Egypt Gets Its Khomeini

Friday, February 18 may be a turning point in Egyptian history. On that day Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the best-known Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world and one of the most famous Islamist thinkers, will address a mass rally in Cairo.

Up until now, the Egyptian revolution generally, and the Brotherhood in particular, has lacked a charismatic thinker, someone who could really mobilize the masses. Qaradawi is that man. Long resident in the Gulf, he is returning to his homeland in triumph. Through internet, radio, his 100 books, and his weekly satellite television program, Qaradawi has been an articulate voice for revolutionary Islamism. He is literally a living legend.

Under the old regime, Qaradawi was banned from the country. He is now 84 years old -- two years older than the fallen President Husni Mubarak--but he is tremendously energetic and clear-minded.

It was Qaradawi who, in critiquing Usama bin Ladin and al-Qaida, argued that Islamists should always participate in elections because they would, he claims, invariably win them. Hamas and Hezb'allah have shown that he was right on that point.   

Symbolically, he will give the Friday prayer sermon to be held in Tahrir Square, the center of the revolutionary movement. The massing of hundreds of thousands of people in the square to hear Islamic services and a sermon by a radical Islamist is not the kind of thing that's been going on under the 60-year-old military regime that was recently overthrown.

The context is also the thanking of Qaradawi for his support of the revolution, an implication that he is somehow its spiritual father.

Qaradawi, though some in the West view him as a moderate, supports the straight Islamist line: anti-American, anti-Western, wipe Israel off the map, foment Jihad, stone homosexuals, in short the works.

One of Qaradawi's initiatives has been urging Muslims to settle in the West, of which he said, "that powerful West, which has come to rule the world, should not be left to the influence of the Jews alone." He contends that the three major threats Muslims face are Zionism, internal integration, and globalization. To survive, he argues, Muslims must fight the Zionists, Crusaders, idolaters, and Communists.

What is his view of both the Mubarak regime and the young, Facebook-flourishing liberals who made the revolution? As he said in 2004: "Some Arab and Muslim secularists are following the U.S. government by advocating the kind of reform that will disarm the nation from the elements of strength that are holding our people together."

Have no doubt. It is Qaradawi, not bin Ladin, who is the most dangerous revolutionary Islamist in the world, and he is about to unleash the full force of his power and persuasion on Egypt.

Who are you going to bet on being more influential, a Google executive and an unorganized band of well-intentioned liberal Egyptians or the world champion radical Islamist cleric?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The GLORIA Center's site is www.gloria-center.org  and of his blog, Rubin Reports, www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.
Friday, February 18 may be a turning point in Egyptian history. On that day Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the best-known Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world and one of the most famous Islamist thinkers, will address a mass rally in Cairo.

Up until now, the Egyptian revolution generally, and the Brotherhood in particular, has lacked a charismatic thinker, someone who could really mobilize the masses. Qaradawi is that man. Long resident in the Gulf, he is returning to his homeland in triumph. Through internet, radio, his 100 books, and his weekly satellite television program, Qaradawi has been an articulate voice for revolutionary Islamism. He is literally a living legend.

Under the old regime, Qaradawi was banned from the country. He is now 84 years old -- two years older than the fallen President Husni Mubarak--but he is tremendously energetic and clear-minded.

It was Qaradawi who, in critiquing Usama bin Ladin and al-Qaida, argued that Islamists should always participate in elections because they would, he claims, invariably win them. Hamas and Hezb'allah have shown that he was right on that point.   

Symbolically, he will give the Friday prayer sermon to be held in Tahrir Square, the center of the revolutionary movement. The massing of hundreds of thousands of people in the square to hear Islamic services and a sermon by a radical Islamist is not the kind of thing that's been going on under the 60-year-old military regime that was recently overthrown.

The context is also the thanking of Qaradawi for his support of the revolution, an implication that he is somehow its spiritual father.

Qaradawi, though some in the West view him as a moderate, supports the straight Islamist line: anti-American, anti-Western, wipe Israel off the map, foment Jihad, stone homosexuals, in short the works.

One of Qaradawi's initiatives has been urging Muslims to settle in the West, of which he said, "that powerful West, which has come to rule the world, should not be left to the influence of the Jews alone." He contends that the three major threats Muslims face are Zionism, internal integration, and globalization. To survive, he argues, Muslims must fight the Zionists, Crusaders, idolaters, and Communists.

What is his view of both the Mubarak regime and the young, Facebook-flourishing liberals who made the revolution? As he said in 2004: "Some Arab and Muslim secularists are following the U.S. government by advocating the kind of reform that will disarm the nation from the elements of strength that are holding our people together."

Have no doubt. It is Qaradawi, not bin Ladin, who is the most dangerous revolutionary Islamist in the world, and he is about to unleash the full force of his power and persuasion on Egypt.

Who are you going to bet on being more influential, a Google executive and an unorganized band of well-intentioned liberal Egyptians or the world champion radical Islamist cleric?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The GLORIA Center's site is www.gloria-center.org  and of his blog, Rubin Reports, www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

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