Theodore Roosevelt penned these remarkably prescient words in a 1911 letter to his longtime correspondent and friend, Sir George Otto Trevelyan, reflecting upon Roosevelt’s post-presidency visit to Cairo, Egypt, the previous year.
The real strength of the Nationalist movement in Egypt … lay not with these Levantines of the café but with the mass of practically unchanged bigoted Moslems to whom the movement meant driving out the foreigner, plundering and slaying the local Christian, and a return to all the violence and corruption which festered under the old-style Moslem rule, whether Asiatic or African.
Roosevelt’s concerns about the recrudescence of “old-style Moslem rule” — that is, a totalitarian sharia (Islamic law) not reshaped or constrained by Western law, may now be fully realized a century later.
Less than two years after the forced abdication of Egyptian President Mubarak, we appear to be witnessing the ultimate triumph of the electoral ascendancy of vox populi, mainstream Egyptian Islamic parties — and most prominently, the Muslim Brotherhood. Muhammad Morsi, the Brotherhood’s freely elected presidential candidate, has successfully outmaneuvered a minority coalition of secular-leaning Muslims, and Christians, to orchestrate the passage of a more robustly sharia-complaint Egyptian constitution.
Given President Obama’s repeated admonitions (as reported here and here) that Mubarak relinquish power, immediately, during early February 2011, this prior Tuesday, May 19, 2009 confidential assessment of Mubarak by then-U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey raises profound questions about U.S. actions which facilitated his removal, and the subsequent triumph of Egypt’s sharia supremacists.
Mubarak is a classic Egyptian secularist who hates religious extremism and interference in politics. The Muslim Brothers represent the worst [emphasis added], as they challenge not only Mubarak’s power, but his view of Egyptian interests. As with regional issues, Mubarak, seeks to avoid conflict and spare his people from the violence he predicts would emerge from unleashed personal and civil liberties. In Mubarak’s mind, it is far better to let a few individuals suffer than risk chaos for society as a whole. He has been supportive of improvements in human rights in areas that do not affect public security or stability. Mrs. Mubarak has been given a great deal of room to maneuver to advance women’s and children’s rights and to confront some traditional practices that have been championed by the Islamists, such as FGM [i.e., female genital mutilation, sanctioned by not merely “Islamists,” but the predominant Shafiite school of Islamic law in Egypt, leading to rates of this misogynistc barbarity among Egyptian women of 95%], child labor, and restrictive personal status laws.
The Hard-Won Local Triumph, and Global Aspirations of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan)
February 18, 2011 marked the triumphal return to Cairo of Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) “Spiritual Guide” Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi’s own words, accompanied by images and actions during this appearance, reaffirmed his obscurantist, albeit mainstream Islamic Weltanschauung of sharia-based, aggressive jihadism, and its corollary — virulent Jew- and other infidel-hatred, which should have shattered the delusive view that the turmoil leading to President Mubarak’s resignation augured the emergence of a modern, democratic Egyptian society devoted to Western conceptions of individual liberty and equality before the law.
Qaradawi’s Tahrir Square appearance foreshadowed events that have transpired, predictably, from the subsequent nearly two years ’til now, punctuated by the open ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and party affiliates within Egypt and across North Africa and the entire Middle East. Indeed, Qaradawi’s February 18, 2011 “khutbah,” or sermon, to the adoring Muslim throngs that day reflected the longstanding aspirations of “martyred” Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna and was symbolic of an Islamic revival begun earlier by the so-called “Al-Manar modernists” — Jamal Al-Din Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, and Muhammad Rashid Rida — more than a century before Qaradawi took the stage at Tahrir Square.
Charles Wendell introduced his elegant 1978 translation of five Al-Banna treatises with a particularly astute summary assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood founder’s Weltanschauung. Wendell stressed Al-Banna’s seamless connection not only to the Al-Manar modernists, but to traditional Islam itself. Moreover, Wendell’s concluding observations remain critical to understanding the deep Islamic religious animus towards Israel and the West — so much in evidence today — that Al-Banna and his movement both inspired and reflected.
