Friday, April 29, 2011

Thoughts on Liberty: Knowledge, the Great Liberator

It has taken some time for me to decide whether I should write down my thoughts on Liberty.  As a person who has prided themselves on being an avaricious reader, it comes to mind that writing any ideas on the subject may be moot as it has been written about so often and so many times before by authors of much greater intellect.  It requires some form of ego to imagine that anyone has anything better or greater to say on the subject.  On the other hand, I have found that the best method to obtain some kind of reasoning on my own part is to write ideas down.  I have also determined that the only manner to obtain a better understanding of events, ideas and perceived truths is to put it into the open and allow it to be challenged, even if those challenges cause me some unease or frankly disabuse me of an idea I might have perceived as my own infallible truth.  

We live in extraordinary times.  Knowledge, the great liberator, is only a keystroke away.  That knowledge has led to real acts of liberation around the globe.  At the same time, liberty is under attack.  Nations long ruled by dictators attempt to turn it off and suppress knowledge.  Fanatics expressing decidedly illiberal ideas and oppressive ideologies are rampant.  The only saving grace of their liberal use of the great liberator called the internet is that society may now examine their ideas up close and compare them to their own ideas.  That is not to say that these ideas are all discarded.

It must be noted that, even as many embrace the liberty of knowledge, too many are still influenced towards ideas that are full of bigotry and fear.  That cannot be unexpected.  Historically, every time knowledge exerts it's power to liberate, great swaths of society seem to instantly withdraw into a more conservative and less free conglomeration.  Even those who would dub themselves "liberal" are easily persuaded into an almost fanatical rejection of ideas that challenge the thinking of the group.  In both cases of the so called liberals and conservatives, it is often militant rejection.   In many instances, regardless of who professes to be the guardians of liberty, they often express oppressive ideas.  

The hardening of these positions seems all the more wretched when viewed against the great back drop of the liberation of knowledge. 

What must be feared most is that history suggests, whenever the liberation of knowledge pushes forward, there is almost always some form of regression into both ignorance and fanatical superstition.  Most often this has been brought about by two catastrophes: the end of security by a large armed society enforcing some form of order and the destruction of technology.  This typically leads to the suppression of knowledge and the institution of religious dogma as the governing force of society instead of the natural laws of association.  

The institution of religion cannot be confused with faith and spirituality.  Religion demands strict adherence to rules and dogma, requiring abeyance to a hierarchy of leaders selected from among a few as the chosen representatives of whatever gods or God that may be presented.  Religion insists that there is a knowledge of greater power that can only be obtained through the abeyance to the chosen hierarchy and clinging to the institutions and rituals.  Faith and spirituality must insist that no one can know All things, but that there is a higher reason for existence.  To seek out this reason is the highest form of faith. 

Religion stifles, while faith pushes for self examination and the search for truth without the insistence that everyone else must believe religious dogma or be labeled a heretic.  Sometimes religion masquerades as political ideas and political ideas masquerade as religion.  In either case, neither can accept or sustain any form of inquiry because they would both be found fallible being shaped as they are by men who are anything but perfect.  

What must be considered the most egregious are those who claim to know God's will and believe it is their right and duty to enforce these ideas upon others with penalties for failure to adhere to the ritual and dogma, most often presented as blasphemy and heresy, those penalties ranging from ostracizing to prison to even death.  Those who claim to be the arbiters of God's will are the heretics and blasphemers because they have placed the All Mighty at the service of some men when He is the All Knowing and All Powerful over all men and nature, things seen and unseen.  Whatever He wills, will be and it has never required the active participation of men to make it so.  Whenever men suppose that it does require their action it is only the stretch of ego assuming they have been given a mission and a power far beyond their place in nature, not the will of God.

For those who do not see the All Mighty in nature or mankind, but instead see nothing but the force of Nature itself, then they must also know that Nature is infinite in it's design.  Whatever we may discover about it or whatever we may harness for the use of mankind is but a grain of sand compared to the intricate, various and yet practical design of Nature.  

What we can determine as truth is that God and Nature have given men the ability to think, to learn and to reason.  Not all men possess the same skills or have used this gift to their advantage, but it still exists.  The thinking mind, one that demands inquiry and searches for answers, is not the creation of some evil force, but of Nature itself.  If it was not meant for the purpose of inquiry and obtaining knowledge, then mankind would have been given the brain and instincts of an ant that only knows that it must collect sustenance, seek protection within the colony and service the queen in order to reproduce

Instead, for thousands of years, from the most primitive times until this moment and into the future, man has used his powers of reason and his intellect for inquiry.  He has used this ability to harness the basic provisions of nature to provide food, shelter and clothing among the least of things as well as medicine, language, writing and mechanics to improve upon his existence and society.  He has used it to seek knowledge of the universe, of God and of Nature in all of their vastness.  If this was not the will of God or the design of Nature then it would not exist.  .  

From that we can suppose that any inquiry and subsequent knowledge that leads to challenging religious, political and even social dogmas is the will of God and design of Nature.  All of that can be surmised to mean that to do so is the purpose of knowledge and meant to improve upon mankind's existence, making man closer to God and Nature, not further away.  Those who resist inquiry and knowledge are not doing the will of God or acting in Nature, but are resisting only their own loss of power over some part of society by their control of religious institutions and its governance of a population.  When instead, doing the will of God or following the design of Nature would be to foster inquiry and propagate knowledge among the faithful so that they may fulfill their reason for existence.

