Fears of an Islamic state in Egypt are greatly overstated and disingenuous
Stephen Zunes is Professor of Politics and Chair of Mid-Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, and co-editor, with Sarah Beth Asher and Lester Kurtz, of Nonviolent Social Movments: A Geographical Perspective (Wiley-Blackwell, 1999).
This is a lengthy piece, detailing the many social, political and economic reasons why Mubarak’s fall is unlikely to end in an Islamic state. Moreover, he does also cover to some degree the pedigree of the disingenuous forces in the US that are likely to say so. I provide only a snippet here. The whole piece demonstrates thorough knowledge of the historical and social contexts, and is worth a read.
The difference between Egypt today and Iran of the late 1970s is striking.
The direction of the anti-Shah movement in Iran from the outset came from the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini and other Shiite Muslim clerics. Inspirational sermons, tactical advice, and specific calls for strikes and demonstrations came through smuggled cassette tapes, radio broadcasts, and other communication from the clerical leadership. Though many on the ground in the struggle against the Shah were leftists and other secular democratic forces — some of whom organized important strikes, demonstrations, and other actions independently from the religious hierarchy — the religious overtone of the demonstrations was apparent in the slogans, communiqués, banners, graffiti, and other means throughout the 13-month struggle that led to the Shah’s overthrow in February 1979.
The overwhelming role played by religious forces in Iran contrasts with the ongoing demonstrations, strikes, and other actions in Egypt, which has been led from the outset by secular youth through the Internet and other means of communication. The slogans, communiqués, banners, graffiti, tweets, and Facebook messages have been almost exclusively secular in orientation, pushing nationalistic and liberal democratic themes. And, despite decades of U.S. support for the Mubarak dictatorship, the Egyptian protests have featured virtually no explicit anti-Americanism, a striking contrast with the Iranian revolution. Indeed, the current protests have almost exclusively focused on Mubarak’s misrule rather than the U.S. role in enabling it.
Although most of the Egyptian protesters are presumably practicing Muslims, they show no desire to establish an Islamic state, which was an explicit demand of much of the Iranian revolution’s leading activists from the beginning of the struggle.