Crisis in Egypt: Radical Islam is the Ultimate Issue
By David Dolan
Despite the fact that I have lived and worked as a journalist in Israel for over 30 years, I’ve thankfully never had a gun pointed at me in the Lord’s special land. I have dodged bullets a few times, had stones hurled onto my car, and had rockets and mortar shells land nearby, especially when I lived along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. I have also been in the vicinity of several major terror attacks, including one deadly atrocity just a couple blocks from my home.
I did have a rifle pointed at me on one occasion, but not on Israeli territory. The incident occurred just inside the Egyptian border with Israel. It was 1989, and I already knew from friends and media colleagues that the crossing point into the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Peninsula was rife with corrupt border guards who often demanded money from visitors entering Egypt, especially if they were Americans. One of them took my passport and hid it in a drawer, pretending 30 seconds later that I had not given it to him. I quickly realized he was expecting me to shelve out a bribe to get it back. Living for years in the troubled region, I refused to do. When I said I would return to the Israeli guard post to protest his theft, another nearby Egyptian security guard raised his rifle and threatened to shoot me. Fortunately the commotion caught the attention of the Israelis some 60 feet away, who came to my rescue.
So the fact that Hosni Mubarak’s police and security forces are rife with corruption has been evident to me for many years. Does this mean I have been advocating the ouster of his autocratic regime? Not at all. This is because I’ve also long understood that the Arab people in general, especially the vast majority who are practicing Muslims, tend to be very proud folks, with the Muslims believing that they are the Almighty’s uniquely chosen sons and daughters, not Christians or Jews. This deeply-held belief contributes to the fact that the Arab masses have often proved to be very unruly, as some of my Arab friends freely admit.
In my opinion, the tendency toward unruliness is the main factor underlining the reality that Arab governments have always been autocratic to some extent, with most wielding iron fists over their citizens. The majority of people are also undereducated in most Arab countries, and often steeped in poverty. This is partly the fault of their dictatorial governments, but also of their Islamic religious systems and overly large family sizes. Therefore “democracy” as we know it in the West is not necessarily the best form of government for Arab societies, with our systems of one-person, one-vote likely to lead to far more oppressive Islamic fundamentalist regimes coming to power in most cases than the governments currently in office.
It took a long time for Israeli government officials to realize that Islamic fundamentalism was and is the main factor in the Arab world’s rejection of a Jewish-run state in the heart of the mostly Muslim Middle East. They largely ignored the fact that the leader of the pan-Arab war against Israel in the 1950s and 60s, Egyptian strongman Gamal Nasser, frequently quoted from the Koran when spouting his anti-Israel diatribes despite the fact that he was backed by the atheist Soviet Union and not religiously observant himself. Nasser was simply bowing to the reality that most his Arab listeners were mosque-going Muslims who had a visceral hatred for Israel based mainly on their faith. It was no coincidence that the previous leader of the Arab world’s attempt to prevent a Jewish state from being formed, Haj Amin Husseini, was also the Muslim clerical chief in the Holy Land.
In a similar fashion, it took a long time for American and European government officials to acknowledge that Muslim fundamentalist groups were serious when they contended that Islam must and would prevail over the West in the struggle for world domination. The same was true for most academics and media pundits. I was not surprised when several of my American journalist colleagues working in Israel, particularly Tom Friedman of the New York Times and Bob Simon of CBS, criticized me for focusing on the new Palestinian Hamas movement in my first book, Holy War for the Promised Land, published by Thomas Nelson in early 1991. They especially questioned my prediction that the new Palestinian offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement (Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimin in Arabic) would eventually surpass the PLO as the main local opponent of Israel. As I have noted before, my forecast that Hamas would become a major player in the ongoing conflict was not due to some supernatural ability to foresee the future, but because I understood that a literal reading of the Koran and of the Islamic ‘oral tradition’, the Hadith—which I pointed out was a central tenet of the Hamas movement—was the bedrock basis of the pan-Arab rejection of a Jewish state in their midst.