It is unfortunate that after thousands of years of existence and the great leaps in technology that expands the power of inquiry and provides an infinite library of knowledge that mankind must again assert his right to free inquiry and freedom of conscience.  Yet, man is forced to acknowledge that religious and political dogma still exists insisting that all that was worth knowing was written and established long before and any inquiry beyond that or demand for the liberating power of knowledge is heresy, evil and treason.  

Therefore, it is up to mankind to resist being pulled back into the darkness of ignorance and superstition.  To insist that it is in fact the will of God and the design of Nature to pursue knowledge and make inquiries into all ideas and sectors of life.  No idea must be considered too sacred to be challenged or too necessary to the common good of any part of society to resist it.  The obtaining of knowledge and its service to mankind is the Great Liberator.  Where God and Nature have created the rational mind and given the gift of knowledge, the Great Liberator, then Liberty itself must be the will of God and the design of Nature.

To deny knowledge and liberty is it's own form of heresy.  

If tomorrow security fails and technology falls bringing about the next lengthy decline into darkness and superstition, we may take comfort in knowing that God and Nature, in their infinite wisdom, have provided mankind with the power to once again raise a torch and the light the way.  That torch is man's rational mind and undying thirst for inquiry that leads, once again, to seeking knowledge, The Great Liberator.

John Stuart Mills: Tyranny of Majorities and Society

John Stuart Mills - On Liberty

Apart from the peculiar tenets of individual thinkers, there is also in the world at large an increasing inclination to stretch unduly the powers of society over the individual, both by the force of opinion and even by that of legislation: and as the tendency of all the changes taking place in the world is to strengthen society, and diminish the power of the individual, this encroachment is not one of the evils which tend spontaneously to disappear, but, on the contrary, to grow more and more formidable. The disposition of mankind, whether as rulers or as fellow-citizens to impose their own opinions and inclinations as a rule of conduct on others, is so energetically supported by some of the best and by some of the worst feelings incident to human nature, that it is hardly ever kept under restraint by anything but want of power; and as the power is not declining, but growing, unless a strong barrier of moral conviction can be raised against the mischief, we must expect, in the present circumstances of the world, to see it increase.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fight of the Century: Keynes v. Hayak on Controlled or Free Markets

via Instapundit

From Econostories, a great music video on the Fight of the Century: Keynes v. Hayak - Controlled Economics v. Free Market

President Obama, United States Foreign Policy, Current Events: In Search of Princpled Policy

This article was titled:

How the Arab Spring remade Obama’s foreign policy

It should have been titled "How World Events Make You Spin on Your Head and Do Incomprehensible and Contradictory Things When You Lack Defining Principles".

This spring, Obama officials often expressed impatience with questions about theory or about the elusive quest for an Obama doctrine. One senior Administration official reminded me what the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said when asked what was likely to set the course of his government: “Events, dear boy, events.”

Obama has emphasized bureaucratic efficiency over ideology, and approached foreign policy as if it were case law, deciding his response to every threat or crisis on its own merits. “When you start applying blanket policies on the complexities of the current world situation, you’re going to get yourself into trouble,” he said in a recent interview with NBC News.
The appropriate response to that is when you do not have a set of principles to guide your policies, you are going to get yourself into trouble.  Principles do not make "blanket policies".  Principles are the foundation on which good policy is made.  "Events" may require policy reviews, but principles, not ideologies, invariably lead to the right policies. 

Read the entire article.  It is a tour de force of what happens to an administration and, thus, the United States, when policy is based on being determined "to break free of the old ideologies and categories" (ie, hope and change) instead of principles. President Obama, thus, the United States, is being pushed and swayed by the various events, being forced to react to every event instead of doing what he believes he is doing, threading a course for stability and strength.  Those who know history and complimentary foreign policy know that when you are forced to react to every changing event you are the weak link and "you’re going to get yourself into trouble".

Right policies are founded on good principles.  What are the principles that have historically led to "right policy" in the United States?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Middle East Revolutions:Technology Trumps Tyrants

This is a video of protests in Damascus, Syria.  The lights are cell phones.

Egypt Terrorism Watch: The Salafi Dynamite in Egypt's Pocket (Gaza)

As Egypt meets with a Hamas delegation from Gaza, Fatah al Islam and various Salafi Islamist adherents are challenging Hamas rule in the tiny sand pit of misery (video).  

The Salafi movement and Hamas have had several collisions in the last four years 

If the claim is true, Fatah al-Islam joins a long list of radical Islamist groups that have popped up in the Gaza Strip in recent years. They include Hizb al-Tahrir (Party of Liberation), Fatah al-Yasser, Qaida al-Islam, Army of Islam, Suyuf al-Haq (Swords of Justice) and the Nasser Eddin Brigades.

This report outlines the different groups and their history in Gaza.

The jihadist firebrands, who probably number only a few hundred, are divided between three main groups ideologically aligned with al-Qaida -- Jaish al-Islam, or Army of Islam; Tawhid wa'al-Jihad, or Monotheism and Holy War; and Jaish al-Umma, or Army of the Nation.

"Their ranks may be modest in number but their capacity to shape events inside Gaza and beyond is clearly on the rise," the Financial Times observed following the slaying of Arrigoni.

