Short-sightedly, they claim that if we are serious about standing for democracy and the vote, that we have no choice but to support what may turn out to be an even worse tyranny than that of Mubarak’s.
Such journalists also claim that the Egyptian people in the streets are not “political,” that they are impoverished, broken, barefoot warriors who have heroically risen up for jobs, food, and an end to corruption and tyranny. Indeed, the people may not be “political”—but their heroism may end up benefiting those who, unlike themselves, are already organized militarily, economically, and ideologically—like the Muslim Brotherhood.
On the other hand, unorganized though they may be, the people may still have views and beliefs. According to a June, 2010 Pew opinion survey of Egyptians:
Fifty nine percent said they back Islamists. Only 27% said they back modernizers. Half of Egyptians support Hamas. Thirty percent support Hizbullah and 20% support al Qaida. Moreover, 95% of them would welcome Islamic influence over their politics….Eighty two percent of Egyptians support executing adulterers by stoning, 77% support whipping and cutting the hands off thieves. 84% support executing any Muslim who changes his religion…When this preference is translated into actual government policy, it is clear that the Islam they support is the al Qaida Salafist version.
When given the opportunity, the crowds on the street are not shy about showing what motivates them. They attack Mubarak and his new Vice President Omar Suleiman as American puppets and Zionist agents. The US, protesters told CNN’s Nick Robertson, is controlled by Israel. They hate and want to destroy Israel. That is why they hate Mubarak and Suleiman.
Is this Pew Center survey really true? What other indicators might we rely upon?
In the last week, we have seen massive coverage of the street uprising in Cairo on every major television channel and in print and Internet media of all political persuasions. No one has commented upon what the photos are showing us. Some say that a picture speaks a thousand words—and so it does. Follow along with me.
First, view these photos of Cairo University graduates in 1959, 1978, 1995, and 2004. Clearly, there is a progression—a regression really, in terms of women’s rights. Former women's gains have, increasingly, been washed away.
As you can see, despite the size of the picture, the female graduates in 1959 and 1978 had bare arms, wore short sleeved blouses, dresses, or pants, and were both bare-faced and bare-headed. By 1995, we see a smattering of headscarves—and by 2004 we see a plurality of female university graduates in serious hijab: Tight, and draping the shoulders.
Class of 1959
Class of 1978
Class of 1995
Class of 2004
Now, let’s look at the recent Cairo uprising photos through my eyes. No one has, as yet, commented upon the photos that they have chosen to run.
First, most photos show us mobs of mainly men marching, men at prayer, men shooting, running, falling, wounded in hospitals, standing atop tanks. These could be scenes from Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. I am not suggesting that women rush out to join a promised American Nation of Islam style “Million Man March”—as women, they are horribly endangered among groups of men, which is why Muslim men argue that “their” family women must be veiled, sequestered, kept in purdah, strictly supervised, accompanied wherever they go by a male protector.
Muslim men know how licentious they truly are, what their view of all women (who are not their mothers) truly is, and how sexual repression, forced marriage, polygamy (a shortage of available wives for poor men), affects men who have been fired up by a mosque sermon or by a holy war to seize state power.
Women are also shorter, weigh less, and have rarely been trained in boxing, martial arts or weapons training compared to most men; most women cannot hold their own against one angry and determined man, certainly not against thousands of such men.
Yes, there are some female faces in the Cairo mob scenes, but understandably, they are in the minority.
While there are some—very few—female faces that are bare-faced and bareheaded, most women are wearing serious hijab: Pulled low and tight on their foreheads, tied under their chins, covering their necks, draping down to their shoulders.
And, yes, we also see women in niqab, face masks, dark, heavy-looking, with only a slit for their eyes. Were it not for that mere slit, she would be wearing an Afghan burqa or chadri, or a full Saudi covering.
My reading of these photos suggests that Egyptian women have already been Islamified. Whether they have done so to please their loving (or abusive) families or a favorite mullah, whether it was peer pressure from girlhood on that did it; or whether it was the teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood being preached in every mosque, on every media channel, and in school that did it, the fact is:
It is done. Women are veiled. Such women—and their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons, will vote for the Muslim Brotherhood to run their country.
I wonder why no media have looked—really looked—at what the photos they themselves are running really tell us about who the “people” in the streets really are.
Prof. Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. She is the author of 15 books and appears often in international media interviews. She lives in New York City.
Some commentators' remarks on the situation in Egypt:
- From Emanuel Winston:
Was the attack against the Sinai gas pipeline done by Terrorists, the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian Security Services?
- From A.M., who contributed the following articles:
Christians Slaughtered In Southern EgyptSunday, February 06, 2011 | Ryan Jones | IsraelToday.Co.Il
Last week, just days after the demonstrations to reform or overthrow the Egyptian government got underway, Muslims in the south of the country took advantage of the general chaos to break into two homes belonging to local Coptic Christians and butcher every man, woman and child they could find.
The Muslim assailants massacred eleven people and seriously wounded four others. Two whole families were destroyed.
According to survivors of the attack who spoke to AINA, the Assyrian International News Agency, the attackers were aided by the Christians’ Muslim neighbors. Killed in the attack were a 15-year-old girl, an 8-year-old boy, a 4-year-old boy and a little girl only three years old.
