Even as Egypt braces for what’s next, the images from Tahrir are hugely inspiring. They remind us of the unending technological ingenuity of the Egyptian revolutionaries, and of the importance of self-determination: the protagonists are all Egyptian, the international forces seem largely at bay. And there seems some real hope of a thriving democracy emerging from this turbulent process. Fresh from a visit to Tahrir Square, Hani Shukrallah celebrates Egypt’s “continuing revolution” in Ahram online, and says that the apparent popular overthrow of an Islamist regime banishes the tired western paradigm of a clash of civilizations:
Egypt is making world history; in particular, world revolutionary history. Already, it is firmly up there with the two axiomatic revolutions of the modern world, the French and Russian revolutions. The popular upsurge on 30 June has been described as the biggest demonstration in the history of mankind; we would be hard pressed as well to site other examples of two major revolutionary upsurges in the space of two and a half years, overthrowing two regimes (and make no bones about it, the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt is over and done with), meanwhile putting somewhere between 30-40 percent of the nation’s adult population on the streets in a single day.
Simply, there is no historical precedent for any of this. Let alone that even in the grimmest of times during the past two and a half years, under the military/Muslim Brotherhood alliance, under the Muslim Brotherhood/Military alliance, and under the Muslim Brotherhood’s frenzied power grab, popular resistance did not cease for a single day. And it was thus that the first wave of the Egyptian revolution slipped – just like waves are known to do – into the second.
Also, for the first time in modern political history, a popular revolution is in the process of overthrowing an Islamist regime.
Thirty-four years in Pakistan, another 34 years in Iran, 24 years in Sudan, a foreign invasion to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan (and never mind for the moment the fractured and corrupt caricature that has produced), a foreign invasion actually bringing Shia Islamists to power in Iraq, which Saddam had been Islamising already via a debased marriage of degenerate Arab nationalism and Sunni Islamism. Against that backdrop, the overwhelming conviction everywhere was that once in power, Islamists were there to stay – short that is of foreign invasion.
Egyptians, however, did it, in 12 months.
All of which makes it doubly imperative for the revolutionary and democratic forces in the country to be fully aware of their place in history, and for God’s sake to not let the trees blind them to the wonderous magical forest that lies just beyond….
As predominant dogma would have it, the political, social, cultural and economic behaviour of Arabs and Muslims could only be understood by reference to Islam, wherein, supposedly, “freedom” has little or no place.
Tens of thousands of words have been written pontificating on this theme; Mr. [Samuel] Huntington created his absurd little meta-theory of “the clash of civilizations”, the very thrust of which was to presumably explain Arab/Muslim “exceptionalism”; Mr. [Francis] Fukuyama grudgingly admitted that Muslims may indeed be the globalised world’s single exception to his “end of history”, constituted by neo-liberal economic policy and oligarchic liberal democracy.
On one occasion during these fatuous decades, I had to suffer through a lecture by an intensely post modern American scholar in which he argued that Islamism in the Arab and Muslim worlds was the Muslims’ equivalent of the feminist and gay liberation movements in the West. This mind-numbingly boring drivel was thankfully delivered in English, and to an American University in Cairo (AUC) audience, who lapped it up. Had it been delivered to real, as opposed to “fashionable” Islamists, the young post-modern scholar would have been hard put to escape the lecture hall bruise free.