28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘Islamism

Breaking the Muslim Brotherhood

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It is tempting to see the Egyptian military’s violent reaction to recent protests as a function of the interim government’s fear or weakness. After all, it would seem that those in transitory power need only sit idly by and wait for the rabble to acknowledge their de facto legitimacy—if they were in fact legitimate.

Legitimacy is a misleading word in these circumstances, however, and gauging political “legitimacy” in Egypt is nearly as meaningless as arguing whether Morsi’s ouster was a coup d’état or not. The facts of the matter are unchanged, and the fact of the matter is that the military is still in control.

So, as long as we refrain from reverting to our ever-present Disney caricatures of megalomaniacal villains, starved for motherly love and secretly insecure; we are left with a strange, perhaps unintuitive, calculation by the Egyptian military elite. Indeed, conventional wisdom says that shooting and bulldozing the opposition only enrages and unites them, so what could possibly be the military’s aim here?

The answer lies in the unique, and wretched, current circumstances of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It could have been said of the Brotherhood in the ’50s and ’60s that they were the unfairly maligned political group, the victim of Arab socialist autocracy. Brutally suppressed, the Brothers were never given a chance to govern. It was thus that they remained beyond reproach, and their reputation remained relatively untainted. It was also thus that they remained united.

But that has since changed, and Morsi’s decisive failure—contrived though it may have been—has resulted in a crisis within the Brotherhood itself. Robbed of their long-awaited victory, the Brothers must now choose between violent resistance and patient acquiescence; and for an organization so long maligned and so recently delivered from its decades-long torment (only to be returned), further patience will not come naturally.

The Egyptian military is exploiting this historic juncture. By inciting anger and violent responses, the military turns this crisis within the Brotherhood into an ideological rift. Many of the once-hopeful, especially the youth, will arm themselves out of despair and join the violent resistance. They will be killed or marginalized, and to the extent that they fight in the name of the Brotherhood, they will defame the organization further. Those who silently acquiesce will either fall by the political wayside or, if they are truly patient, crystallize into a more mature, smaller organization capable of another shot at democratic governance. But this time, with a modicum of restraint.

This is, I should emphasize, merely an extension of what I’ve already described as a deliberate “pruning” process by the Egyptian military elite and a few necessary international collaborators. It was a foregone conclusion that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was in no condition to lead the country post–Arab-Spring, and their painstakingly demonstrated failure was not only a deliberate blow to the Brotherhood itself, but also a clear message to other illiberal organizations and would-be ruling parties—”you’re doing it wrong.”

As the military consolidates its claim to the future of Egypt in this way (for better or worse), it is worth noting, I think, the irony of the Arab Spring’s once-hopeful appeal to the “Turkish model.” Today’s Turkish AKP—which still has ample trouble with the concept of “liberalism”—was itself born out of a long, bloody history of military intervention. Why should its imitators expect differently? If any Arab Islamists saw a model in Turkey, they are now seeing—or experiencing—exactly what that model entails.

At this point, I would have said, “You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet.” But I decided not to turn this post into an extended egg metaphor. You’re welcome.

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Written by M. James

August 17, 2013 at 5:03 am

Posted in History, News, Politics, Religion, Turkey

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Gülen declines invitation

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Gülen says prefers staying longer in US to avoid ‘harming positive things’
Today’s Zaman; Jun. 17th, 2012

Turkish and Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has said he prefers staying in the US longer to avoid damaging positive developments in Turkey in a first public response to Turkish prime minister’s invitation to Turkey.

Written by M. James

June 17, 2012 at 4:34 am

Engaging critically with Islamists

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My recent “light reading” hasn’t turned out so well, but something from the cover (as far as I got) of Graham Fuller’s The Future of Political Islam struck me—in a good way.

According to reviewer Professor Fred Halliday:

Fuller argues persuasively that Islamic political movements are, above all, an engagement with the modern world, not a flight from it, and that it is possible to engage critically with their ideas.

I don’t yet know if this is really what Fuller argues—or if he does so persuasively—but if it is, I preemptively applaud him for his effort. As I have expressed previously, it is a common belief that Islam cannot be reasoned with. Or “engaged critically with,” for that matter.

This belief is tantamount to what I have called, in one case, “pleading insanity on behalf of … Islam.” And it may very well be one of the most destructive attitudes in Middle East foreign policy today.

