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Dispatches From Cairo: Who’s the Bad Wolf Today?

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Posted on Sep 26, 2011
Rana Ossama (CC-BY-SA)

By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy

We asked Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, an Arabic-speaking American who lives in Cairo, to share her perspective of life in Egypt after the revolution. In this entry, she writes about the emergence of Islamic liberalism.

“Don’t feed the bad wolf.” I tweeted that a few days ago.

That’s from a Cherokee legend: The wise man tells about the two wolves that fight inside all of us until one wins. One is evil and one is good. And who wins? the child asks. And the wise one says, “The one you feed.”

The view from Cairo is like a kaleidoscope of images of struggle crises hope despair joy misery loyalty betrayal beauty ugliness. The forces of light and darkness compete across a range of shifting shades.

Egypt, O Egypt, forgive me for being distracted by the dynamics of world power in general—and by the weight that will roll from the drama at the United Nations about Palestine, Obama, Arab Spring, Israel, USA, world dominance, political psychoses, tragedy, ethnosocial demographic shift, religious exclusionism, complicity, ascension and decline.

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In Friday’s sermon from my neighborhood mosque, our imam blasted out with conviction and emotion a shorter sermon than usual of late. Here’s a summation:

The people must pray to Allah, and pray for the Palestinian people to be free of the strangling oppression of the tyrant Israel. Allah tells us that we must protect our brothers of relation and of the Quran. The Quran teaches that we cannot allow them to be robbed of their life and freedom, put out of their homes and the children to be made to feel like less than animals to live without dignity.

We cannot allow our brothers to be exterminated like vermin by the Jews who have oppressed them since al Nekhba (“the catastrophe” of 1948 when 711,000 to 725,000 Palestinian Arabs left, fled or were expelled and a series of laws passed by the first Israeli government prevented them from returning to their homes or reclaiming their property).

And who is Obama? His name may be Baraka (“blessing”) Hussein (“beautiful”). He showed us one face and talked of the country of Palestine but now he shows us the truth. He is no blessing to the Muslim people! And if Obama is a puppet of the Zionists then he is an enemy of Islam.

The Quran teaches that we must return blow for blow that which is inflicted of oppression. Only if it stops we will forgive and accept to make peace. If they will oppress our people we will return the blow!

As the people poured out of the mosque on the corner below and the men lined up outside to shake each other’s hands in greeting, I noticed a few neighborhood people whose faces seemed less animated than usual. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that there were clouds in the sky and the afternoon light was not as bright as usual. The sun is beginning its autumnal retreat. The relentless summer sun scorched us, but we know it and we love it. And fall means winter is not far behind. Changes of seasons remind us of all the uncertainties that are to come.

Depending on your half-full or half-empty perspective, it has only been or has already been more than seven months since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, and still we are unsure about the actual changes and the revolution in Egypt. It is now clear that Mubarak’s regime lives on under a new, thinly veiled disguise, but most here are not fooled and will not allow the ascendance of any special interests to hijack their revolution: not the military, not the new old regime, not foreign interests and not Islamists.

Though at Islamist rallies, by their speeches and the crowds and the banners they carry, it is obvious that the Islamists want a religious and not a democratic state, the secularists and moderates still seem to be the majority, for now. The pro-Islamist Labor Party has spoken out against “diluting the Egyptian Arab and Islamic character.” But the verdict is still out. Egypt hasn’t yet decided if this country will turn into a Salafist or a Muslim Brotherhood state or it will choose to become a modern globalist country with all the positives and negatives that entails.

Islamic liberalism seems to be a new idea that is being tasted tentatively here.

“Liberalism has so many good sides that do not run afoul of the universal principles of the Islamic Shariah,” Nageh Ibrahim of the Islamic Group said in speaking before Wafd Party members in July. “We have to search for a form of Islamic liberalism compatible with the norms of Egyptian society while not alienating other forces.” He argues that Islamists and secularists have more common ground than differences, and he, along with most of the people, attributes sabotage campaigns to partisans of the former regime.

Even the cleric Mohammed al-Zoghbi, a hero of the Salafis and self-proclaimed enemy of secularism, recently called the country’s secularist activists “brothers with kind, good and patriotic hearts that just need to know the Islamists better.” However, a few weeks earlier, he insulted secular Tahrir Square protesters, calling them “scruffy homeless, forced into Tahrir Square, after they were beaten up by their wives back home.”


