getcha pita-bread ready

June 14th, 2012

(read the book free online – read the Reddit AMA)

Unrest and instability plague a predominately Muslim nation after an economic recession creates growing swells of social upheaval, street demonstrations, and violence.  Islamists are poised to fill a growing power vacuum, but right as their scraggly grasping fingers are closing in on control of the state, the military steps in to prevent them from gaining control.

Sound familiar?

But what’s going down in Egypt isn’t by any means unique, the description at the top of this article was cribbed from the Wikipedia entry on the 1971 Turkey coup d’etat, the second coup in what ended up being a half-century of repeated military interventions that were each enacted to preserve a democratic Turkish state.

Here’s the thing though. Almost 50 years before the first coup Turkey’s supreme leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, began the process of ripping Islam from the national fabric in a series of reforms that did everything from get rid of the Islamic calendar and the Arabic alphabet to banning the veil and any public religious iconography.  This secularization was meant to forcefully modernize Turkey and bring it as close to lockstep with the West as quickly as possible, and surprisingly enough it was accepted by the majority of Turks… at least in the long run.

It’s not that Islam was totally removed as an influence on Turkey’s culture and government, but its influence was drastically curtailed.  The final step was a series of legal reforms which removed sharia, or Islamic law, as the primary source of judicial precedent.  Which brings us back to Egypt.

Given the excitement in most Western media outlets about the possibility of “democracy” coming to Egypt, you might expect that Egypt is on the verge of becoming a progressive state that embraces Liberalism, Justice, and Freedom as they’re all understood through our red-white-and-blue colored glasses.  And so it would probably surprised you to learn that when Muslims in Egypt, who account for almost 95% of the population, were polled by by Pew Research about two months before Mubarak’s ouster:

82%  supported stoning to death as punishment for adultery

77% supported hand amputation as punishment for theft

84% supported the death penalty for anyone who leaves Islam

Contrast that with Turkey, whose support in those respective categories was 16%, 13%, and 5%.  Now unless you’re going to argue that Pew Research is part of some vast Zionist Conspiracy, it’s pretty apparent that Egypt is a really long fucking ways away from anything even beginning to resemble a nation where liberalism and civil rights, as they’re understood in the West, are embraced.  Or even awkwardly patted on the back.

And that same poll had another telling statistic, 85% of Egyptian Muslims polled responded that Islam’s influence in politics is positive, while only 2% answered than it was in fact negative.  Why is this so notable?  All of the above punishments come directly from shariah, all of them are intrinsically tied to allowing Islam into the political realm.

If those poll results seem antithetical to the interviews you’ve been seeing on cable news, as John Bradley explains in his bracing and honest book After the Arab Spring:

Most Westerners understand these countries through their own journalists and pro-democracy activists, who obsessively home in on an English-speaking liberal elite.  There is no great conspiracy at play.  It is just that most of them do not speak the local languages and, whenever possible, understandably prefer to avoid government appointed minders and translators. Even if they do know better, they have little choice but to provide the “they want to be free like us” copy their editors back home demand.

What you see, especially on your television, is very rarely what you in fact get. It’s only a matter of time until Egypt’s revolution enters the nasty, vicious, “you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs” Robespierrean stage.  Exactly what comes next is anyone’s guess, but given the average Egyptian’s penchant for publicly removing a wrong-doers limbs or even lives from their bodies in a gratuitous display of public justice, it’s hard to imagine that it’ll make for pleasant television viewing.

But odds are, it ain’t gonna be boring.  So if you’re into watching history drift into snuff film territory, hunker down in front of your television and get ready for the worst side of humanity to rear its all-too-often-forgotten head.

Category: After the Arab Spring, Arab Spring, Attaturk, civil rights, Egypt, islam, islamist, John Bradley, news, politics, reform, revolution, shariah, terrorism, Turkey, you can't make an omelette | Tags: , , , , Comment »

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