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Bibi Netanyahu’s U.N. Speech Today and the Doomsday Gap

September 28, 2012 5 comments

Today Bibi Netanyahu put on a show, a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination, before the U.N. General Assembly. His performance was so over the top that it actually reminded me of George C. Scott’s performance as General “Buck” Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick’s movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Good ‘Ol Bibi showed up with props and ACME-like-Bugs Bunny cartoon to alert the world to a danger that only he seems determined to eradicate in the most destructive and suicidal way. In fact, Good ‘Ol Bibi was as ridiculous and extreme as Ahmadinejad. While he was speaking, i couldn’t help myself thinking that i heard this speech before–it was like a déjà vu experience, and then it hit me: I was in fact listening to and watching Dr. Strangelove talking about the terrible Doomsday Machine and Doomsday Gap. At that point, i stopped worrying about Bibi, about his speech, about his concerns, and learned to love containment. There is something that good ‘ol Bibi needs to learn very fast: ain’t nobody on this side of the Atlantic who’s willing to start a doomsday scenario that no one knows how to end it. So Bibi, go peddle your fear-mongering and warmongering somewhere else.

Here is to Bibi Netanyahu’s U.N. Speech

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President Obama’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly (transcript)

September 26, 2012 1 comment

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.

Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California, the son of a lawyer and a musician. As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco. He came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East, and he would carry that commitment throughout his life. As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria; from Saudi Arabia to Libya. He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked – tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic and listening with a broad smile.

Chris went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship. As America’s representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for a future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected. After the revolution, he supported the birth of a new democracy, as Libyans held elections, built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship.

Chris Stevens loved his work. He took pride in the country he served, and saw dignity in the people he met. Two weeks ago, he travelled to Benghazi to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital. That’s when America’s compound came under attack. Along with three of his colleagues, Chris was killed in the city he helped to save. He was 52 years old.

I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America. Like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents. He acted with humility, but stood up for a set of principles – a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.

The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and the Libyan people. And there should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. I also appreciate that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region – including Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen – have taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities, and called for calm. So have religious authorities around the globe.

But the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded – the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; and that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.

If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an Embassy; or to put out statements of regret, and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.

Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.

It has been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country, and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring. Since then, the world has been captivated by the transformation that has taken place, and the United States has supported the forces of change.

We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.

We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.
We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges that come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.

So let us remember that this is a season of progress. For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair. This democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab World. Over the past year, we have seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal, and a new President in Somalia. In Burma, a President has freed political prisoners and opened a closed society; a courageous dissident has been elected to Parliament; and people look forward to further reform. Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.

And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.
In other words, true democracy – real freedom – is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.

Moreover, there will always be those that reject human progress – dictators who cling to power, corrupt interests that depend upon the status quo; and extremists who fan the flames of hate and division. From Northern Ireland to South Asia; from Africa to the Americas; from the Balkans to the Pacific Rim, we’ve witnessed convulsions that can accompany transitions to a new political order. At times, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of faith, race or tribe; and often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world. In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.

That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we disagree with.
We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

I know that not all countries in this body share this understanding of the protection of free speech. Yet in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.

There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

More broadly, the events of the last two weeks speak to the need for all of us to address honestly the tensions between the West and an Arab World moving to democracy. Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue. Nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks, or the hateful speech by some individuals, represents the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims– any more than the views of the people who produced this video represent those of Americans.

However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism. It is time to marginalize those who – even when not resorting to violence – use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as a central principle of politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes excuses, for those who resort to violence.

That brand of politics – one that pits East against West; South against North; Muslim against Christian, Hindu, and Jew – cannot deliver the promise of freedom. To the youth, it offers only false hope. Burning an American flag will do nothing to educate a child. Smashing apart a restaurant will not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an Embassy won’t create a single job. That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together: educating our children and creating the opportunities they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending democracy’s promise.
Understand that America will never retreat from the world. We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends. We will stand with our allies and are willing to partner with countries to deepen ties of trade and investment; science and technology; energy and development – efforts that can spark economic growth for all of our people, and stabilize democratic change. But such efforts depend upon a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. No government or company; no school or NGO will be confident working in a country where its people are endangered. For partnership to be effective, our citizens must be secure and our efforts must be welcomed.