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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, October 11, 2011 at 10:48 am Link to this comment

“You are heartless and hateful for suggesting otherwise. Your ideology forces you to ignore the cries of innocent victims.”  Ozark Michael

My email suggests nothing of the sort mentioned by the distortion of Ozark Michael.
Ozark Michael, or whoever posts, has a creative fantasy that spins beyond the boundaries of normal distortion.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, October 11, 2011 at 5:09 am Link to this comment

drbhelthi said:

There are islamic overtones to the suppression, with Christians in special focus.  Of course, one would not expect such detailed info to be reported by an identified resident who is subject to punitive action by the ruling, suppressive, US-trained, Egyptian army regime.

Unless it actually happened.

If they are running the minority Christians down with tanks, the minority Christians just might decide they have nothing to lose anymore, so finally they are telling the whole truth. It is a courageous act.

You are heartless and hateful for suggesting otherwise. Your ideology forces you to ignore the cries of innocent victims.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, October 11, 2011 at 1:10 am Link to this comment

At 08:00 GM+1 this morning, 02:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, 11 Oct. 2011, European news provided a somewhat more in-depth, current view of politico-military activities in Egypt.  A temporary, civilian government exists, but is ineffective, as the “Egyptian army” has taken over.

It was reported that soldiers are attacking the populace, without cause, and women are being raped by soldiers. There are islamic overtones to the suppression, with Christians in special focus.  Of course, one would not expect such detailed info to be reported by an identified resident who is subject to punitive action by the ruling, suppressive, US-trained, Egyptian army regime. 

We remind ourselves that the army officers who assumed leadership in Egypt were indoctrinated in the US Army War College, and similar USGOV organizations.  Their deportment reflects the Hitler-type suppression of the GHWBushSr-Obama entourage, via the extended Patriot Act.  The Obama-appointed committee that selects Americans to be assassinated is one outcome, increased TSA controls a second.  The Bush-Obama entourage is worse than the Egyptian-army dictatorship, in that American businesses that contribute to US stability are being attacked by SWAT teams, on no legal grounds.  Similarly, farmers who sell BIO foods such as fresh, whole milk, are under attack from California to the Amish of Pennsylvania.  That the Amish folk are being attacked by the USGOV clearly indicates that freedom of religious activity and the pursuit of health, generally honest behavior, is being suppressed.   

Similarly, Starbucks is under attack for its response to an alleged US Marine, who requested special attention from Starbucks coffee chain.  The CIA pattern of ferreting agents and operatives into the USMILITARY is clearly demonstrated by the Chronicles of Chip Tatum, among others. 
http://www.whale.to/b/tatum.pdf  One sordid example is that of Corporal Pat Tillman being shot in the forehead, at close range, with a burst of 3 rounds, by a member of his own platoon.  Farming out American jobs to 3rd-world countries, rendering Americans increasingly jobless, requiring American youth to enlist in the USMILITARY in order to gain an income, due to non-availability of jobs in the civilian sector.  All of which strengthens the size of the USMILITARY in the continental US and the world.  Slowly turning the United States of America into one huge military organization pre-empts the need to declare martial law.  A current example is provided in Egypt..

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By drbhelthi, September 30, 2011 at 3:58 am Link to this comment

” Though Israel developed its own bunker-busting bomb, the American variants are viewed as more cost-effective, not to mention alliance-enforcing.”  article

Enforcing which alliance?

While I appreciate the prose approach to reporting, I also appreciate nitty-gritty details.  What about the current, “temporary” military regime?  Were all of the top level leaders trained at the US “War College”?  How many of them currently make trips to D.C. and the Pentagon every two weeks ?

Are some protesters and demonstrators being arrested and jailed?  Have persons previously arrested been released?

Or, is this information that exceeds the “level of discretion” the author has been
cautioned to adhere to?

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, September 29, 2011 at 10:52 am Link to this comment

What is very puzzling is the paucity of reader response to these articles about Egypt. I waited a few days to post this, hoping more people would write about the content. There was such Leftist joy at the revolution, but no awareness at the danger and difficulty of using the consensus to set up a government. Now they dont care. Once again, the apathy of the American Left about Egypt is disheartening. One or two comments? Thats it?