Jihadist groups emerged in Gaza after Israel's unilateral withdrawal in September 2005. They expanded during the subsequent fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas' cease-fire with Israel following the invasion of Gaza by 12,000 Israeli troops in late December 2008 in a 22-day invasion that killed some 1,400 Palestinians, mainly civilians, has incensed the jihadists, as has Hamas' efforts to break out of its international isolation.

As the report adds, as Hamas is unable to provide basic government services or get any recognition from the international community, more and more young people are turning towards the Salafi groups.  

What gives the growing jihadist presence even greater menace is that many recruits are former members of Hamas who say Hamas has betrayed its origins and abandoned the war against Israel.

The jihadists are believed to be responsible for many of the recent rocket and mortar attacks on Israel that have raised tensions to 2008 levels.

Ratcheting up tensions with Israel and possibly dragging Egypt into a conflict it is in no position to act on.  Plus, there is the possible reciprocation of jihadist activity in Egypt. 

Cairo claimed in January, before the pro-democracy uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, that Jaish al-Islam was responsible for a Jan. 1 suicide bombing of a church near Alexandria that killed 21 Christians and wounded 100 others.

The Army of Islam denied that. But a senior Israeli official alleged in December that hundreds of militants, mainly from Yemen and including some trained by al-Qaida, have infiltrated Gaza from Egypt through smuggling tunnels under the border.
Radicalization in Palestinian areas and refugee camps has been on the rise with Fatah al Islam battling it out with the Lebanese Army in 2006.  There is suspected collusion between Al Qaeda and Fatah al Islam as well as Syria and Fatah al Islam.  Syria, who in turn, is a client state of Iran.

How often does Iran, a Shia majority theocracy, get mentioned in relationship with Sunni Salafi terrorist groups?  Too often.

Iran is not a friend to Egypt.  It does not want Egypt to be a potential rival power.  Iran would like Egypt to be one of the Emirates in their version of the revived Abbasid Caliphate

Middle East Revolutions: GCC Negotiating Deal for Saleh in Yemen To Step Down - analysis

Saleh Stepping Down in Yemen, with Immunity

April 25, 2011
by John F Moore
It is indeed true that the Yemeni people are denied some justice by this plan, but politics is, as they say, the art of the possible, and it should have been clear to all that Saleh would not leave willingly without immunity. Riding off into the sunset?

This is another development in a kind of crisis-behind-the-crisis: if leaders are subject to ill-treatment on their downfall, will their neighbors take notice and hold on to power with all their might? Saleh has seen Hosni Mubarak thrown in jail (again, justly) in recent days, and surely wishes to avoid a similar fate. The bloody crackdowns in Syria are the efforts of another tyrant to keep himself in power and out of the slammer. The Saleh deal is thus a positive step, in that it shows other troubled rulers that golden parachutes are available. However, it has a downside–the masses are still energized against the regime, because their demands have not been met. Will the elections sate them if they end up empowering a Saleh ally? Will the opposition parties be able to outmaneuver their uncompromising bases and enter the legal political game? If both of these questions are answered with a “no,” then Yemen runs a serious risk of civil war.
There is considerable questions as to whether this deal will actually go through.  The "protesters" are insistent that Saleh go now and go all the way along with any remains of the regime.  There is also the issue of the military which Moore suggests will not result in a military coup because the military is split. 
Jane Novak at Armies of Liberation has the report from BBC that Saleh refuses the deal saying that he will "not be subject to minorities", suggesting that the protesters do not represent a majority of Yemenis.  Her analysis of the situation is here.
Yemen is already suffering from “a security vacuum” and political and economic paralysis. Thirty days from now, the economic, political and security landscape is going to be much more bleak, with a level of damage that is nearly irrecoverable in the mid-term. The western consensus is that the protesters demands are immature and unrealistic, but they have it right. Saleh has to go immediately and be brought to trial for his many crimes. The requirement for a perfect transition plan prior to the executive’s departure was not applied in Egypt or Tunisia or contemplated in Libya and, like a war plan, won’t survive first contact with reality. The issue here is damage control. But any future state that is built on the crimes of the past will contain inherent triggers of conflict.

Middle East Revolutions: Iran's Proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon Foreing Minister Demands UN Representative Refuse UN Statement on Syria

Caretaker Foreign Minister Ali Shami called on Lebanon's ambassador to the United Nations Nawwaf Salam to reject the Security Council's expected draft statement on the developments on Syria.  The U.N. will discuss Syria later Tuesday.

Lebanon, Syria, Libya & Hizballah- Abu Muquwama at CNS

Boy, I would love to hear Hassan Nasrallah give some morally sanctimonious speech in which he explains why Gadhafi must be driven from office but that conspiracies against Bashar al-Asad are a Anglo-Zionist plot. And I suspect I am going to get that opportunity.

Lebanon (controlled by Hezbollah/Hizballah) had the rotating seat on the Security Council and used it to vote to get a no fly zone, condemn Gadhafi and make a statement that Gadhafi must go.  Now they aren't as interested in seeing the same for Assad.  Hmmmm...Goose meet Gander.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Egypt and Democracy: Future Relations with United States

Egypt in the Middle of Arab Cold War:

Domestic and foreign policy are related in another way. As Egypt’s leaders struggle to deliver on economic and political reform, the temptation to grandstand on foreign policy only grows. International relations scholars call this the “diversionary theory of international conflict”—the notion that foreign conflict is initiated to divert attention from mounting problems at home. Young democracies, newly confident and eager to distance themselves from their predecessors, are particularly susceptible.