Hasan al-Banna’s fundamental conviction that Islam does not accept, or even tolerate, a separation of “church” and state, or of either from society, is as thoroughly Islamic as it can be. Any attempt to translate his movement into terms reducible to social, political, or religious factors exclusively simply misses the boat. The “totality” created by the Prophet Muhammad in the Medinese state, the first Islamic state, was Hasan’s unwavering ideal, and the ideal of all Muslim thinkers before him, including the idle dreamers in the mosque. His ideology then, before it was Egyptian or Arab or whatever, was Islamic to the core. Since it embraced all aspects of human life and thought, it was at least as much religious as anything else. [Emphasis added.] Practically all of his arguments are shored up by frequent quotations from the Qur’an and the Traditions, quite in the style of his medieval forbears. If one considers the public to whom his writings were addressed, it becomes instantly apparent that such arguments must still be the most compelling for the vast bulk of the Muslim populations of today. The nagging feeling that Islam must, and very quickly at that, catch up with the West, had even by his time filtered down from above to the masses after having been the watchword of the modernizing intellectual for almost a century. There was also the notion that all these Western sciences and techniques were originally adopted from Islamic culture, and were therefore merely “coming home” — a piece of self-conscious back-patting that was already a cliché of most Muslim political writing[.] … To this [Islamic] revivalist mentality, nothing could be more hateful than further diminution of the lands traditionally dominated by Islam. I believe that much of the fury and unconcealed hatred of the Zionist state which is expressed by the majority of Arabs will become more comprehensible in light of what the Islamic domain as a concept really means to the Muslims, seen through the lens of Hasan’s exposition[.] … [T]he Muslim Brotherhood … had, on the basis of indisputable historical facts and clear religious traditions, a ready-made program for a world crusade that required only actors and a leader. Islam had from the beginning been a proselytizing faith. The error of the Islamic peoples, as Al-Afghani had pointed out forty years before, had been to cease their inexorable forward march, to abnegate their God-ordained destiny[.]
Nadav Safran’s 1961 study of modern Egyptian political evolution through 1952 confirmed that already by the late 1930s, Egypt’s inchoate experimentation with a Western cultural orientation and constitutional polity had failed miserably, and the authentic Islamic ideals of the Muslim Brotherhood’s al-Banna were prevailing. He provided this summary of the predominant attitudes by then, which:
… reawakened hostility against Britain for violating Egypt’s national rights, and deep resentment for its support of the foundation of Israel. … The Muslim orientation had become predominant, and the opposition to the Western culture on the ideological level had become nearly total, even though in practice imitation of the surface aspects of that culture remained[.]
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s popular appeal and resultant political ascendancy were clearly evident at the close of the 1940s. As noted by Richard P. Mitchell, pre-eminent historian of the movement’s late 1920s advent and first quarter century of activities:
… by 1948-49, this movement had reached such massive political proportions as to undermine the claim of the rulers to speak for the Egyptian people. The government’s decision to crush the movement in 1949 was presumably taken because of the organization’s potential threat to the existing political order.
Olivier Carré’s 1983 analysis of the profound regional impact of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s described what he termed, aptly, “a striking phenomenon,” which pervaded Egypt, and the Arab Muslim Near East:
[W]hen one discusses Islam, as one often does in terms of a social and political ideal, whether out of religious conviction or because it is in the news, a common language, a sort of conceptual koine [a lingua franca, or widely used language] is found in all Eastern Arab countries — in Muslim schoolbooks, in the speech or behavior of people, whether friends or casual acquaintances, or in press reports on various current events. This common language is derived, ultimately, from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood of the Nasserist period and also from what I shall call the “new Muslim Brothers” of the 1970s and 1980s
Carré concluded with this foreboding observation, borne out dramatically, at present, by the unfolding events of the so-called Arab Spring, most notably in Egypt:
[W]e shall eventually come to speak of a Saudi-inspired and directed neo-Ottomanist utopia, socially based on the middle classes of the Arab East, which is not particularly “new” except by virtue of an acculturation drive. Its militant basis will be Islamic politico-religious groupings of which the new Muslim Brothers is the most significant group.
Resilient tenacity and wide, ongoing appeal to Egypt’s Muslim masses enabled the Brotherhood to survive brutal crackdowns under Egyptian autocrats Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak. Spring Fever, Andrew McCarthy’s invaluable recent primer, chronicles how the Brotherhood’s current savvy, battle-hardened leadership rapidly capitalized on the Arab Spring “democracy” fervor to finally assume governmental power with the imprimatur of parliamentary and then presidential electoral victories.
Read more at American Thinker