A politics based only on anger –one based on dividing the world between us and them – not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained. The same impulses toward extremism are used to justify war between Sunnis and Shia, between tribes and clans. It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos. In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. Extremists understand this. And because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They do not build, they only destroy.

It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind. On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past. We cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment. And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.

Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on the prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, and those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard but the destination is clear – a secure, Jewish state of Israel; and an independent, prosperous Palestine. Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

In Syria, the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people. If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings. And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.

Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision – a Syria that is united and inclusive; where children don’t need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed – Sunnis and Alawites; Kurds and Christians. That is what America stands for; that is the outcome that we will work for – with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute; and assistance and support for those who work for this common good. Because we believe that the Syrians who embrace this vision will have the strength and legitimacy to lead.
In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads. The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their neighbors. But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government props up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations.

Let me be clear: America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights. That is why this institution was established from the rubble of conflict; that is why liberty triumphed over tyranny in the Cold War; and that is the lesson of the last two decades as well. History shows that peace and progress come to those who make the right choices.

Nations in every part of the world have travelled this hard path. Europe – the bloodiest battlefield of the 20th century – is united, free and at peace. From Brazil to South Africa; from Turkey to South Korea; from India to Indonesia; people of different races, religions, and traditions have lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations.

And it is because of the progress I’ve witnessed that after nearly four years as President, I am hopeful about the world we live in. The war in Iraq is over, and our troops have come home. We have begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014. Al Qaeda has been weakened and Osama bin Laden is no more. Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America and Russia are reducing our arsenals. I’ve seen hard choices made – from Naypyidaw to Cairo to Abidjan – to put more power in the hands of citizens.
At a time of economic challenge, the world has come together to broaden prosperity. Through the G-20, we have partnered with emerging countries to keep the world on the path of recovery. America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations. New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent. New commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity. And later today, I will discuss our efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

But what gives me the most hope is not the actions of leaders – it is the people I’ve seen. The American troops who have risked their lives and sacrificed their limbs for strangers half a world away. The students in Jakarta and Seoul who are eager to use their knowledge to benefit humankind. The faces in a square in Prague or a parliament in Ghana who see democracy giving voice to their aspirations. The young people in the favelas of Rio and the schools of Mumbai whose eyes shine with promise. These men, women and children of every race and every faith remind me that for every angry mob that gets shown on television, there are billions around the globe who share similar hopes and dreams. They tell us that there is a common heartbeat to humanity.

So much attention in our world turns to what divides us. That’s what we see on the news, and that consumes our political debates. But when you strip that all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes from faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people – and not the other way around.

The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people, and all across the world. That was our founding purpose. That is what our history shows. And that is what Chris Stevens worked for throughout his life.

And today I promise you this – long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’ legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook FB 0.00% photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.”

They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.

A viral movement of support exploded overnight

September 15, 2012 2 comments

Throughout the day today, pictures of young and not-so-young Americans showing their support for Islam in their own simple way in their own words popped up on the web. This movement of support has gone viral. 1000s of Facebook pages, blogs, tweets, and YouTube videos have been posted. It is truly sui generis and truly impressive movement.

Take a look, here are a few samples…you can find 1000s more on the web…

On Attend Toujours!!!

September 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Suite à la publication de cette image (voir ci-dessous) dans le journal satirique, “The Onion,” dans laquelle les personnages les plus vénérés de plusieurs confessions religieuses étaient représenté se livrant à un acte sexuel lascive et de dépravation considérable, personne n’a été assassiné, battu, brulé, ou a vu sa vie menacé.

 
On attend toujours les fans de Moïse, Jésus, de la déesse Ganesha, et de Bouddha. Mais on risque d’attendre longtemps et pour rien.

 

 

Sur la réaction des musulmans aux films/caricatures anti-Islam & l’industrie de l’indignation factice

September 14, 2012 10 comments

The Industry of fake-outrage

Be advised, this is not an analysis. This is a rant. I will write an analysis in the upcoming days.