But as much as Egypt wishes to chart a new course on foreign policy, it is still bound by old constraints. Egypt remains vulnerable during a difficult phase of transition. It can afford to irritate its Western allies—but within limits. The U.S. and the European Union, as Egypt’s most important donors, will play a critical role in supporting the country’s economic and political revitalization. One obvious red line is the peace treaty with Israel. 

How can Egypt be both independent, serve the region and remain an ally with the US?  The writer suggests Qatar as the model:

Somehow, for instance, Qatar has figured out a way to both host the world’s largest pre-positioning U.S. military base and hold joint training exercises with Iranian frontier guards. And somehow, it’s worked—pushing the tiny gas-rich emirate into the ranks of the region’s most influential nations.

Libya and Syria Still on Fire with Iran in the Background

Misurata, Libya Monday, April 25, 2011 - Rebels believed to be on brink of crushing victory.  Libya's army seems to be made up of foreigners, children and whatever riff-raff or desperadoes are willing to trade their lives for what is becoming, literally, blood money (here if you tube won't load).

Check the Egyptian Chronicles for multiple videos from Syria including artillery and tanks being moved in to Daraa.  Reports official for 25 dead, but other reports suggesting that the number of dead are greater, they just can't be picked up off the street due to sniper fire.  Fog of War.

On Syria and Iran:

For Iran, its ties with Syria represent far more than just a rare friend in a region dominated by Arab suspicions of Tehran's aims. Syria is Iran's great enabler: a conduit for aid to powerful anti-Israel proxies Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Should Assad's regime fall, it could rob Iran of a loyal Arab partner in a region profoundly realigned by uprisings demanding more freedom and democracy.
"Iran and Syria represent the anti-US axis in the region. In that respect, Iran wants to ensure that Syria remains an ally," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at The Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. "The problem is that Iran's foreign policy has become quite inconsistent."
In the meantime, Iran is under another cyber attack and they are not nearly as good as the Chinese or the US at managing those attacks.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Free Speech: Terry Jones Jailed For "Peace and Security of Community"

Free Speech For ME But Not for THEE!
Terry Jones spent one hour in jail for refusing to pay a $1 fine.  He was charged with disturbing the peace.  What did the public prosecutor argue?

The public prosecutor argued that the protest had nothing to do with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and at stake were security and peace in the community.

 The judge fined each of the pastors involved a "symbolic" $1.  The amount doesn't really matter.  While the judge may have determined that this was the best way to signal he did not want to stifle free speech, any ruling against it on the grounds argued by the prosecutor suggests that free speech is, in fact, harmful, similar to some other act like destruction of property or assault. 

United States Foreign Policy: On Libya, Liberty and the Flight From Leadership

In a response to a post and commentary at Castle Argghhh! on the current efforts in Libya. 

Part of post in question:

It no longer matters how we got here. We intervened, and that changed everything.

By attacking armored columns with the “No Fly Zone” aircraft, we ensured the survival of the poorly-equipped-and-untrained rebellion in Libya against the much-better-armed-and-trained loyalist forces. That’s the world we live in, and those are the conditions we must deal with.

Whether or not the US, and to a lesser extent NATO, could have gotten the same in terms of strategic interests by doing nothing, by buying off or threatening Kaddafi, whether this was of a high enough order of national interest to do when balanced against the risks/means available/stratcomm incoherence is no longer the question. It has become “What do we do with the new conditions?
 To which John only added:

My closing thoughts - I'll reiterate one of my philosophical problems with US military power (stated from the perspective of a practitioner of same) - the danger of making it too easy to kill people, means you are too likely to kill people. If it isn't worth dying for, it isn't worth killing for. The point is not that I object to making war less lethal to the people we put in harm's way, or even more lethal to the target of our war making, it's that making it safer for us to kill has made us more likely to kill. Our doctrinal and policy analysis and frankly, fundamental ethics on the issue aren't anywhere near as advanced and refined as our technical ability.
 My response follows:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Freedom and the Fruits of Labor

"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, 1816

Egypt and Democracy: Economics - Setting a Minimum Wage

During a short conversation on twitter, a debate occurred over the viability of setting a minimum wage in Egypt.  It is commonly understood that 43% of Egypt survives on $2/day.  Most of these are what is also commonly referred to as "day labor" wage earners.  In short, laborers who pick up work on a daily basis instead of being full time employees of a company or have even short to mid-term contracts for stable employment.  

At the same time, 23% of Egypt's workers belong to some form of union or syndicate that proposes to work for members' rights.  These have, in the past, been subject to government interference that included almost arbitrary acts of either minimal appeasement of demands or outright strike busting, either through police action or by government interaction/threats/co-opting union leadership.

Around 2% of Egypt's citizens/employed are either wealthy businessmen/land holders/investors or related top managers of firms.  Many of whom have had close relations with the last NDP regime or were basically co-oped by government due to it's high regulation, corruption, nepotism and various other problems that required some form of collusion in order to simply do business in Egypt.

Then there is an official 9.7% (appx) that are "unemployed" though this number could include those who work within the informal "day labor" sector having exhausted all other attempts at regular employment and, consequently, can be a higher or lower percentage during any economic drive or slump without registering any officially recognized radical change of "unemployment". With a 43% day laborer employment sector in a down turned economy, the real unemployment rate is likely closer to 18-20%.  This leaves a regularly employed, non-union employment sector between 17 and 22% of the employable population (43mil employment age means 7-10 million).

