Tea Party in America~Brotherhood in Egypt

Bloggers Note: This is the second  segment taken from a larger piece written by Heather Keaney, a professor at the American University in Cairo and wife of an old friend of ours.  It is used with permission. Titles are created by me, while the content is from Heather. If you are just tuning in, please feel free to read The Battle of Perceptions where you will find out more about Heather.  She brings a great perspective from years of living in Cairo.

West: Keeping our Fears in Check

It is extremely unlikely that Egypt would end up a radical Islamist state if for no other reason than most Egyptians fear this more than Americans do. This is especially the case for Egypt’s liberal elite and 8 million Christians who are terrified of an Islamist regime taking over. The government knows this and holds this fear, along with the that of chaos, over the people’s heads making it that much harder for opposition to build or unify.

I think the West should prioritize process over outcome. If the Muslim Brotherhood (which is not an extremist group) wins in a free and fair election so be it. The country is 90% Muslim and religiously conservative. It is not for the outside world to decide what is best for Egypt. Egyptians need to decide for themselves. If the institutions and processes are put in place that is the important thing.

Current estimates are that the MB would win a third of the vote in an election. Much of their popularity is based on good

Men praying – Tahrir Square 2.1.11 copyright Christina Rizk

organization and social services for the poor. They renounced violence in the 1960s and have been one of the biggest and most consistent organizations calling for greater democracy in Egypt for years. Other opposition groups need to raise their game and actually do something for the millions of Egyptians they are claiming to represent. That is how democracy works. This is why I think the West needs to focus on ensuring a process rather than a particular outcome.

Thus I was frustrated when I heard an interview with Tony Blair a few days back in which he was very cautious about change here and warned against what might happen if the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. It sounded arrogant and imperialistic to me.

Europeans might dread Tea Partiers in America, but it is not their place to try and determine what happens in American politics. Egyptians deserve the same respect.

Indeed I had my own ‘Tony Blair moment’ when our friend Ahmed discouraged us from going to the demonstrations on Tuesday. I thought security concerns, or that the government would be able to manipulate our presence for its own advantage, were exaggerated and I really wanted to be there.

But we are guests here and all day I had to remind myself: it is not about me, or what I want, but about what Egyptians want! They are still trying to figure that out.

“Washington has been very anxious about what’s happening here, but it shouldn’t be. It should be happy. This will reduce terrorism. When people have their voice, they don’t need to explode themselves.” –Mohammed Fouad, an Egyptian software engineer. (from Washington Post, 2/2/11)

Products of Perceptions

Blogger’s Note: What’s in a title? As I hear so many voices in this country speaking to the fear of the brotherhood I decided to look into what other countries think of our very own Tea Party movement, a movement that is gaining more and more attention in American politics.  I was amazed and humored by what I found!  All of the excerpts below are taken from “The Horror, The Horror…and the Pity!”(See Foreign Policy, October 26, 2010 – fascinating article!)

PAKISTAN:“In Dawn‘s telling, the Tea Party has risen in tandem with the “Ground-Zero-inspired Muslim baiting frenzy” and is driven largely by the “bigoted rabble-rouser” Glenn Beck who attacks President Barack Obama as a “closet Muslim.” According to Dawn, the same “predatory instinct” that led Americans to enslave Africans and wipe out Native Americans is “gathering mass, once again,” this time with Muslims as the primary target. (Foreign Policy, October 26, 2010)

CHINA: “The Tea Party will lead to U.S.-China conflict. The government controlled China Dailydescribes the Tea Party as a “polarizing groundswell … based largely on suspicion of Obama’s background, policies and motives.” The movement is blamed for the high level of vitriol directed at incumbents in this election cycle.” “the newspaper sees the movement as a sign of the “US’ inability to find political solutions” to economic problems”

SPANISH SPEAKING WORLD: El Pais wrote. The author refers to the Tea Party as an extremist movement and notes that O’Donnell (for example) is “proudly extremist.” From there, the newspaper warns that “sometimes totalitarianism results from the best intentions and fanaticism grows in the most benign and public settings. The United States is living in one of these moments … in which its values are in conflict with one another.”The Spanish are less mystified and more alarmed. “We don’t know if we feel more profound horror or more profound pity,”

So… I am in no way saying the Muslim Brotherhood is totally benign – what I am saying is that we are all products of our perceptions, and the often strong voices that feed into our perceptions. Even though international media is fearful of the Tea Party movement and perhaps incorrect in their assessments – the Tea Party movement lives on – because  years ago we too had a revolution. And in that spirit, I’ll raise my glass and let the comments begin!

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