Enough is enough. That’s my reaction to this stupidity displayed by Muslims throughout the Muslim world. Every time there is a stupid cartoon or an asinine amateurish movie published in the West, the whole Muslim world plunges into a collective psychotic hysteria. People running around, foaming at the mouth, burning buildings, burning flags, burning effigies, killing people, suicidal attacks, two-bit fatwas flying left and right condemning people to death, and breaching embassies. For your information, embassies  are sovereign territories by international law, and their breach, technically, constitutes an act of war.

The industry of fake outrage  in the Middle East and North Africa has become the most productive and lucrative industry. The Muslim world produces nothing, but fake outrage. If Muslims really cared about the welfare of Islam and cared about the welfare of other Muslims, they should pay more attention to the abysmally catastrophic situation in their own countries; they should pay more attention to their bankrupted economies, to their medieval educational systems, to their diseased public health systems, to their crumbling infrastructures, and pay less attention to stupid amateurs in the West whose only aim is to foment troubles and excite the already hyper-excited Muslims.

If Muslims really cared about the welfare of Islam and other Muslims, they should have stood tall and denounced the horrendous murders committed by Al-Qaeda in the name of Islam in Muslims countries; they should have stood tall and denounced the killings by the 1000s committed by Muslims on Muslims in Algeria, in Egypt, in Sudan, in Iraq, in Bahrain, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and in other places. Or is it okay for radical crazed Muslims to kill other Muslims? Are we so scared of the thugs of Al-Qaeda that we dare not criticize them, and we dare not oppose them? Where were these fake-outraged Muslims when babies were slaughtered, young girls were kidnapped and gang-raped, pregnant women were opened up and their fetuses ripped out of their bellies? Where was this outrage when Muslims killed Muslims by the 1000s in Afghanistan? I bet they looked away.

All this killing–the killing of a U.S. ambassador and 3 foreign service officers is an act of war if i may add–and all these millions of dollars wasted in this faux-outrage is the result of a movie (and other domestic struggles that i will analyze in my next post) that nobody saw and nobody heard of. It is the work of a twisted radical and former felon who is apparently a Coptic Christian with an ax to grind. This idiot named Nakoula Bassely Nakoula successfully manipulated millions of Muslims to engage in a total breach of international law and commit murder in cold blood. Yes, Al-Qaeda is involved in Libya, and the ambassador’s killing is most likely the work of Al-Qaeda splinter group. However, without the brouhaha caused by these idiot imams calling for Jihab because some idiot in Los Angeles said something bad about the Prophet Mohamed (saaws), this Al-Qaeda splinter group would not have had the opportunity to do what it did.
More importantly, and let me ask my fellow Muslims directly here: are we that insecure in and about our faith and belief? Are we this insecure about our religion? Are we? Is the divine status of the Prophet or the Koran in danger because a two-bit idiot said something bad about him or burned a couple of Korans in defiance? Is the reputation of our religion this fragile and our faith this friable that when a thug does something we start shaking in our boots, and we start doubting our belief and our principles? If you feel this way, let me tell you, you should not be part of the Islamic faith. I grant you the authorization to leave the Islamic faith because you are not Muslims, and you bring shame to my religion.

Egypte: les résultats de l’élection présidentielle–Mohamed Mursi vs. Ahmed Shafiq

May 25, 2012 2 comments

The MB candidate in the pole position to win the run-off

From all the news sources that i consulted today, the results of the first round of the Egyptian presidential elections won’t be released until Monday. The race, as the electoral commission has stated in its last press release, is too close to call.

However, early indicators derived from television network exit poll data show that Mohamed Mursi, the MB candidate, is in the lead. When Mursi entered the race, quite late, the Egyptian newspapers and television mucked him and dubbed him the Muslim Brotherhood’s “uncharismatic” candidate. Some other newspaper called him the “spare tire” candidate because the MB’s first choice candidate was disqualified by the electoral commission.

Ahmed Shafiq vs. Mohamed Mursi

However, the 60-year-old engineer conducted a very energetic campaign despite his soft-spoken voice and stands on most controversial issues. Mursi, according to the partial projections, came first in this opening round. These partial projections are also backed up by the MB tally, which showed off a remarkable and unequaled level of organization during this campaign.