I also came under strong criticism for publicly questioning the wisdom of sending US and other Western forces to Iraq in 2003. It seemed to me, as it did to many of my Israeli government and security contacts, that overthrowing Saddam Hussein—as justified as that action obviously was—would only produce a political vacuum that Shiite fundamentalist Iran would eventually fill. I argued that as evil as the Iraqi dictator was, he was nevertheless an angel compared to the nuclear-bomb seeking devils running Iran.
I also pointed to the questionable contention that ‘democracy’ would be better for the Iraqi people than autocracy, noting that fairly free elections in Algeria in 1991 had been hijacked by Islamic parties who openly vowed to ditch such elections after using them to rise to power. Mirroring this in 2006, Hamas cynically used Palestinian elections, which were part of the Oslo peace process that they fiercely opposed, to come to power. It is simply a fact that a majority of voters in most Arab countries are observant Muslims. This reality will always lead to the triumph of anti-Western forces in uncontrolled Arab elections, period. It is also behind the escalating exodus of Arab Christians from Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian-controlled territories and elsewhere in the turbulent region.
Today, we see a growing chorus of American and other western leaders calling for Hosni Mubarak to leave office right away. The likelihood that his quick removal will only lead to the ultimate ascension to power of the fiercely anti-American and anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood movement is largely ignored, or at least downplayed. Many acknowledge that the radical Islamic group is currently the only organized opposition political movement in Egypt. That being the case, the rush to dump Mubarak before other more secular parties can be functionally established is simply absurd, in my estimation. We are almost inviting the Caliphate-seeking Muslim Brothers to take over Egypt—a recipe that spells disaster for both Israel and the West.
Should the United States and other allies of Mubarak have pushed harder for real governmental reforms and more personal freedoms in Egypt? Without a doubt. However in their defense, most officials presumably understood that to do so in quick fashion was potentially opening a can of worms that would not in the end bring positive changes to the Egyptian people, but actually had the great potential to produce an even more oppressive, anti-Western regime, as may well be the ultimate outcome now.
We are told by the media that the marchers in Egypt have been acting spontaneously and are not organized by any one political party or force. Again, is it a just a coincidence that the initial flood of anti-government demonstrators burst onto the streets on January 28 following Friday Muslim services held in mosques all over Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere? Yes, many of the protesters have been young, Facebook-using moderate Muslims, along with Western-leaning Coptic Christians and secular Egyptians, especially in the early days of the revolt. However the vast majority today are clearly observant Muslims who despise Israel and resent the powerful USA based mainly on their faith. The same is true with most of the anti-government protestors in Jordan, Yemen and elsewhere.
Israeli official are also looking with increasing trepidation to the north of their country where sworn enemies Iran and Syria have just succeeding in toppling the pro-Western Hariri government via their Hizbullah ally. This startling development has received very little media attention due to the crisis in Egypt. Is it not likely that this lack of attention is just as the evil regime ruling Iran wants it? The Iranians did not start the anti-Mubarak revolution, but they quickly jumped on board, and surely not with the goal of helping to promote Western-style democratic values in the Arab world’s largest country.
Will Egypt eventually break its peace treaty with Israel? I suspect that in the end, the American-funded and trained army will not allow this to take place. I noted in my latest book, Israel in Crisis, that Egypt is not listed in Psalm 83 as being among a host of regional Arab powers that will attempt to destroy Israel in the prophesied end days, while Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are mentioned, along with the Palestinians. While some are now saying that Egypt will participate in the Gog and Magog war prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39, I disagree. If the prophet had intended to pinpoint Egypt it would have been named as such, being a very distinct and powerful nation in ancient times. The listing of “Ethiopia” instead implies a power to the south of Egypt, which is probably today’s Islamic fundamentalist stronghold of Sudan, located in part of the territory where ancient Ethiopia stood.
Whatever the case, we can expect Islamic fundamentalist groups around the world to carry on with their intensifying jihad to topple pro-Western governments, with the ultimate goal being the destruction of Israel and the takeover of European countries and the United States. With that in mind, Western government officials need to tread very carefully as they help bring change to Egypt and the wider Middle East. And of course, everyone needs our prayers, especially the Arab and Iranian Christian minorities who are caught in the middle of the dramas swirling around them.
DAVID DOLAN is a Jerusalem-based author and journalist who has lived and worked in Israel since 1980.