There is spreading fear that if Egypt falls into the hands of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, godfather of extremist groups across the region, the 10 million Coptic Christians in Egypt will face severe persecution, or worse.
There is already evidence that the Christians of Egypt are in for a very bumpy ride going forward. On Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood-led opposition agreed to sit down and talk with newly-appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman. The Christians were not invited to the table, despite being part of the original demonstrations demanding reform.
Egypt's Western-assisted slide toward Islamic RevolutionSunday, February 06, 2011 | Ryan Jones | IsraelToday.Co.Il
It seems 40+ years and a lifetime of diplomatic headaches have not been enough to teach the West its lesson when dealing with uprisings and democracy in the Middle East.
In 1979, Iranians rose up against the repressive but stable rule of the shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. America and Europe felt it was in the best interests of everyone involved to move the shah out of the way and throw open the doors to Western-style democracy. What they did was lay the groundwork for the Islamic Revolution and the rise to power of an even more repressive regime that now threatens the entire region.
And they are repeating the same mistake in Egypt.
When the demonstrations first began in Cairo on January 25, they were led by a large group of students with a list of specific demands. Having himself clearly learned the lesson of the shah’s overthrow, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak subsequently agreed to most of those demands, most importantly the demand that this be his last term in office and that he not establish a dictatorial dynasty with his son taking over next.
A Christian source in Cairo (whose name is being withheld for his own safety) says the uprising should have died down then and there.
“As we followed the unfolding of events including the announced change in government and president Mubarak’s speech, we wondered why the international news media is focusing only on the thousands in Tahrir Square who are escalating their demands and refusing dialogue,” said the source.
According to this man, something changed in the uprising after the first few days, after Mubarak had already agreed to most of the reforms demanded by the original protestors.
“What is happening now has nothing to do with this original protest. What is happening right now is a conspiracy to topple Mubarak from outside the country,” he said. That change coincided with the more visible participation in the uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic group with ties to extremists across the region.
But this Christian source suggested the situation is far more grave, and more methodical than just a handful of Brotherhood provocateurs entering the crowds.
“Only a few people (hundreds?) are still there from the original protesters,” he noted. “They have been slowly replaced by other highly organized groups that all carry the same model of cell phones and have the same blankets.”
There are even reports that these groups may not be Egyptians at all, with some eye witnesses saying they clearly do not speak Arabic with an Egyptian accent or in the local dialect.
“This is typical of the Muslim Brotherhood, and everybody on the streets of Cairo knows this. We heard people on the streets saying that the plot to take over the country is now clear,” revealed the source. “The escalation of violence…is because of this. Egyptians who love Egypt, the millions that took to the streets yesterday, want this to end.”
The West is afraid of the “Arab street” and is only being fed in that approach by the mainstream media. After all, violence and revolution make a much better story than compliance and smooth reform. In the meantime, average Egyptians like this Christian man and his family are ignored while the radical Islamists are given a global podium.
“Where are those, like myself, that want change and reform, but accept the changes that Mubarak is proposing, and want a peaceful transition through elections in September?” he wondered fruitlessly.
This man reported that over a million people had gathered last week in Cairo expressing acceptance of Mubarak’s proposed reforms and dialogue regarding the outstanding issues. And he said similar demonstrations had been held around the country. Over the weekend, the Mubarak government further complied with protestor demands when the old corrupt leaders of the president’s party all resigned.
“The cry of the people of Egypt is being totally ignored by the international news media,” he said, questioning, “Is this on purpose?”
If the Muslim Brotherhood does take over in Egypt (and it would do so by installing a sympathetic puppet like Mohammed ElBaradei), Israel would find itself direct neighbors with a new Islamic Republic that would dwarf the threat of Hizbullah rule in Lebanon.
Israeli officials are furious at the way the US and Europe are handling the situation.
“I think the Americans still don’t realize the extent of the catastrophe into which they have pushed the Middle East,” Labor Party leader and former Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio.
Ben-Eliezer slammed the Obama White House’s inability to learn from the past:
“We learn from history. We remember what was said when Carter proposed that the Shah of Iran give up nicely and allow Khomeini to take his place. In Gaza, too, when the Americans came in, they supervised the democratic elections [via which Hamas came into power]. If there are elections in Egypt the way the Americans want, I will be surprised if the Muslim Brotherhood does not win. This will be a new Middle East - radical, Islamic and extremist.”
Likud lawmaker Ayoub Kara told visiting Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee that “it needs to be understood that if the Egyptian government will fall, the Muslim Brotherhood will take its place.” Kara said that Obama should also be learning from the mistakes in Iraq, where an American-style democracy has led to a “saturation of terror.”
A leading columnist for Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, was even harsher, blasting Obama for “selling Mubarak for a pot of lentils,” and “not understanding the Middle East.”
“Our conclusion in Israel needs to be that the man sitting in the White House is liable to ‘sell’ us over night,” concluded the columnist. “The thought that the US might not stand by our side in the day of need causes chills. God help us.”
Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom lamented that the Obama Administration had actually missed a golden opportunity. Yatom told Israel Radio that the situation was ripe for pressure on Mubarak to finally implement real reform, but the US should have worked with the Egyptian leader, not pushed him out of the way and opened the door to chaos. Now, said Yatom, Washington is going to get someone they can’t work with at all.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis February 5, 2011, 6:11 PM (GMT+02:00)