Ahmed Shafiq, a former Hosni Mubarak’s prime minister, came in second position, which sets the run-off round to be of high quality between two well-qualified candidates. Moreover, the run-off (scheduled to be held on June 16 and 17) gives Egyptians a stark choice between a military man representing the past in many ways (Ahmed Shafiq was Mubarak’s last prime minister) and an Islamist whose conservative message appeals to some and frightens others (and not only in Egypt).

According to Muslim Brotherhood sources with votes counted from about 12,800 of the roughly 13,100 polling precincts, Mursi has garnered 25%, Shafiq 23%, a rival Islamist Abdel-Moneim Aboul Fotouh 20%, and the leftist Hamdeen Sabahy 19%.

These early projections if confirmed give a strong electoral base and reservoir of voters to Mursi. There is no doubt that most of the About Fotouh’s voters will easily vote for Mursi in the run-off. However, Safiq will probably play the nationalist card and will call upon Egyptian’s high and keen sense of “the nation”. Safiq has already started casting and framing Mursi as a dangerous candidate for Egypt who will probably isolate the country with his stances and policies and will hurt Egypt with his amateurism and inexperience.  But i doubt that this electoral strategy will work. Egyptians clearly want change, and want a clean break from the past. That’s what they have been expressing for the last year or so.

Having said that, Mursi, in the recent weeks, has given plenty of material to Shafiq to work with and use it to attack him as a novice politician. Mursi has called for a review of Cairo’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, saying Egypt’s neighbor has not respected the agreement–a stance that mirrors the position of most of the other candidates in the race. Talking before a large crowd this Sunday, Muris declared “We will take a serious step towards a better future, God willing…If they [meaning the military and the pro-Mubarak regime crowd] take a step to take us backwards, to forge the will of the people and fiddle with security, we know who they are…we will throw them in the rubbish bin of history.”

Mursi is also one of the rare candidate who has an actual campaign program, which he promoted throughout Egypt these last two months. It is called “The Renaissance Project”, an 80-page manifesto based on what Mursi calls a  “centrist understanding” of Islam.”The Renaissance Project” outlines Mursi’s and the MB’s vision on everything from fighting inflation to unemployment to forging ties with the U.S. on a more equal footing. It also envisions deeper diplomatic and economic ties with Turkey. In Mursi’s vision and speeches, an Egyptian-Turkish alliance is a goal that must be achieved. It is also the only alliance that would create a counter-power, and a strong check on the behavior of Israel, the U.S. and Iran in the region.

Calling the “The Renaissance Project” a centrist understanding of Islam is a clever way for Mursi to distance himself and his political stances from the extremist Salafists ones. In sum, this manifesto has been quite successful. Mursi turned out to be an excellent campaigner despite a very shaky start, a very shaky debate performance, and a very stern and austere speech delivery.  However, the non-Islamists, not least Christians who make up about a 10% of the population, are still unconvinced by his promises that freedoms, civil liberties, as well as religious freedoms will be safe under his leadership.

“It was for the sake of the Islamic sharia that men were … thrown into prison. Their blood and existence rests on our shoulders now…we will work together to realize their dream of implementing sharia.” Campaign speeches like this one do very little to alleviate the fears and concerns of the non-Islamists and non-Muslim minority in Egypt. He has clearly some work to do and he cannot force his agenda through once he is elected.

And now, i leave you to read a very good analysis of our friend Juan Cole. As always Juan hits the nail on the head.

Egypt’s Presidential Election: Between Revolution and Counter-Revolution

Posted on 05/25/2012 by Juan

The results of the Egyptian presidential election, held on Wednesday and Thursday, won’t be announced until Monday, say official sources in the government. In contrast, the High Electoral Commission is indicating that it will announce the results as soon as they are definitively known. Egypt is on a precipice between a relatively smooth transition and a lot of social turmoil, depending on who the front runners are.

