat's decision to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979." (We don't need another pharaoh after Mubarak's 30-year reign, Sydney Morning Herald, 7/2/11)

No, that was the least of the triggers. There were three others: a) a desire for sharia law ASAP; b) the arrest of Muslim leaders in a massive crackdown on religious and secular opposition forces in September, 1981; and c) the fact that the assassin's brother had been among these, hauled off in the middle of the night by security forces. (See Autumn of Fury: The Assassination of Sadat, Mohamed Heikal, 1983, p 256)

"The chief strategist of the coup was deep inside Egypt's security apparatus, Colonel Abbud al-Zumar, an officer in military intelligence. Using numerous armed cells within the military and beyond, he planned to assassinate the president and other leaders in the government, and take control of the headquarters of the army, state security, state television, state radio and the Cairo telephone exchange and announce an Islamic revolution." (ibid)

In fact, Zumar had no immediate plans to assassinate Sadat. The idea was Khalid al-Islambuli's. Zumar, the more level-headed of the Jihad (Sacred Combat) group, was for putting the whole thing off for a few years until the group was better prepared, but was overuled by the group's religious leader. Nor did Zumar have numerous armed cells in the military. (See Heikal, p 277 & The Prophet & Pharaoh: Muslim Extremism in Egypt, Giles Kepel, 1985, p 210-212)

That headstrong young Khalid al-Islambuli (executed in 1982) sure has a lot to answer for:

"Egypt, and the entire Arab world, is still paying a heavy price for the actions of Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli. Under corrupt military rule, half of Egypt's population lives on subsistence income. Economic growth has been stagnant for a decade. Government debt has ballooned. Income inequality is extreme. Government control of the economy is excessive. State bureaucracy is incoherent. A quarter of young men are unemployed. Sixty percent of women are unemployed. The police and internal security are heavy-handed, as was seen openly in Cairo last week. Egypt's government justified this heavy hand - which includes the President's personal enrichment of billions of dollars - as the price for security against violent revolution and repressive theocracy." (ibid)

But Sheehan's liberties with history are the least of his sins. The above is just a warm-up. Al-Islambuli's just code for... Islam:

"Because Egypt sits at the centre of the Arab world as the largest, oldest and deepest culture in Arab civilisation its government's repression and economic and political stasis have been a benchmark for politics in the Arab world. Of the 16 Arab nations, not one is an open democracy. The words 'Arab' and 'democracy' have never coexisted in the same sentence as a political reality because of a third word, 'Islam', which is not merely a religion, it is a system ordering the entirety of society, from government to law to social mores. If the Egyptian people can break the shackles of that Arab Islam, and the threats from the minority of violent Muslim fundamentalists have directly or indirectly placed on democracy and individual freedom, especially for women, they will have gone where no Arab society has gone before. While the army remains strong and protects the democrats*, Egypt can follow the Turkish model, and avoid the Iranian disaster." (ibid)

[* Oh, so that's what the army was doing when Mubarak and Wisner's goons were assaulting the protesters in Tahrir Square last week?]

So there you have it! A brutal and corrupt Sadat/Mubarak dictatorship (1970-?), propped up by the US as a service to Israel, is nowhere to be seen. For Sheehan, Egypt's problems, and those of the Arab world, all boil down to... Arab Islam.

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