The people of Egypt have shown that they are not the property of any foreign power to be owned, used, abused and then discarded or possibly “lost.” They are human, men and women determined to carve out a dignified existence for themselves and their progeny. In so doing, they have shattered, to this point, virtually every myth and stereotype encouraging Americans to view Muslims as our inherent enemies. For example, we have been told that Muslims are bloodthirsty savages. We have been told that political Islam is a totalitarian system that knows of no compromise. Yet in Egypt, as in Tunisia, we have seen a majority Muslim population engage in a nonviolent revolution.
Here in the United States many politicians and pundits are asking, “Why didn’t we see this coming?” I will offer my answer here. Specifically, American policy-making towards the Middle East has become dominated by anti-Muslim bigots. They have projected their own fears onto the governing elite and created such an obsession with so-called radical Islam that the latter has accepted the draconian (and profitable for some) measures being put into place to fight it, including support for “moderate” regimes like Mubarak’s. All the while, they have failed to take note of the real, dynamic politics on the ground in the Middle East and the civil society that has sprung up around those politics.
The road ahead in Egypt will not be an easy one. There are powerful interests, both in Egypt and in other countries who were profiting lavishly from the ancien regime and the system of crony capitalism it has put in place to syphon off the country’s wealth. They have much to lose from a new system and will fight hard to preserve at least some of the privileges they formerly possessed. New institutions will have to be built. A new balance of power will have to be hammered out between the groups the protesters represent and the older, more established parties and groups who supported the protests, along with those who did not. The healthcare and university systems, both of which have been destroyed by mindless and neglectful policies, will have to be rebuilt. The minefields of the Palestinian situation will also have to be traversed. However, that is tomorrow’s work and tomorrow’s worry. As for today, let the people of Egypt celebrate. Bravo, Egypt, Bravo!
See also, Imam Zaid's: Reflections on the Situation in Egypt