Friday, March 4, 2011

Islamists on the march

Mideast scholar John Lamb pointed out to me that Sheikh Qaradawi, when he addressed Egyptians in Tahrir Square, avoided overt anti-Semitic statements, perhaps in order to appeal to the youthful crowd there (or perhaps with regard to his English-speaking audience). It is true that Qaradawi was more measured than in many of his other speeches - but he did call for a march to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which is code for eliminating the State of Israel. Presumably he didn't think that would alienate the crowd.

Journalist Ftouh Souhail reports (in French) that the new Tunisian government has just legalized an Islamist party close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Called 'Renaissance,' it was founded in 1981 by Rachid Ghannouchi, known for his violent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic diatribes. Ghannouchi has been living in exile in London for the past 20 years, but recently returned to Tunisia. As Souhail describes it (in my informal translation):

"The majority of Tunisians don't want an Iranian-style revolution which will take them towards an anti-democratic Islamic regime. Having learned that the bearded Rachid Ghannouchi, described as a Khomeini, now has an Islamic party at his disposal, Tunisian fundamentalists reacted with immense joy."

Add to that the fact that the Tunisians are about to draft a new constitution, and you can see that the prize isn't just control over the present or future government; it's reshaping the basis of Tunisian law.

And Mideast expert Barry Rubin notes MEMRI reports describing the efforts of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to take over the Islamic institutions in that country. The danger, according to him: "If that can imagine. Once Islamists are in place making the 'official' decisions on what constitutes proper Islam, an Islamist state cannot be far away."

It's difficult to be optimistic with things like this happening. Don't forget: there were many idealistic, freedom-loving young Iranians who supported Khomeini in 1978-79 because they simply didn't understand what was going on. They figured it out too late.


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