An interesting aspect of the revolution is the convergence of the middle class, educated revolutionaries with the very large underclass to bring down the regime.  Many of the underclass were called down into the streets with shouts about the cost of bread (and cucumbers, tomatoes, etc) and wages.  This isn't unusual for most historical revolutions. Economics, where there is a rising middle class who are eager for political participation and a still majority working poor underclass, have played a role in almost every revolution.  The issue that faces each of these revolutions is how to funnel that energy into both political and economic reforms that serve both of these factions' demands while not decimating the capital/growth sector.

One of the issues currently being discussed, in some cases as if it was THE economic plan, is the setting or raising of a minimum wage.  The current figure discussed is $1200LE (Egyptian pounds)/month.  At the current rate of exchange that is approximately $200 US, $6/day or three times the current average wage of 43% of population.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Middle East Revolutions: Massacre in Latikye, Syria April 19

Reported video of deadly shooting of peaceful protesters, Latikye, Syria, 19 April, 2011:

Michael Ledeen reports:

The Syrian killers probably thought nobody would be able to get it on video at night.  But they were wrong.  An amateur videographer was filming the demonstration, and was just about to go down to the street and join in, when the gunshots broke out.  A young girl behind him started to scream, he pushed her down…

Egypt and Democracy: More on Women's Rights - Freedom of/from the Hijab

An excellent blog post on the right's of women to wear the hijab or not to wear the hijab.

The struggle of the veiled Muslim woman in Europe has reached the hearts and minds of Muslims all over the world, including mine. Her struggle is their struggle. A woman has the right to choose, we all shout. Muslim women do not wear the headscarf/face veil out of oppression, we explain. In so many cases, they wear it as a matter of choice.

A woman, we shout, has the right to choose.

But do we Muslims really believe this or do we use this argument when it suits us?
Do women in Muslim countries – or for that matter do women living in Islamic communities all over the United States and Europe – truly have the right to choose? Does a woman truly have freedom of choice if the societal impacts of that choice have the potential to devastate the very core of her existence?

Nadia el Awady goes on to talk about the social and familial pressures that go on when women choose to "doff the hijab".

These women are immediately analyzed to their faces and behind their backs. Their original reasons for wearing the hijab were the wrong reasons. Her faith is weak. She has been moving in circles of friends who have tainted her soul. She has no proper understanding of the Islamic faith. She has opened too many doors to the devil and this is the result. The list goes on and on. And the snobby advice does as well. We’ll pray for you, dear sister. Remember to keep up your five daily prayers. That will save you. Be careful because you have started down the slippery slope to hell. We will pray to God to protect you and give you guidance.
 Read the rest here.

Also, the Sharia Glass Ceiling

Egypt and Democracy: Women's Rights in a Democratic Egypt and the Sharia Glass Ceiling

Valantina Cattane wrote in Egypt's Al Masry Al Youm about the struggle for women's equality in the new democratic Egypt: Path to Women's Equality Passes Through Constitution.  

The 1971 Egyptian Constitution, currently suspended, includes articles that ostensibly ensure equality and outlaw discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin, language, religion or belief. But according to Egyptian gender experts, the situation is far more complicated -- and discriminatory -- than a quick reading of the old constitution suggests.

And if women’s rights are to be guaranteed in post-Mubarak Egypt, the new version, written by a committee selected by the parliament elected in September 2011, will require substantial changes on laws regulating gender.

She points out that Article II of the 1971 Constitution was included as part of the amendments for referendum on March 19.  Article II is the section of the Constitution that states that Islam is the state religion and that Sharia law is the basis of law in Egypt.   Article II was also the contentious section that had various Imams in mosques across Egypt calling on their congregations to go out and vote on the grounds that a "no" on the referendum would vacate this article and endanger Islam and Sharia in Egypt.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Middle East Revolutions: Iran's proxy Hezbollah Supports Assad and Threatens Lebanon "Security"

Michael Ledeen and Michael Totten have done excellent jobs in outlining the various connections between Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.  Michael Totten's new book, Fatima Gate, is an expose on Hezbollah in Lebanon and the counter-revolution that thwarted Lebanon's Cedar Revolution.  Even as the Syrian's were forced to pull back, they provided material and monetary support to their co-tyrants in Hezbollah to take effective control of the country.  This is effectively Iran's "covert" war (if it can be called that) against Israel.  

Monday, Hezbollah issued a statement of unwavering support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and basically threatened what little "security" and peace Lebanon can claim:

"Today, we stand yet again by our sister Syria ... and by Syria's leaders who have refused to give into pressure or ... to conspire against the resistance," said Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Moussawi, in reference to the Shiite militant group.

"We are certain Syria will overcome this passing phase," he added.  "There is no stability in Lebanon without stability in Syria, no security in Lebanon without security in Syria."
Moussawi was basically echoing the Syrian Ambassador who had already threatened that:
any harm done to Syria will also harm Lebanon with the same magnitude or even more"
Lately, all of the "old revolutionaries", who have been in positions of power now for the last thirty or forty years, have all been claiming to be protecting the revolution from counter revolution.  Refusing to accept that, once the revolutionaries have taken effective control of the reins of power and institutions of government, they are no longer the revolutionaries.  They are the establishment:

Moussawi's spoke at a press conference entitled "In solidarity with Syria against the American-Zionist-Western plot to undermine its national, pan-Arab and resistance role," attended by pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians of all faiths.
There are two main themes going on here.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

United States Foreign Policy: Increasingly Out of Step

You can barely see it in the popular press, but the global insurrection is going great guns, despite the fecklessness of the so-called Western world.  And it’s going great guns in our enemies’ countries, not just in those of our (at least erstwhile) friends.

