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Egypt between the End of History and clash of civilisations

Liberals in Egypt following the January 25 Revolution share less with Fukuyama's end of History through the embrace of universals than they do with Huntington's tirade against Islam

Mohamed Elmenshawy , Sunday 29 Dec 2013
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Views: 2533

In 1989, Japanese-American academic Francis Fukuyama wrote an article entitled "The End of History" in which he argued that the age of oppression and totalitarianism irrevocably ended after the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Fukuyama continued that it was replaced by liberalism, democratic values and market economics.

Fukuyama essentially wanted to counter the concept of the end of History in Karl Marx’s famous theory of Historical Materialism, which purports that human emancipation will be achieved once the class system is eliminated.

Fukuyama believes that human societies put an end to the evolution of ideological ideas with the spread of the values of liberal democracy. This theory is based on several factors, most importantly that only liberal democracy would put an end to the historic and recurring struggle between the ruling masters and the governed slaves.

Over the past three years, the Egyptian model has largely debunked both Fukuyama and Marx’s theories. Until today, a society that is able to end the coupling of masters and slaves has not been achieved because the Cairo elite  which claim to be liberals  continue to control the destiny of millions of Egyptians in the Delta and Upper Egypt. The chances of succeeding in building a society that equates between the rights of the rulers and the ruled, the poor and the rich, and creates a democratic political system that respects liberal values, social pluralism and real policies are close to naught.

As soon as the January 25 Revolution succeeded in deposing former president Hosni Mubarak, some believed this was the end of tyranny. However, there are signs in recent months that the state of tyranny is making a big comeback and figures in the liberal current have not stood up against this.

In fact, liberal ideologues are now justifying what the Egyptian masses revolted against over the past three years, namely violations of basic human rights, such as bread, freedom and social justice, at the hands of the state’s security apparatus.

Egyptian liberal ideologues today defend efforts to create a new tyranny in a contemporary format by misusing axioms such as upholding the state’s prestige and the war on terror. Accordingly, the unelected interim government passed an egregious law on the right to demonstrate. Had parts of it been applied prior to the past three years, the name of today’s president would be Gamal Mubarak.

But the question is: Why are these liberals taking such positions? The answer lies with the voters, since liberals failed to present anything compatible with the preferences of the majority of voters, and also because one third of votes in all free elections went to Islamists. Thus, most leading liberal figures in Egypt today support a constitution that legalises a special status for the military, giving it the right to put civilians before military tribunals. They are also silent about decisions that strengthen tyranny, which not only target the Muslim Brotherhood, but also other segments in society, most notably, revolutionary activists whose leaders were recently arrested, such as Ahmed Douma, Alaa Abdel-Fattah and Ahmed Maher.

Since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was deposed 3 July, those who still uphold the principles of true liberalism found themselves marginalised as the aspirations of the 2011 revolution evaporated, such as Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Hamzawy.

In 1993, Samuel Huntington wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine entitled "The Clash of Civilisations" which triggered global controversy because he touched a sensitive nerve for people from different cultures around the world. He looked at various concepts of cultural differences and the changing balance between cultures, and noted a sweeping trend of returning to origins and roots in non-Western societies.

Huntington divided world civilisations into Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Islamic, Western, Orthodox, African and Latin American. According to him, the clash is the essence that rules relations between these civilisations, and they essentially clash over culture or identity.

The politics of identity is a real issue in the world around us, and no one can deny there are societies whose heritage and components are Christian, such as Europe and North and South America, and no one can deny religion greatly influences American and European politics. The same thing applies to Israel and its Jewish identity.

Huntington was especially interested in the Muslim world as a civilisation that holds a strategic location in global relations. Some criticised the clash of civilisations theory because it promoted a negative and bleak image of the Arab and Muslim worlds in the West. It made Islam the main source of violence and terrorism in the world, and portrayed it at the forefront of confrontation and animosity with the West.

This theory was the reference of many right-wing fanatics in the neo-conservative camp who mobilised their power to portray Muslims as a real threat, not only to the US but also to all of humanity.