But news is coming in as the ballots are being counted, and as I write on Friday, the race is too close to call. For profiles of the candidates, see my report earlier this week

Egyptian Voters at Polling Station (Muqattam), May 24, 2012

Abdel Moneim Abou’l-Futouh, the “Muslim liberal” candidate who had broken with the Muslim Brotherhood, can be counted out. He has conceded, and has thrown his support to the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Muhammad Mursi. He had been favored to win the election only two or three weeks ago, but his attempt to make everyone from liberals to hard line Salafi fundamentalists happy badly damaged him, since it raised the question as to what his real agenda was. I suspect that the support he garnered from some Salafi leaders, who urged their followers to vote for him instead of for Mursi, also scared away a lot of the leftists and liberals who had considered voting for him.

Abou’l-Futouh also had the effect of splitting the Muslim fundamentalist vote, depriving Mursi of a clear victory and damaging the Brotherhood’s image as a party machine juggernaut.

Early returns also suggest that another possible front-runner, Amr Moussa (former foreign minister and former head of the Arab League), has also faded and looks unlikely to be in the run-off. His constituency deserted him in favor of Ahmad Shafiq.

As I write it is mid-afternoon on Friday, and there is a reported surge for the leftist candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi. He is now said to be in second place, ahead of former Aviation Minister and Air Force General Ahmad Shafiq. Sabahi won big in Alexandria, which had been trending fundamentalist, but which is a modern Mediterranean port city with a big, organized working class, who appear to have swung to him (perhaps along with a lot of government workers and the secular middle class, along with committed revolutionaries). Al-Nil television’s correspondent is reporting as I speak that Sabahi also took Port Said, a smaller port city.

If Sabahi can maintain his narrow lead over Ahmad Shafiq, the resulting run-off will give Egyptians a choice between a leftist secularist and a Muslim fundamentalist, both of them from the opposition to Mubarak.

If Shafiq can pull back ahead of Sabahi, the resulting election would be a huge catastrophe for Egypt.

If Egyptians have to decide between Mursi and Shafiq, they’ll have a stark choice. They could give the Muslim Brotherhood two of the major branches of civilian government and risk a swift move to Islamic law and one-party dominance. They could split the ticket and support the secular Shafiq, who is very much a creature of the old regime and of the Egyptian military. In some ways he would resurrect Mubarak’s policies but will face new limitations in presidential rule by fiat. He speaks warmly of Mubarak, and would be a highly polarizing figure who would certainly provoke a whole new round of big demonstrations on the part of the New Left youth and perhaps also Muslim fundamentalists. He has ominously promised to crack down hard on “destructive demonstrations.” Although the Western politicians and business classes might favor Shafiq for surface reasons, in fact they’d be buying a whole lot of trouble if they backed him.

A Mursi-Shafiq contest would certainly result in riots and fistfights all over the country, and if Shafiq won it would likely throw the country into substantial instability (an ironic outcome since the people voting for Shafiq in the big cities and the countryside are looking for a law and order candidate who can fight a slight rise in crime). It seems to me that the resulting demonstrations and unrest would risk further damaging Egypt’s economy.

A Mursi-Sabahi contest, in contrast, will be much smoother, though still contentious. Sabahi is probably acceptable to most of the New Left revolutionaries, though they were ambivalent about him because of his Nasserist commitments (raising questions about his dedication to parliamentary democracy). Still, he was a steadfast foe of Mubarak, and was involved in the key Kifaya! (enough) movement of 2004 and after, which laid the foundations for the revolution. As a critic of imperialism and of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, he might have some support from some of the Muslim fundamentalists who focus on that issue. And his insistence on social justice obviously has wide appeal across ideological groups.

Egyptian voters in a Mursi-Sabahi match-up would have a real choice between a pluralistic system and a return to virtually one-party rule. They’d have a choice between Muslim Brotherhood emphasis on private property/Turkish-style Neoliberalism and a more socialist policy (a la Hollande in France, perhaps). And in any case, both candidates would have a claim on opposition to the old Mubarak regime, and so an extreme polarization and “a further revolution”, as promised by the New Left, could be avoided.

The final results will therefore be highly consequential for Egypt, and for US and Israeli foreign policy. Those rushing to declare the two run-off winners today, though, are probably jumping the gun, given the very small spread among the front-runners after Mursi.

