Friday, May 27, 2011

Waiting In The Wings

The "Arab Spring" has made front-page news for months. The illusion in the minds of the West is that the protesters who were successful in Tunisia and Egypt, and who are now struggling in Libya and Yemen and Syria to force their governments to end traditional tyrannical rule running roughshod over human rights will be replaced eventually by democracies.

But this is the Middle East, and North Africa, under Islam. And Islam has undergone a stark transformation over the past fifty years and more. It is no longer the benign, albeit all-encompassing religious ideology it once was, calling its faithful to prayer five times daily, and exhorting them to be kind to one another as Muslim brethren.

This new manifestation of Islam, long in the brew, harks back to the original, whose evangelism succeeded by the sword. Instead of the sword, suicidal martyrs for the cause as fanatical jihadists are being constantly recruited and trained, making their faithful mark as living bombs. They slaughter Muslims and Westerners alike.

And it is not a benign version of Islam, the religion of peace that most of its adherents describe it as, that is waiting in the wings to take power, but offshoots of Wahhabism, and the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda, whose ultimate mission is the unification of Islam and the renaissance of a global Islamist presence under Sharia law.

Egypt, the most populous of the Arab countries is undergoing its transformation, in response to the call of its Tahrir Square protesters for freedom from dictatorship. It was the young, the unemployed, those who are familiar with Internet technology and social communication that led the way and they espoused democracy. Waiting in the wings, the Muslim Brotherhood.

While the youth espoused democracy, they and much of the 'street' denounced their President, Hosni Mubarak, for maintaining the country's peace treaty with Israel. The military was faithful to President Mubarak only until it could no longer confine the protests, then agreed to depose him. At which time the Muslim Brotherhood felt far freer to agitate for its agenda.

Things are beginning, slowly, to unravel. For Israel, as a nation seen as a creature of the West, an interloper, a foreign presence, an ethnic and religious apostasy within the Middle East. An official enquiry has found former President Mubarak and his two sons must stand trial for murder and corruption for which the death penalty will be exercised.

This is greatly pleasing to the Muslim Brotherhood. As is the decision to open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, to 'relieve' the blockade of Gaza. A spokesman for the European Border Assistance Mission has expressed concern that no invitation has been expressed to them to re-activate international standards for security checks in accordance with the 2005 agreement.

Israel's concern, needless to say, is the greater latitude available now to Hamas to continue smuggling arms and terrorists into Gaza from Egyptian sources. The peace deal between Egypt and Israel looks increasingly fragile.

Since Jordan is comprised of a majority Palestinian population its peace agreement with Israel too is hugely unpopular. The failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to re-commence is used as another excuse by Jordan to reconsider the viability of the peace agreement.

Syrians, embattled by their government, would far prefer that President al-Bashir go to war with Israel to reclaim the Golan Heights, than target their peaceful protests. Libyans too see Israel as an enemy, even while they struggle against their dictator.

Waiting in the wings in all these countries, as in Yemen, are the Islamists, for their opportunity to capture the opportunities now being extended to them through the overthrow of more secular-oriented tyrants within North Africa and the Middle East.

All is not as it seems to naive Western diplomats and politicians.

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