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INSIDE THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION: VIOLENCE IS RISING BECAUSE THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IS COOPTING THE MOVEMENT: An analysis of the rapidly changing dynamic

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm

A protester burns a picture of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak during clashes in Cairo January 28, 2011. Police and demonstrators fought running battles on the streets of Cairo on Friday in a fourth day of unprecedented protests by tens of thousands of Egyptians demanding an end to Mubarak's three-decade rule. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

>> We’ve just posted a new video blog I did on the crises in Egypt and Jordan at www.joshuafund.net.  

>> MONDAY: I’m scheduled to be interviewed today on Fox News Channel with Neil Cavuto around 4:20pm eastern re: Egypt. Also, Janet Parshall has asked me to be on her radio show at 6:30pm eastern to discuss Egypt. Subject to change. Please check back for updates.

>> MONDAY: National Review Online posted a new article of mine (an adaptation of this blog), “In Egypt, Radicals and Reformers Battle for Control of a Movement

>> SUNDAY EVENING UPDATE: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood eyes unity gov’t without Mubarak

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In the past several days, the dynamic of the protests in Egypt has changed rapidly, and not for the better. What started out as a genuine and positive pro-freedom movement is being steadily coopted by the Muslim Brotherhood and other violent and extremist forces. There is now a growing risk that the overthrow of the Mubarak regime could lead either to an authoritarian military regime, or a Radical Islamist regime. We must pray neither scenario comes to pass. The people of Egypt would be further oppressed. The U.S., Israel and the West would be endangered. Bottom line: This is a very complex and fast-moving crisis, and it could get much worse.

Let me explain and put the situation in some context.

In my 2009 non-fiction book Inside The Revolution: Why the followers of Jihad, Jefferson and Jesus are battling to dominate the Middle East and take over the world, I outlined a range of players in the region, who they are and what they want:

  • The Radicals are extremist Muslims who want to overthrow every regime from North Africa to the Middle East to Central Asia and replace them with Islamist dictatorships who believe that “Islam is the answer and jihad is the way.” These include groups such as al Qaeda, Iranian Twelvers, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the like.
  • The Reformers are moderate Muslims who say, “Islam is the answer, but jihad is not the way; we need more freedom, more openness, more protection of human rights and civil rights, free elections, free markets, and the creation of full-blown Jeffersonian democracies, if at all possible.” In this group historically have been Kemal Mustafa Ataturk (the founder of modern, democratic Turkey; though sadly Turkey is now moving away from his model); Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (who made peace with Israel but was then assassinated by Radicals); Jordanian Kings Hussein (the father, who made peace with Israel and initiated a democratically elected parliament while retaining his authority as monarch) and Abdullah II (the son and current monarch who has been advancing his father’s reforms incrementally); Morrocan King Mohammed VI; the current leaders of Iraq such as President Jalal Talabani and Nouri al-Maliki; and the popular pro-democracy movement in Iran that we saw take to the streets by the millions last summer)
  • The Revivalists are former Muslims who say, “Islam is not the answer, jihad is not the way, Jesus is the way — and the only way for our part of the world to move forward and make real and lasting social, economic and spiritual progress is to skip back in our history before Islam and revive what we once had: first century, New Testament, Biblical Christianity.” These followers of Jesus Christ in the Islamic world tend to be apolitical and are focused on evangelism, discipleship, church planting, pastor training and spiritual renewal. By using dual strategies of an air war (satellite TV, radio and the Internet) and a ground war (especially the house church movement), their numbers have swelled into the millions since 1979, despite widespread (and recently intensifying) persecution. I profile a number of their leaders in the book, though few of them are known by name in the West.

These first three are the revolutionary forces in the region, people and movements who advocate and push for dramatic, sweeping change.

Then there is another set of important players:

  • The Resisters tend to be secular Arab nationalist leaders who oppose significant change of almost any kind. They may be Muslims but they certainly aren’t revolutionaries. They don’t want to build an Islamic empire. They want to build their own empires. They want to hold onto the power, wealth and prestige that they currently have, and gain more if they can. They strongly oppose revolutionary movements of all kinds. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is a classic Resister. So are leaders like Syrian President Bashar Assad, Libyan leader Moammar Ghadaffi, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, and so forth. Previously, Saddam Hussein fell into this camp.
  • The Reticent tend to be weak-willed Arab leaders who seem constantly pulled in opposite directions. They don’t have strong convictions. At times they seem to want peace with Israel, for example, and even a modicum of political or social reform, but then other forces push back at them and they waffle or change their tune. At the moment, Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is the best example of a Reticent leader. He has been offered historic deals by recent Israeli Prime Ministers to make peace and create a Palestinian state and have dramatic economic change and growth. He has occassionally shown real interest in positive change, but has never had the courage to say “yes.”
  • Finally, and most importantly, are the Rank-and-File — these are the billion-plus everyday Muslims citizens who work hard, play by the rules, are trying to find decent jobs to feed and educate their families. They aren’t revolutionaries. They long for more freedom and opportunity, but mainly they keep their heads down and try not to be noticed and not be interfered with. They are the audience to which the revolutionaries are playing. They are watching the battle between the Radicals and the Reformers, and they are increasingly curious about the message of the Revivalists. And some of them are making their move and joining one of the revolutionary movements. 