Egypte: Le comportement électoral et l’idéologie

May 23, 2012 1 comment

A great post by our friend Juan Cole, and as always he nailed it.

Courtesy of Juan Cole

Are Egyptians voting Ideologically?

Posted on 05/23/2012 by Juan

Interpreting political behavior in a brand spanking new democracy such as Egypt is trying to become is littered with pitfalls, and these are multiplied when dealing with the Middle East.

The Muslim world, and especially the Arab world, has been depicted by some Western historians and social scientists as exceptionally impervious to democratic ideals and practices. Much of this Muslim or Arab exceptionalism derives from twentieth-century attempts to justify Western imperialism (rule over the Muslims for their own good by Europeans). Some of it is also rooted in apologetics for the Israel project, which is opposed by most Arabs and Muslims; if there is something wrong with the latter, then their complaints about the displacement and denationalization of the Palestinians can be dismissed. (Ironically, Israel under the Revisionist Likud Party is becoming less and less democratic itself, and many of the fundamentalist Jewish Haredim, now 8% of the population and growing, are no more democratic than the Saudi Wahhabis; so many of the arguments about “Islam” and Muslims and exceptionalism that had been made in the past increasingly could be applied to Israel itself).

The exceptionalism argument is ahistorical and peculiarly lacking in a comparative perspective. There is a major argument in modern German history about whether Germany was peculiar in lacking a national business class and in clinging to authoritarianism, save for the brief Weimar period, until the end of WW II. But then what of Spain? Italy? Austria? Hungary? (We are still not sure about Hungary, and Berlusconi’s Italy rather fell in the rankings). Which European countries were there, exactly, that did not have democracy imposed on them from the outside?

Then there are the other exceptionalisms. Most people who speak Chinese still live under relatively authoritarian governments, with Taiwan the major example of a Sinophone people’s transition toward parliamentary rule with regular contested elections. But just as being Muslim cannot possibly be related to people’s receptivity to democracy, neither can speaking Chinese.

There is something else going on. Most likely it has to do with the way the peasants of Egypt and Algeria made the transition to urban modernity, and likewise the Chinese. Some of the lack of democracy even derives from Western intervention against it (colonial regimes were poor teachers of democratic habits, and parliamentary regimes were overthrown by the West via coups from time to time, rather setting things back).

As for why Egyptians vote as they do, like any electorate they are complicated and even individual voters could go either way often. Egyptians did not give a majority to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis because a majority of them is pious (and 24% of Egyptians are definitely not hard line fundamentalists of the Salafi sort!) My interviewing suggests that in the parliamentary elections they wanted parties that a) were not connected to the corrupt and hated Hosni Mubarak and b) would be honest and transparent and avoid stealing from them or dunning them constantly for bribes. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis fit those bills. In contrast, a lot of the left had its roots in Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser’s progressive thought, and they were initially tainted with the brush of the longstanding military regime (Nasser was a leader of the Young Officers who made the 1952 coup, to which the current military junta is the heir).

But the Muslim Brotherhood made several major errors. They promised not to put up a candidate for president, to reassure people they weren’t trying to recreate Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, i.e. a one-party state. But then they reneged and put up Khairat al-Shater, a businessman with corruption convictions. They also tried to stack the committee charged with writing the constitution with their own members, causing even other Muslim forces to withdraw in disgust. And, they haven’t been good about reestablishing security, providing services, or bringing back the tourist trade.

As for the Salafis, they unwisely began talking about banning beer, and if there is one thing the Egyptian electorate is sure about it is that they like beer.

Ironically, you meet lots of Egyptian men with beards and prayer beads who are leftists, and clean-shaven, dapper men who are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. You suspect that they could fairly easily change their minds.

You have to think about what people are voting against, not just what they seem to be voting for. Last fall they were voting against the fulul, the remnants of Mubarak’s corrupt regime. This May, some large number of Egyptians are telling pollsters that they will be voting against a Muslim Brotherhood one-party state. They will be voting against Salafi puritanism. It is not that the Muslim fundamentalist candidate cannot win, but he now has high negatives to overcome.

Egyptian politics in this miraculous year is all about the rebound, not about the straight throw.