Saturday, July 30, 2011

Whither Islam? Egypt, Norway, Europe, Africa, North America

By Patrick Martin, Globe and Mail, July 29, 2011
Cairo
Hundreds of thousands of ultra-religious Islamists packed this capital’s central Tahrir Square in an unprecedented show of support for the creation of an Islamic republic, rather than the planned unity demonstration in collaboration with secularists. In doing so, they drove a stake through the heart of a united revolutionary movement that had brought together Egyptian Islamists and secularists, Muslims and Christians, and shared the goal of democratic elections and the punishment of the corrupt regime of Hosni Mubarak.
“The Islamists showed their true colours today,” said Hisham Kassem, the former editor of the independent al-Masry al-Youm newspaper and one-time vice-president of the liberal el-Ghad Party. “From this day on, everyone will know these guys can’t tolerate others’ views. They’ve been pretending they can work with others,” he said.By Arne Tumyr on his website: SIAN (Stop Islam in Norway) In Doug Saunders, Globe and Mail, July 29, 2011

“This is a lot like Iran,” said Saeed Rahnema, a left-wing activist in Tehran in the late 1970s and now professor of political science at York University in Toronto. “And it’s only going to get worse. Once the Islamists start in like this, they’re never going to let up.”

(But) this new debate (following the tragedy in Oslo) is a great opportunity for us to educate Norwegians about the truth which is that Muslims are not a religion, they are a political fifth column out to take over oru part of the world.
Some troubling questions:
  • Is what is happening in Cairo only the sign of what is to come to fruition following the so-called Arab Spring?
  • Is the spectre of Islamic states, run by Islamic fundamentalists the real prospect in the Middle East?
  • Does the Muslim  Brotherhood seek to impose Sharia law in Egypt?
  • Is the imposition of Sharia law the real goal of the Islamic jihadists, whenever and wherever they can gain political power?
  • Is the perspective of the Islamic movement that it is a political movement, more than a faith movement, legitimate?
  • Should the west be shifting its position of seeing Islam as a "world religion" (and thereby tolerated and encouraged and fostered in a spirit of the "freedom to worship" that undergirds our civilization) to a "political movement" that seeks to control any country where it take power?
  • Who are the sources of legitimacy to guide the "education" of the west in this confusion?
  • Where does the responsibility for reining in the radical imams rest...with their fellow Muslims or with the civil authorities? Can either of these resources succeed without the other?
  • Has the west sacrificed what previously were secular states (Egypt, Tunisia, Lybia, Yemen) because of our desire to support what we saw as political movements against tyrants?
  • Has the west inadvertently fallen into the trap set by the Islamic fundamentalists who preach "faith" on the front end, and follow with "politics" and political control?
More from the Martin piece, Globe and Mail, July 29, 2011
Bulos Oweideh, a Coptic priest who sits on a joint revolutionary council that included both Islamists and secularists, shared the outrage. The Islamist hijacking of the demonstration, he said, was “contrary to what we had agreed.”

“It was all supposed to be about Egypt, not about sharia or Islam,” he told reporters.
Banners put in place in the wee hours of Friday morning proclaimed, “Islamic law is above the constitution,” while chants used throughout the day in the square insisted “the people want to implement sharia” just as they once had chanted, back in February, “the people want the regime to go.”
“We can live in an Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood in government,” said Father Bulos, “but not if they govern by sharia. This is not the Egypt we want.”
Safwat Hegazi, spokesman for the fundamentalist Salafists, dismissed the complaints of the secularists. “There was no agreement,” he said, referring to the concord said to have been reached between the two sides to avoid confrontation.
“If they [the secularists] don’t want an Islamic state, they’re free to go.”
He challenged them: “If they’re so sure they represent the people, let them see if they can fill a square with three- or four-million people. Show us,” he said on the Al Jazeera (Egypt) television network.
“We are the people,” he said defiantly. “This is an Islamic country.”
This reminds one of the radical imam in Great Britain who stated publicly the Islamic intention to take over Buckingham Palace, turn it into a mosque and confront the Queen with a choice: convert to Islam or leave the country.
In the west, especially in Canada, we genuinely prefer tolerance, accommodation and respect for all people regardless of their language, culture, gender or faith. In fact, we have a history of even encouraging what we have called multiculturalism, although the term is currently in some disrepute. Our immigration policies have opened the doors of our country to thousands if not millions of immigrants, many of them Muslims. Previously, their history does not indicate a need to impose sharia law on our country, nor even to take control of the political system, for that purpose.
However, is there a new strain of Islamic fundamentalism that is becoming emboldened by the mass movements around the world? Is that strain already taking root in North America? In Canada?
In Egypt, is the army able to withstand the pressure to transform that state into an Islamic state, complete with sharia law? Some believe it is. Others doubt.
(with notes from the Martin piece)
There are three Islamist parties in Egypt:
  1. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and best organized, some of their activists broke away to form Islamic Jihad which assassinated Anwar Sadat.
  2. Gamaa Islamiya waged terrorist attacks against tourists and Christians in the 1990's, crushed by Mubarak who drove them underground, but clearly wants an Islamic state
  3. The Salafists, third in size, comprised of small groups following the most fundamental form of Islam, have a close relationship with the Brotherhood
On the secular side, the political groups seem more disorganized, and while they seek free elections, they need time to organize and want to bring Mubarak to justice, also want to ensure an Islamic government could not be voted into power.

In Norway, the debate, previously under the veil of public consciousness, is now out in the open.
In Great Britain, the questions are being debated in public every day.
In North America, while there are some discussions, they are infrequent and disparate. Clearly no politician would risk losing his scalp by raising public fears, becuase s/he would immediately be dubbed a racist.
So we watch, and we read, and we continue to question where this is going, how it is going to play itself out in various localities including Somalia, where Al Shabbab continues to block the food and medical supplies for starving and destitute millions.

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