An interview with Dr. Farooq Hasnat, a scholar and an expert on ME affairs
Uprising is not a usual thing to happen in the Middle East. People of this region have been seldom seen coming out on the streets to protest against the government or any institution. Egypt saw this happening. In the span of only 18 days the power of the people brought the fortresses of dictatorship down to dust. Though it is yet to be seen how and in what direction the new ruling junta takes the country. But one thing is for sure that in the formation of a new system the aspirations of the Egyptian people should not be taken for granted. Dr. Farooq Hasnat, an expert on Middle East, firmly believes that the leaning of Egyptian government toward Israel has set the lava in the people. Anwar el Sadat paid for his compassion toward Israel with a bullet and now Hosni Mubarak has been asked to relinquish power and leave for Tel Aviv.
What brought people to the streets in Egypt
Though there are combination of factors that contributed to this uprising but Egypt’s relations with Israel have a lot to do with this. When Israel attacked Gaza in a merciless manner in 2009, Egyptians closed their borders and they would not even allow the medical facilities and even food for the Gaza people. The Egyptians were visibly upset because of this inhumane attitude of their government. Foreign Minister of Egypt Abu Musa also came up and condemned the policies of the government. WikiLeaks too I believed played on the psyche of the Egyptian people. Egyptians read in the newspapers about their leaders and how they stooped so low in front of the foreign powers, not even bothering about the national interest of Egypt. I believe that these emotions translated into the mass uprising that I would say is revolution in the beginning.
What would be the formation of the new setup
History has narrated this scheme time and again that a leadership vacuum is always filled by the most organised force of a given country. Pakistan has seen this happening more than twice when a mass uprising against governments has been hijacked by Army. In the case of Egypt too we can speculate that Muslim Brotherhood being the most organised force stands fairly a good chance to get a substantial chunk in the new government set-up.
A suppressed force like Muslim Brotherhood does it still stands a chance
Though suppressed and pushed to oblivion, yet the public force of Muslim Brotherhood cannot be ruled out. Jordan at one time tried to do that and took the Muslim Brotherhood for granted but their astonishing victory in the 1989 elections gave enough reason for the Jordanian government to manipulate against the Brotherhood thereafter. In Lebanon too though Hariri took winning numbers in elections but eventually it was discovered that without Hezbollah’s support he cannot rule. So, forces such as Muslim Brotherhood or Hezbollah cannot be easily sidelined.
So are we seeing extremism taking hold in Egypt
The Muslim Brotherhood is not that extremist as the western press shows them to be. They are very sensible people most of them are in social welfare programme, they are running schools with excellent results. They have hospitals, though named Islamic hospitals yet we find Christian doctors and nurses working there. Muslim Brotherhood is not comparison to Taliban and al Qaeda. In fact, Muslim Brotherhood is the best counter for al Qaeda in the Middle East, because they have different agenda, different philosophy and different thinking.
Why were thy suppressed
Muslim Brotherhood has been suppressed because that was the only potent force that could challenge Mubarak’s regime. Secondly to create an atmosphere of propaganda, especially after 2001, the local regimes branded Muslim Brotherhood extremist, terrorist and fundamentalist only to gain the favours of the West. Uzbekistan did the same thing, they are the ruthless dictators, and they raised the boogies of terrorism branding every opponent of them as potential extremist and terrorist to get a kind of legitimacy from the West, especially from the US.
Will American still in the position to throw its weight around
Saying that America would make things twist in Egypt is a difficult proposition to buy now. Though America got the power yet it is difficult to get over the power of a parliament. We are seeing this in the case of Raymond Davis and we cannot forget Iran. In spite of all its power and threats for that matter America could not make Iran pushed to the wall.
In Egypt the people have shown their power, they have shown that they got the ability to dismantle a system as powerful as that of Mubarak. So, there is a strong massage for the Egypt as well as for the rest of the Middle East that people can do it. Once that impression is created then it would be very difficult for any government to follow policies which goes against the Egyptian national interest. To follow the American policies blindly would be a very risky proposition for the Egyptian rulers. So, I think they would be very vigilant and very careful. Once the process of election is unleashed, once the political participation begins, you will see lot of new faces in Egyptian ruling elite in the political set-up.
What about Israel
Israel’s biggest ally in the Middle East has been Egyptian, and if there is a regime change then there might be a change of attitude too. I am not saying that Egypt would go in war against Israel but definitely Egypt can exert lot of pressure on Israel to settle the Palestinian issue. In fact, the issue was actually settled and it was agreed upon that there would be two separate states which would exist side-by-side but Israel has been dragging its feet by building illegal settlements in turn undermining and changing the demographics of the area. But I believe that there would be a change of heart, and the new government has to look into the sentiments and desires of the Egyptian people because they have shown that they can topple the government in not more than 18 days.
It took 30 years for the people to show their force
Revolutions do not happen every day. Take the example of judicial movement in Pakistan it took six decades for the people to realise the power of Judiciary. Looking exclusively at Egyptians, for three decades starting from 50s till 70s there was a huge Arab nationalism, and leaders like Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar el Sadat hooked themselves to this new wave of revolutionary twist and made mark in the region.
This revolution what are the propositions for its survival
Rulers like Mubarak get power from external forces and not from their own people and that is why they always try to get legitimacy from the foreign forces eventually making them fall like nine pins. Musharraf did the same thing. Now in the case on Egypt we saw every single force of the society had come out against Mubarak regime which meant that the system has collapsed. The police and even the army were docile at the face of what was happening. So, there would be a definite change.