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Itís Not All Good
Israel - Middle East
Friday, May 25, 2012
Alf Cengia

How did that Monty Python song go? ''Always look on the bright side of life.'' And then there’s that song by Bobby McFerrin, ''Don’t worry, be happy.''

I found them somewhat irritating when they came out because I was always going through some small personal crisis or other at the time and they were played to death. Even now whenever I hear the songs on the radio, I equate them to that time of my life. Songs and certain smells sometimes bring old memories rushing back. It’s funny how one’s mind works.

When I was working for a certain corporation a lot of the people would use the catchphrase “It’s all good.” At the time we were going through one of the many cyclical restructures that chief executives and highly-paid consultants feel is necessary for companies – and especially employees- to go through on a regular basis.

Apparently change is inevitable and a good thing, even when consultants put things back to how they were a few years beforehand when things didn’t work all that well – which is why they changed them to begin with. But that’s not what’s important- change is the important thing...or so we were told.

Everybody kept affirming that it was all good. That expression found its way into everyone’s vocabulary and it began to be used for just about any situation. I didn’t like the term because it was a false bravado which gradually devolved into sarcasm.

Things weren’t good at all. During one restructuring process I experienced, many people lost their jobs and my division was decimated. I was determined not to use that phrase though I confess to having slipped a few times. Still do.

And speaking of restructuring; there’s very little to be happy about and it’s hard not to worry if you’re living anywhere in the Middle East ever since the “Arab Spring” kicked off.

Columnist Zack Miller begins one OP by stating:

“Many experts have suggested that democracy is an inevitable byproduct of revolution and that in the wake of the Arab Spring, new Middle Eastern democracies will rise from the ashes of dead dictatorships to reflect the egalitarian views of the people.” (Emphasis mine)

One might take that as, “It’s all good.”

However, Miller quickly throws in some caveats:

“Militaries and security forces, many of which retain de facto leadership in the Middle East, constitute the most immediate institutional roadblock to democracy. In Egypt, an entrenched military has consolidated elite power with little accountability, ratcheted up violence against political protestors and diluted democratic reform...Even if preliminary democratic elections are completed without fraud, some Arab countries risk lapsing back into autocracy or becoming illiberal democracies in which freedoms and human rights are repressed.” (Emphasis mine)

Yet the “experts” perhaps overestimate the overall egalitarian aspirations of the Middle East. History suggests that the Islamic dominated countries of the ME do not favor equality. Moreover, it appears that illiberal democracy – “a governing system in which although fairly free elections take place, citizens are cut off from real power due to the lack of civil liberties” – will be the only “democracy”.

While some saw the ousting of Hosni Mubarak and the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood as a good thing; stark reality suggests otherwise. Michael Widlanski notes that changes and issues currently affecting Egypt are having long-term ramifications for the greater Middle East (especially Israel), despite the initial optimism expressed by the Obama administration.


“Some Egyptian officials deny abrogating signed agreements with Israel, saying they merely want a better price for Egyptian gas, but this appears to be the first time the Egyptian officials have shown that they are acting parallel to terrorists who have blown up the pipeline to Israel and Jordan fourteen times in the last year.” (Emphasis mine)

After 9-11, then senator Obama spoke out against a war in Iraq. At the time he claimed the cause of terrorism was government corruption in the Middle East and he cited Egypt as an example. In his view, corruption fed poverty which led to terror.

Widlanski counters that corruption does not drive terror. He notes that Mubarak pulled away from the “Russian political/economic model” and moved toward the West and (at least on a surface level) peace with Israel. Under Mubarak, Egypt’s tourism and foreign investment grew. Now they are plummeting.

What really feeds this terrorism is the intolerant Koran and Hadith observant-Islamist leadership that is still thriving in the post-Arab-Spring world. It is what prevents true freedom from flourishing. It thrives under the Muslim Brotherhood and the clerical leaders.

One recent example of this intolerance came to light after the death of Coptic Pope Shenouda III. Many Muslims mourned his death – according to Al Akhbar it was “a million Egyptians”. Egypt’s Grand Mufti even declared: “His death is a tragedy and a great loss for Egypt and its people, Muslims and Christians.”

Yet according to FrontPageMag, cleric Khaled Abdullah moaned that: Muslim participation and mourning in the funeral was “hurtful to the feelings of 80 million Muslims.” (Emphasis mine)

It all fell apart after that with clerics venting Islamic righteous indignation. FrontPageMag notes:

“...Islam’s clerics rushed in, pointing out Sharia law’s teachings concerning the death of an infidel, or non-Muslim, like Pope Shenouda. Fatwas appeared, many saying it is forbidden to offer condolences to the Copts, others saying it is permissible—but through carefully crafted words, and in the hopes of attracting Copts to Islam (reminding one of Sheikh Muhammad Hassan’s assertion that smiling to non-Muslims is permissible, but only as a way to attract them to Islam).”

It’s not an isolated case. In fact Sharia Law is an Islamic export to other nations where leaders largely ignore the repercussions. The fear of reprisal or of being labeled Islamophobic no doubt led to the recent tragic story where nine Muslim men were arrested in Britain for the rape and abuse of dozens of girls as young as 13. One was raped by 20 men in one night and police are tracking down up to 40 more suspects.

There never will be an egalitarian society with a true democracy anywhere in the Middle East where fundamentalist Islam has a foothold, and while people are unwilling to meet Islamist hegemony head on.

It’s not all good and it never has been.

Just ask Bashar al-Assad.

Come to think of it – I wonder if he’s ever heard of Monty Python or Bobby McFerrin.

About Alf Cengia

Last week: A Desolate Waste-Land

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