In Syria, for example, the anti-Assad demonstrations are getting bigger and are explicitly calling for regime change.  In Iran, there are ongoing strikes, violent anti-regime demonstrations in the oil regions in the west, adjoining Iraq (think Basra), and continued sabotage of the country’s gas pipelines.

He goes on to list out the many ways that people inside these countries are resisting.  Then there is this gem:

So what does our government do, when faced with a splendid opportunity to advance the cause of freedom, strike a blow at the world’s leading supporter of terrorism, and perhaps even convince waverers around the world that American support is worth something after all?
We tell the Syrian opposition to take a hike, that’s what.  As Eli Lake tells us,
The Obama administration has turned down a plea from Syria’s democratic opposition to step up diplomatic pressure on President Bashar Assad, who has violently repressed peaceful anti-government protests
Please read that again and notice that the Obama administration turned down a plea for DIPLOMATIC pressure on poor Assad.
There is a serious problem with our foreign policy.  It is completely out of step with current events and, for some reason, refuses to acknowledge that all of the aspirations of the United States for the spread of freedom and democracy are continuing to be met.  There is an ideological war being fought.  Not just outside the borders of the United States or within Islam, but within the State Department and various other departments and institutions responsible for advising and designing US foreign policy.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Mid-East Revolutions, the Internet and Greek Mythology: God Killers

I've been contemplating the on going debate about the power of the internet in organizing and supporting revolutions.  Any number of people suggest that the power of social media is over stated.  That, even without it or with minimal access, revolutions still manage to organize and that a revolution on the internet must follow the dictates set out by Mao in "On Guerrilla War": in short, they must eventually organize and go into the street.  

While this is true, my own thoughts suggested that, regardless of this fact, without the internet and the speedy flow of information into once repressed environments, modern revolutions would not have occurred.  Not at the speed that they were able to destabilize and reduce existing regimes. 

The debate over that power rages on.  Watching a recent panel at the Middle East Institute, Courtney Radsch insisted (paraphrasing) that the amount of internet penetration could not be evaluated without noting the penetration of cellular phones.  In essence, modern communication makes revolutions in repressive states more than possible, it makes it inevitable.  That pressing "like" isn't just a risk averse manner of participating as Gladwell insists, incapable of translating to the risk necessary to counter the power of real force, but can act as a social power of its own.  

Her counter on the panel took Gladwell's position, insisting that the internet was only a tool and that the real organization necessary for a revolution took place on the streets, in the Mosque and among existing or created organizations.  The debate was interesting, but the two points seemed to be missing the point.  Even Gladwell, writing for a magazine who posted his thoughts on their "e-mag" website, ironically, missed the point.

It wasn't social media, blogs, facbook or twitter, that presaged revolution.  It was the internet period, regardless of the app.  The internet itself is one giant "killer app", a "God Killer" that only myth and legend dared to suggest would come to exist.  Well, only myths and legends if you discount Nietzsche.  

Two Greek myth's portend the power of the internet.  In one myth, Zeus, who has just deposed his father Kronos, is given the same prophecy that had prompted Kronos to eat his own children.  One day a child of Zeus and Metis would depose Zeus and destroy the gods.  Metis was pregnant with Zeus' child.  Taking this prophecy seriously, Zeus swallows pregnant Metis.  Years later, suffering from a horrible headache, Zeus calls for Hephaestus to bring his hammer and open Zeus' head.  Zeus' head splits open and out pops Athena, goddess of wisdom, fully armed and full grown.

Through out Greek mythology, Zeus is constantly on the look out and battling other gods who he deems are threatening his position on the throne of Olympus, who may carry out the old prophesy.  In the meantime, Athena remains one of his favorites.  He gives her his aegis or shield with the head of Medusa as it's insignia.  She takes as her own symbol the "wise old owl" and she gives to man kind various gifts, including the olive tree.  

Athena is the closest thing to a favored child of Zeus.  The entire time, Zeus is nurturing his own destruction and the destruction of the gods at his bosom.  It is not Ares, the god of War, nor Apollo, the shining one, not Artemis nor Aphrodite.  Not even Poseidon or Hades, two of Zeus' brothers who seem constantly jealous of his position.  Even Hera, who in retrospect in attempting to belay Zeus' continuing liaisons producing offspring, is attempting to maintain the status of the gods and Olympus by forestalling the prophesy.

It is wise and thoughtful Athena, the goddess of Wisdom, the daughter of Metis/knowledge, who will eventually destroy the gods because it is the proliferation of knowledge and wisdom that makes the gods obsolete.  When men understood what made the rains come, the rivers flow, the earth to turn, the sun to rise and the moon to shine; when he understood the passions that ruled man, created machines and built structures that would serve generations and could write down his own words that would be passed down through all the ages, man would no longer require the gods

The story of Prometheus, who steals the fire of the gods and gives it to man kind is a similar story. At the end, however, Prometheus is punished by being chained to a rock where a giant eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back and start all over again.  Of course, the punishment is too late.  The cat, as they say, was out of the bag.  The fire of the gods was not just the power of warmth, but of light even in the darkest places.  It meant that mankind no longer had to cower in the night from whatever evils lurked.  With the power of fire, mankind could create new and powerful tools that could rival the power of the gods.

These are essentially prophecies foretelling the power of the internet, the power of knowledge and information to destroy modern day "gods".  Zeus never really suspected Athena, goddess of Wisdom, would be his down fall.  Largely because she was not stingy with her power, but gave her wise advice freely to gods and mankind alike.  Like Zeus, modern rulers of even repressive states are forced to embrace the tool, the weapon that will eventually destroy them, because it is the device by which the "gods", rulers of nations, must now conduct their business and organize the power of their growing states.  

However, like Athena, the internet is not stingy with it's power or wisdom, providing it to "gods" and the common man alike.  Whoever seeks wisdom and knowledge can easily find it on the net.  It is the modern day Agora, the Greek Forum, where all ideas are weighed and debated.  Wherever rulers attempt to control this information, users find a new way to obtain it.  Work arounds, dial ups, satellites and mobile devices that keep the flow of information moving in and out of even the most repressive regimes.  

What Greek idea most often wins the debate?  Democracy, literally people's government.  The internet, the super highway of information, has become the God Killer of modern times.

It does not even have to reach every human to provide this power.  However few are exposed in one area carries that knowledge and power out to the rest.  That is the real power of the internet, itself a "killer app".  Promethues' fire, lighting even the darkest corners of the world.  It is freedom writ large, the torch of liberty as never conceived.  

Like Prometheus, there is a tale of caution for those who have provided this killer app to the world: no good deed goes unpunished.  Information necessarily flows both ways.  Whatever power, whatever flow of information goes out of the United States and the "west", something will return to cause it continuous torment.  

The internet has broken the borders of ideas.  That means that even bad ideas can return in the form of individuals such as those who become "self-radicalized" and commit or attempt to commit terrorism in the name of an ideology that is no longer confined to the nether lands of remote nations.  Such ideas cannot be contained any more than the "fire" of freedom and democracy.  Fortunately, the Greek ideas of democracy and god killing remain the dominant idea in the agora.   The first gods to go will be those who refuse to share their power and attempt to control Athena, goddess of knowledge and wisdom, the flow of information.

Still, there is a warning for those gods, the creators and distributors of the fire and wisdom of the internet, Athena's intellectual children and would be Prometheus: go with the flow or become a victim of the God Killer

There is reason to hope the political dynamics in developing countries have changed such that hundreds of millions will now find they can push against an open door into political emancipation. However, the story need not end there. Better communication technology might just help those of us in the West who think that we, too, could use some relief from the dead hand of the state.

 Tax collection is set to become more difficult, as business oozes across traditional national and sub-national borders. Traditional borders evolved long ago in such a way that a government could monopolize almost the entirety of a person’s life within them, but communication technology is expanding each of our commercial spheres beyond them. And so we see a location-based bookstore (Borders) going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy while Amazon expands into more and more product lines....

The same applies to income taxes when work is atomized in the ways described above. Therefore, we see an inexorable decline in business taxes across the world and high-taxed welfare states in Western Europe unconvincingly moralizing about the “tax havens” as their revenues slowly seep away. Communication technology is changing the game in favour of individual liberty by spreading our commercial lives beyond the pens that governments drew for us in more technologically stable times.

The events in North Africa and the Middle East are complex in their causes. Nevertheless, one condition necessary for their occurrence is the proliferation of ever cheaper electronic communication and the dispersive, ungovernable networks they create. The rise of these networks has a neat physical explanation that applies just as much in the West as it has there. If I am right, then the effect of this great decentralization will be a great force for liberty here as it has been “over there.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Spectre Haunting Egypt: Counter-Revolution

Several weeks ago, SCAF made an announcement that it was enacting curfew rules and banning protests in order to protect Egypt's revolution from a counter-revolution.  From that moment on, every Egyptian is looking for these invisible forces of counter revolution.  Every act of every individual or group is a threat.  Egyptians are running from one situation to the next to counter the counter revolution and with every new march, every crazy idea that floats through the air, they are losing their way.

A relative calm had come over Egypt, even as small protests continued.  The referendum had passed and parties were gearing up to participate as quickly as possible, but even the relatively quick pace for elections in September and presidential elections come November, the pace is not fast enough to set Egypt back on the path to relative stability.  

The people still want Mubarek's head on a platter, figuratively or literally, whatever way they can get it.  They want all of his cronies standing in the docket/gallows with him.  SCAF, even with a facebook page, is not very transparent.  They are stuck in a hard place, trying to run a country where the only people who have been running it or have the experience to manage day to day workings of the structure are either NDP or have NDP relations.  The appearance of which makes every Egyptian believe that the old regime is still in place.  Largely because it is to an extent that any technocrat with any knowledge remains at the controls.  No Egyptian accepts that there are not others that could or should be running these bureaus.  

Second, SCAF is simply not able to control every aspect of the situation.  They can barely control their own forces who have apparently not imbibed the idea that being "one hand" with the public means not using physical force against every citizen under every circumstances.  