That said, let’s focus again on the crisis at hand. What we are witnessing in Egypt is an historic clash between true Reformer Muslims who want free elections and free markets, and Radical Muslims who want to use the protests to overthrow the Mubarak regime and install a violent, extremist Islamist government. The Revivalists in Egypt are, for the most part, staying underground. True to their nature, they are remaining apolitical and  are devoting themselves to much prayer for the future of their country and the souls of their friends and neighbors.

For the first first few days of last week, most of the initial protestors on the streets of Egypt were peaceful, respectful, somewhat educated, and poor to middle class. I believe they were genuinely calling for an end to the Mubarak regime’s corruption and authoritarian rule in order to achieve more freedom, more opportunity, a better economy, more and better jobs, and a democratic government that would respect and protect their human rights and civil rights and set them free from the stagnant, stultified, oppressive Egyptian system they have suffered under for so long.

However, beginning on Thursday and accelerating throughout the day on Friday, the situation began to change dramatically.

The leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (which began in Egypt in the 1920) had initially been caught off guard by sudden and intense rise of the protests and had not been involved in planning or developing these protests. But sensing an opportunity, they decided to move decisively and try to coopt the movement for their own purposes. They mobilized their followers throughout the country and told them to take to the streets.  That’s when the complexion of the protests took a turn for the worse, characterized by:

These are not the actions of a true pro-freedom movement. Almost none of this happened last summer when millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest the fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To the contrary, the Iranian people, to their great credit, initiated what was overwhelming a classic non-violent, principled protest movement against the Radical regime.

President Mubarak’s response to the protests has been badly overdone and typically authoritarian — shutting down the Internet, blocking social media like Facebook and Twitter, and now blocking even the Al Jazeera satellite TV network. What’s more, the police and army at times have been thuggish and brutal (though not always; their have been fascinating reports of policemen and soldiers embracing the protestors, encouraging them even).

So I find myself in a quandary. I strongly support the right of the Egyptian people to have free elections and free markets and true opportunity in the 21st century. What’s more, I want the Church to be free to share the gospel and win Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ, make disciples and plant new congregations without government oppression and without violent attacks by Radical Muslims. I do believe Mubarak has stayed too long. He has not responded to the yearning of the Egyptian people to be free. His day is coming to an end.

That said, however, I don’t want to see the Muslim Brotherhood win. For all of Mubarak’s sins, he is not a Radical. He doesn’t want to launch a jihad against the U.S., Israel or the West. He has maintained the peace treaty with Israel. He has worked to counter the Hamas movement in Gaza. He is strongly opposed to the Iranian nuclear weapons program and has worked closely with the West to counter it. The Obama administration needs to be careful to support positive change in Egypt and support human rights there, without cutting the legs out from underneath Mubarak precipitously, the way President Carter did to the Shah of Iran in 1979. The Shah had his many flaws, no question about it. But Carter’s actions helped trigger the Islamic Revolution and led to the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the loss of an American ally, and the rise of a terror-exporting country that has gained in lethality ever since. We dare not make the same mistakes with Egypt.

I am praying, therefore, that the Lord would be merciful to the people of Egypt, and that He would give wisdom to Mr. Mubarak and his senior advisors. My ideal at this point is that Mubarak would hand the keys to the kingdom to a group of Reformers, men truly committed to steadily expanding hope, growth and opportunity for all their people, and doing so in a way that creates order and stability, not an opening for the Muslim Brotherhood to seize control. This will not be easy. I am not convinced Egypt spymaster-turned-new-Vice President Omar Suleiman is the man to accomplish this. But I know that ultimately the Lord is in charge, and this — and nothing else — is what should give us all hope.

As the Hebrew Prophet Daniel once said while living under a brutal Middle Eastern dictator:

“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him. 
It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.” (Daniel 2:20-21)

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