I am not optimistic about reviewing Fuller’s book in the near future, but if the reader has some patience, I’m sure I will get to it eventually

Written by M. James

June 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm

An irony of Islamism

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So to follow up on this post, I read Robert R. Reilly’s Closing of the Muslim Mind in hopes of gaining a better understanding of what Reilly is all about. But before I start criticizing his understanding of Sunni Ash’arite occasionalism—something to be saved for later posts—I’ll say that he wrote a pretty good book. Not only is it an extremely accessible primer on Mu’tazilism and Ash’arism, but it also has an interesting take on modern Islamism as a totalitarian ideology. The only real problem is his thesis—that there is a causal link between Ash’arite ascendancy and modern Islamism.

But, ignoring that for a moment, here’s an interesting bit that relates to a recent post about Turks’ inability to break out of a Western framework, even when criticizing the West. Reilly seems to think that this inability plagues the entire Muslim world (p. 176):

As already stated, the Islamic world was jolted out of its several centuries of torpor only by intrusions from the West. By the early nineteenth century, the West had demonstrated such a decisive superiority over Islamic culture that Islam’s defensive attempts to recover from its influences have been indelibly marked by the very things against which Muslims were reacting. To resist the West, they became, in a way, Western. As Raphael Patai pointed out in The Arab Mind, the very standards by which Muslims measure their own progress are Western. This is amply evident in the UN Arab Human Development Reports, written by Arabs themselves. In a final irony, the most rabid ideological reactions against this state of affairs in the Muslim world are also infused with Western ideology. Islamists practice a perverse kind of homeopathy which uses the very disease from which they are suffering to combat it, but with dosages that are lethal.

Written by M. James

June 1, 2012 at 11:19 am

“Islam is the solution”

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From Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s 1959 book, Islam in Modern History (p. 164):

…the new Islamic upsurge is a force not to solve problems but to intoxicate those who cannot longer abide the failure to solve them.

Written by M. James

May 28, 2012 at 4:08 am

Islamism drives Turkish foreign policy

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What Drives Turkish Foreign Policy?
Svante E. Cornell; Middle East Quarterly; Winter 2012

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) was reelected to a third term in June 2011. This remarkable achievement was mainly the result of the opposition’s weakness and the rapid economic growth that has made Turkey the world’s sixteenth largest economy. But Ankara’s growing international profile also played a role in the continued public support for the conservative, Islamist party. Indeed, in a highly unusual fashion, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began his victory speech by saluting “friendly and brotherly nations from Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Amman, Cairo, Sarajevo, Baku, and Nicosia.”[1] “The Middle East, the Caucasus, and the Balkans have won as much as Turkey,” he claimed, pledging to take on an even greater role in regional and international affairs. By 2023, the republic’s centennial, the AKP has promised that Turkey will be among the world’s ten leading powers.

At the same time, Turkey’s growing profile has been controversial. As Ankara developed increasingly warm ties with rogue states such as Iran, Syria, and Sudan while curtailing its once cordial relations with Israel and using stronger rhetoric against the United States and Europe, it generated often heated debates on whether it has distanced itself from the West. Turkey continues to function within the European security infrastructure—although more uneasily than before—but has a rupture with the West already taken place, and if so, is it irreversible?

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Written by M. James

December 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Bashar al-Assad’s operating system

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From the Telegraph’s recent interview with President al-Assad:

Comparing Syria’s leadership with that of a Western country, he said, was like comparing a Mac with a PC. “Both computers do the same job, but they don’t understand each other,” he said. “You need to translate. If you want to analyse me as the East, you cannot analyse me through the Western operating system, or culture. You have to translate according to my operating system, or culture.”

But al-Assad, many say, is too slow to update his operating system, and this is reason enough to uninstall. The danger? An “earthquake,” President al-Assad says. “Another Afghanistan,” or “tens of Afghanistans.” In other words, a very unstable operating system.

He described the uprising as a “struggle between Islamism and pan-Arabism [secularism], adding: “We’ve been fighting the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s and we are still fighting with them” [here].

Why, then, if this is to any extent a struggle between pan-Arabism/secularism (al-Assad) and Islamism (Muslim Brotherhood), is Turkey (secular) supporting the (armed) uprising in Syria? I still maintain what I said in my first post: that Turkey is merely trying to “retain its legitimacy” as a supporter of the Arab Spring. And that’s whether it believes in the Syrian uprising or not.

Written by M. James

October 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm