The Muslim Brotherhood are turning into Leninists in Islamist dress. Egypt is in real trouble

(Alan Johnson’s essays on the the dangers posed by the rise of Islamism are truly in a league of their own.  And, his most recent analysis, published on Nov. 5 at The Telegraph and excerpted below, is clearly no exception.  A.L.)

Hardliners are gaining the upper hand in Egypt

Paul Berman, the New York intellectual, is perhaps the most penetrating and imaginative essayist writing about Islamist movements and ideas alive today. In 2010 he published The Flight of the Intellectuals, a stylish account of the Muslim Brotherhood: the Islamist political movement founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna (known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen). According to Berman, the party was shaped decisively in both its ideology and organisational methods by mid-century European totalitarianism and was a politically hardened, ideologically driven and anti-Semitic movement. It was from this inconvenient truth that much of the western media and many public intellectuals were in flight.

When I praised Berman’s insights to a group of normally super-astute democracy promotion analysts in DC, to my surprise most took the view that Berman’s thesis was “crazy” and that the Muslim Brotherhood were really like the Christian Democracy in Europe; they had confessional roots, for sure, but were pragmatic folk and could be a force for “moderation”. I responded that the Brotherhood was exactly like the CDU – apart from its party structure, ideology, rhetoric, policy, and goals.

Back in 2010 ours was an academic argument. Well, not any more. The Brotherhood will dominate the region’s politics over the next decade. It is already regnant in Egypt, the most populous Arab country and the intellectual fulcrum of both the Arab and Muslim worlds, after sweeping to power earlier this year by winning the parliamentary and presidential elections, marginalising the secular democrats and knocking the military off their perch. In Tunisia the Brotherhood sits in government in the form of Rachid Ghannouchi’s Ennahda. The Justice and Construction Party (JCP) in Libya only won 17 of the 80 seats available for parties in the elections for Libya’s 200-strong national congress in July, but hopes to do better next time (the Brotherhood is very patient). The Syrian branch will be a force in any post-Assad regime (in the early 1980s the Syrian branch conducted an armed rebellion) and in Jordan it grows in strength. Hamas, of course, is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.


A sorry tale of intellectual apologists (A new book takes on the accused appeasers of Islamist terrorism)

US author Paul Berman

The disturbing, and increasing, phenomenon of rationalizations – or outright apologies – for radical Islam by Western intellectuals and journalists (a spectacle on display consistently at the Guardian) is dissected by Paul Berman in his new book, Flight of the Intellectuals.

From The Australian, August 28.

THERE is an almighty stoush brewing in the ranks of the intelligentsia in the US and Europe. It conjures up those heated polemics of the engaged intellectuals that Woody Allen mocks in Annie Hall when Alvy tells Robin, “I’m so tired of making fake insights with people who work for Dysentery.” “Commentary,” says Robin. “Oh really,” says Alvy. ” I heard that Commentary and Dissent had merged and formed Dysentery.”

In one corner are Christopher Hitchens and Melanie Phillips; in the other are Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash; and they are slugging it out in the pages of The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Spectator and The Guardian over first an essay and now a book by Paul Berman about, among other things, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Tariq Ramadan.

Of course, this is to some extent a fight among friends: Hitchens at least counts Buruma, Garton Ash and Hirsi Ali as such, but the criticism is no less impassioned for that — as one may expect since the topic is the moral cowardice of Western intellectuals in general, and Buruma and Garton Ash in particular, in response to the threat of Islamic terror.

When Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding in 1989 after a fatwa by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Western intellectuals rallied to his defence.

Yet when Hirsi Ali was forced into hiding in 2004 after her friend and artistic collaborator, film director Theo van Gogh, was murdered by an Islamist who pinned to the dead man’s chest a death threat to Hirsi Ali, support for her was qualified with condescension.

See rest of the essay, here.

Here’s a link to Paul Berman’s original essay in TNR about Ramadan, “Who’s Afraid of Tariq Ramadan”.