Friday, February 18, 2011

"Islamic Caliphate": NOT!

Dear friends,

I am no expert, but in my unexpert opinion, the "Brotherhood" is not going to take over Egypt, and neither is an "Islamic Caliphate."

Take conservative American talk-show host Glenn Beck, whose success as a pundit of outrage depends upon identifying and hyping the next threat to Western civilization. He sees in Egypt's revolution the invisible workings of an Islamic caliphate bent on ruling much of the Middle East. "When I say that there's a caliphate -- that it is a desire of the Islamic extremists in the Middle East -- that is not a conspiracy theory," he said on his talk show last Thursday. "They want a caliphate. Look it up ... []."

Why am I confident in my opinion? Because the women of Egypt will not tolerate a Caliphate.  Many do not wear Hijab. Many are professionals. Many are educated, and opinionated. Look at the pictures of Tahrir. Many of the activists were women. They, in my humble opinion, will not submit to a caliphate. More on this later.

Also, Glenn, I am not sure that there are enough communists and socialists in Egypt to warrant a mention. 

March 11, 2011

Okay, that last post was written on the basis of logic. Now, let's do some research. First of all, what is an Islamic Caliphate? Does that phrase even make any sense? To say Caliphate is to refer to the political religious state which lasted between 632 A.D and 1258 A.D. It is sort of like talking about the Holy Roman Empire. The caliphs held temporal, and some spiritual authority. 

After Muhammad passed away, the society he had built needed a new ruler. The word caliph is from the Arabic Kalifa, or successor. Abu Bakr  was selected by a group of elders of Medina. If you are a Christian,  would think of Abu Bakr the way you think of Saint Peter, the first pope. The first four Caliphs were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali. Their reign was considered the Golden Age of Pure Islam. They expanded the Islamic state into new regions, including Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, and Egypt. Raids were made into Persia and Armenia, as well as North Africa. 

See, the comparison to the Holy Roman Empire is becoming more obvious!Al Mutassim was considered the last Caliph, but he was defeated when the Mongols sacked Baghdad. 

Now, what exactly might Glenn Beck be driving at when he says that an Islamic Caliphate wants to take over the Middle East. I think he may be basically suggesting that an Iran type theocracy will become the dominant form of government in the region. This is fear-mongering, plain and simple. Ironically, it amuses me that Mubarak played the same game. As his government faced collapse, Mubarak warned ominously, "after me, the deluge," playing on the West's fears by suggesting that if he left, the only alternative would be radical Islam. Interestingly,  hawkish Likud former PM Netanyahu informed Mubarak in 2008, that Israel and Mubarak "face a common Islamist threat." [To my Egyptian Students, you KNOW I do not believe in conspiracy theories]. 

I think the real story here in Egypt, is that I predict we will see that Islam can be compatible to democracy, and that a state will emerge with a range of views, a range of religions, a range of parties. 



  1. Rigia, Great blog. One request: can you change it so that it's easier to see your earlier posts? I have to keep clicking "older post" at the bottom to see the earliest posts. Really interesting read. I'm glad you're ok. Sounds like a pretty incredible time over there.

  2. Hi Eric. Is that formatting better?

  3. Much easier to read the older posts. Thanks!


  4. I agree 100% on this post. When I went home, in Boston, during the middle of this Revolution I spoke on the local news station and informed the public that there are more options than the Brotherhood and it is not the most popular alternative. Also, in customs and immigration I was questioned heavily on this subject and told them not to worry about the Brotherhood. I doubt Egypt will ever be governed by the Brotherhood.

  5. So far, in this region democracy played in the hands of the Muslims leaders who were able differentiate between adaptive and technical problems and act accordingly (e.g. Justice and Development Party in Turkey).

    (This is a link to a neewsweek articel about current muslim government in Turkey. A strong example of adaptive leadership. I hope that Egypt can do better.)

  6. The Muslim Brotherhood have dominated the political landscape in Egypt,despite being a banned group, because the old regime wanted to project the idea that should they be ousted the only possible alternative would be the brotherhood. This dichotomy clearly formed a big part of the regime's survival strategy over the past 10 years because it ensured continued support from western countries and made many Egyptians frightened of the idea of a change which could lead to the unknown. Mubarak's regime and the Muslim brotherhood have one thing in common, they both need a disinterested and apathetic populace to be able to shine and they both need each other to survive because a big part of the brotherhood's popularity derived from the fact that they opposed the regime which most Egyptians despised. Now that the past is hopefully on its way out they will have to define themselves by what they are for rather than what they are against and judging by what I saw in Tahrir they will struggle to do that.

  7. @Jessica, V and Tawfik. Great work on these posts. Very interesting!

  8. I am not an expert either on MB but I don't understand why people connect them with the Caliphate model? what is the definition of a Caliphate governance model any way? I am sure in 2011 if a party wants to govern with the caliphate model they can never resurrect it in the way it was 1400 years ago (except if those ppl are Taliban undercover :-).