What is truly shocking in Egypt today is the reckless stereotyping and demonisation of anything and everything Islamic by government and non-government media and culture machines, as if they were applying Huntington’s theory. These actions not only harm the current of political Islam, but also question Egypt’s Islamic identity and culture. The machine of terror has even caused several who describe themselves as intellectuals and decision makers to demand that Islamists should not be allowed to participate in any way, shape or form in political life, now and in the future. Some even question their patriotism and loyalties.

A return to roots and reviving the religious value system is a world phenomenon, therefore turning to Islam as a source of identity is not a sin. The sin is to discriminate in the name of Islam or against non-Muslims, or when not everyone has equal rights and duties, irrespective of their faith.

Political Islam is one component of a broad revival of ideas and beliefs in Egypt and other countries with a Muslim majority.

In the name of Islam, a fair, plural and democratic modern society can be created. But also in the name of Islam, an unjust, misguided and tyrannical society can be created. What is certain is that excluding the foremost representatives of contemporary political Islam from the political process in Egypt will lead to anything but genuine democracy.

 

The writer can be followed on Twitter: @ElmenshawyM

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5



Jon
08-01-2014 04:26pm
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More then one third
Mohamed Elmenshawy writes "one third of votes in all free elections went to Islamists". There have been two free elections in Egypt's history: The parliamentary election of 2011 and the presidental election of 2012. In the first the islamists won approximately 65% of the votes (40% to the Freedom and Justice party alone). During the presidental election, the islamist candidate won narrowly. I absolutely agree in Elmenshawy's point, however. The political islamic current in Egypt is far too strong to be excluded from the political process. The politics of the present military junta is a blind ally that will lead Egypt into new decades of stagnation.
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Saba E. Demian, M.D.
02-01-2014 01:55pm
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Is the Class System Truly an Aberration?
The major equalizer among the people of any nation is education. While it is true that the class system in the West and a few other places has become somewhat vague, there is no denying that not only is there an inevitability in inequality, arguably, there is a need for it. It is not possible to homogenize a people into one prototype. Indeed, as the different organs in living things, be they animals or plants are varied to be able to form different functions for the survival of the whole, the individuals in a society are different in skills, aspirations, achievements and many other aspects which is something to expect and look forward to rather than to suppress. The concept of the American forefathers that "all men are created equal" is a fallacy. It should have read that all humans have equal rights in the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is an ephemeral goal different from one person to the other. Now in Egypt 'to the victors are the spoils.' Who the ultimate victor will be is hard to tell. The concepts of liberal democracy and an open, non-sectarian, free society are beyond our reach. Hopefully, collectively we will need to start all over again with wisdom and deliberation to build the New Egypt. Saba E. Demian, M.D.
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Ahmed M Ibrahim
02-01-2014 11:51am
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Future of Society in Egypt
As long as the electorate is illiterate and ignorant, the sanctity of the elected is fully in doubt. Notwithstanding Huntington's diatribe, it has to be admitted that today the entire Islamic world is dictated by the rantings of the fanatic preachers, whose knowledge of Islam and the Holy Book is restricted to certain interpretations which are far from authentic and purely fabricated to suit the diatribe of the preachers. In these circumstances, Egypt should seek guidance from its own world renowned intellectual, Dr.Taha Hussain, whose "Future of Culture in Egypt" could be an eye opener to many. Fanaticism of the MB combine is not only the enemy of Egypt but the entire Arab Islamic world, as it does not qualify to represent Islam by any stretch of imagination. Freedom of anarchy as suggested by the learned author of this article is the root cause of all evil. Free thinking is not our cup of tea. Its permissiveness does not reflect the values of any civilized society whether Islamic or non-Islamic.
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George
01-01-2014 08:25pm
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Liberals in Egypt are whores of fascism
They are for tyranny, human rights violation, abscence of civil liberty, a pliant justice system used by the military as a rubber stamp. They are really fascist to the hilt. I think we have to admit that the MB is far more democratic than the liberals. I know this admission will embarrass many of us. But we have to behonest.
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wisemanager
30-12-2013 10:03am
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Political Islam
Sadly, Political Islam all too often ends up marginalising non Islamists which in turn leads to oppression and violation of human rights. Democracy will never work in a country divided upon itself
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