We should not take the lack of comments here to be a reflection of the author’s writing ability. It is the difficult topic, the difficulty of sorting out what is good and what is bad daunts Truthdig Leftists.

Ah well, the task falls to me to discuss some of the article’s content.

Lauren Unger-Geoffroy said:

Though at Islamist rallies, by their speeches and the crowds and the banners they carry, it is obvious that the Islamists want a religious and not a democratic state, the secularists and moderates still seem to be the majority, for now. The pro-Islamist Labor Party has spoken out against “diluting the Egyptian Arab and Islamic character.” But the verdict is still out. Egypt hasn’t yet decided if this country will turn into a Salafist or a Muslim Brotherhood state or it will choose to become a modern globalist country with all the positives and negatives that entails.

I think Lauren has come upon the knot, the problem, the worry, and she describes it very well. She is still hopeful, but more realistic. You have the Islamists, the Left, the Military, and the intersection of those three elements in the ordinary people’s hearts, which i would call conservative in nature. Who is on who’s side and for what reason is difficult to sort out.

I note that the Imam’s call is not seen as necessarily so pure and helpful. Nor the military. There is good and bad in everything. It requires much pondering to sort it out, and i see that happening more with each article. Mere anger isnt going to fix this.

Yes, the verdict is still out, but please note that the verdict has been out from day one. American Leftists declared victory and went home on day one.

As for me, I am interested in Egypt. I hope the Leftists can carry it off. They will need to appeal to the conservative people in order to carry it off. I was concerned at first because Lauren’s friends seemed completely niave. But now, less niave, they have a better chance of a democratic country. At least thats what i glean from her writing

We all know that politics is compromise, and I suspect Lauren and the “Left” are going to have to negotiate a compromise with the Islamists. If that does not happen, i worry that eventually the Islamists will carry the day. I get this impression from the gradual change over time in the author’s appraisal.

Note this please: I have used the term “Islamists” for years on this website and have recieved all sorts of insults for it. I am glad to see the term used by the author today. It is not my own vindication that this speaks to, but the freedom to use a word, the freedom to communicate a concept, and concepts ought not be suppressed, but evaluated. We couldnt even discuss the term “Islamist” because the politically correct Leftist crowd would pillory and disrupt any communication on the subject.

Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, your growth over time is admirable. Your continued earnestness is what makes you worthwhile as a writer. Keep thinking, keep wondering with your mind as open as it can be to the possibilities, both good and bad. Of Islam, of the military, of the conservatives, even of the Left! We are talking human nature. There is good and bad in everything and everyone. A government that recognizes that has a chance of being a good government.

I hope your Egyptian friends are as earnest and truthful as you are. Dont be afraid to speak clearly even of your own confusion as everyone thinks ahead, wrestling with the practical matters at hand.

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By gerard, September 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment

Ii like this person’s hopefulness.
I like this person"s openness.
I like this person’s breadth of tolerance and understanding.
I like this person’s humanity, courage and determination.

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By WarrenMetzler, September 26, 2011 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

I suggest that all humans are endowed with inherent characteristics, among
which is the desire to live in harmony with one another. Yes, there always were,
are now, and always will be, the periphery who love to live in a world or black
and white, who see all shades of grey as immoral travesties. But they always
were, are now, and always will be a small minority.

The Arab Spring is not some who-knows-where-it-started physical evolution
mystery. It is a product of many Arabs waking up to a consciousness that was
installed in all humans back in the mid-1960’s, that every human can be
optimal in every area of her life: be autonomous, have work that is fulfilling,
have social relationships that are rich and rewarding, and have an optimal
relationship with God. And so it will not be stopped, regardless of how many of
the former elite don’t like its emergence.

Governments have ALWAYS served at the mercy of their citizens; even when the
leadership were draconian dictators (in such cases, most citizens inwardly
thought a “strong” government was necessary). So if the majority of any country
says, “we will now be free and seek and implement what we each know is valid
and beneficial”, there is nothing the former elite can do to stop the tide.

So have faith my people, and in time Egypt, for the first time in it multi-
millennium history, will have a free enterprise, secular, multi-cultural authentic
democracy.

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