Friday, the Jacobin wing of the revolution, angry at the laws forbidding protests that they consider now to be the epitome of their first amendment rights and angry that sixty days later Mubarek et al remains at large, went into the square and held a mock trial of Mubarek.  In the mean time, seven army officers that the media was portraying as "former" (retired? every male in Egypt is required to join accept under waiver).  went on youtube and proclaimed they had every intention of joining the revolutionaries in Tahrir.  They demanded that Tantawi step down, the regime members be put on trial and a civilian council take it's place.

Their appearance in Tahrir was all the rage and the protesters were determined to protect them.  Through out the day, with close to or above 100,000 in the square, the army stayed back.  That night the mutinying officers remained in the square, asking for protection by the protesters.  They were placed in a tent and surrounded by people.  As curfew arrived and the crowds thinned, the military police waded in ostensibly to disperse the crowds.  

Chaos ensued.  Protesters attempted to resist the MP's from coming in.  The MP's used billy clubs and fists to respond.  More protesters rushed forward.  The MP's opened fire.  It appears most of the shooting was in the air.  However, at least two were shot dead and several others were wounded by gun fire.  Most of the other injuries appear to be contusions, abrasions and broken bones.  Several of the protesting officers at the square were arrested.  One may have been killed at the site with doctor's at the local morgue reporting at least one "soldier" dead, possibly two.

The military issued a statement saying that they did not attack the protesters first, that they only shot into the air to disperse crowds and that the army was using rubber bullets.  Later, two groups of men were seen entering Tahrir with machine guns, also reported on twitter.  The men appear to have quickly dispersed, but no one knows who they were or what they were doing.  SCAF is suggesting that the events may have been perpetrated by three men associated with Ibrahim Kamel who was alleged to be responsible for the January 28 "camel attack".

The military may be telling the truth that they did not shoot directly at the protesters, but shooting into the air is just as dangerous as shooting at people.  Bullets go up, must come down.  In ME countries, there are untold numbers of people who die or are injured (head and upper body wounds) from this phenomenon.  A video circulated purporting to show one person being shot or killed.  They were a considerable distance from the main area.  

In the background, machine gun fire was heard constantly and repetitively.  With that amount of fire, if they were aiming directly at protesters, there should have been more GSW (gun shot wound) than the eight others reported. That doesn't mean that one or two soldiers did not aim directly at some of the crowd.  Fear can over ride discipline when confronted with an angry mob.  

The military said that it used rubber bullets.  That seems not to be the case.  Or, at least, not everybody was shooting rubber bullets.  It is possible for even rubber bullets to cause penetrating wounds at close range.  That would not account for the man shot at a distance.  Whatever the issues, it is clear that someone is not telling the truth.  Whether that is the officers in charge of the raid who were not truthful in their reports to the command chain or SCAF trying to save face after making a serious miscalculation.  The last possibility is that there were two or more men in civilian clothes with machine guns, as reported on twitter and as suggested by the military who opened fire on the crowd to stir unrest and insurrection.

The problem comes down to the protesting military officers, whether former or current.  They were not just calling for the regime remains to be arrested or removed.  They were insisting that Tantawi had to go in order to speed up the process and put a civilian council in charge.  

As one Egypt watcher noted via Facebook, this was a challenge that the military was guaranteed not to ignore.  Nasser came to power in 1952 after the the Free Officers Movement had deposed King Farouq.  He and several officers forced Gen. Naquib to step down and Nasser took control.  Tantawi is definitely old enough to have been in the military or to simply recalled.  The officers in the square were obviously attempting to incite mutiny within the army.  The protesters either didn't care or didn't realize how serious that event would be.  

In the midst of this event, a small group of approximately 1,000 protesters marched to the Israeli embassy and demanded that their flag be removed and the ambassador expelled.  The military arrived and surrounded the embassy, keeping the protesters back.  The Israeli's lowered their flag, but the ambassador and his staff remained.  

These two events split the revolutionaries who were busily tweeting demands as well as accusations.  

Then came Mubarek's slow, but insistent speech Sunday morning.  Reminiscent of Nixon's famous "I am not a crook" speech, Mubarek insisted that he and his family did not have assets outside of Egypt and that he had to respond to the accusations damaging their reputation.  Almost instantly, the messages began to reflect the one unifying theme that had brought the different parties into Tahrir Square on January 25: Mubarek must go.  

Within an hour, Egypt's Attorney General issued a demand that the Interior Ministry arrest Mubarek and members of his family.  Two other requests for arrests quickly followed and were carried out.  Aside from Ibrahim Kamel, three "big fish" received summons to appear for "interrogations" on Tuesday April 12.  These include:

[Safwat] El-Sherif is widely considered to have been Mubarak’s top enforcer in corrupting the nation's political life. When Mubarak took office on 14 October, 1981 one of his first decisions was to appoint El-Sherif as minister of information. 
In 2004 El-Sherif was promoted to chairman of the high consultative committee of the Upper House, which made him by default the chairman of the influential Political Parties Committee and the Supreme Press Council – two watchdogs in charge of licensing political parties and appointing chief editors and board chairmen of state-owned press organisations.
That wasn’t enough for El-Sherif, though. In 2002 he was appointed secretary-general of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), becoming the leader of the regime’s machine...

Like El-Sherif, [Fathi] Sorour is accused of using his postion as Speaker of Egypt’s Parliament for 20 years for personal gain. Sorour, 79, is also thought to have amassed a large portfolio of prime real estate, villas, and apartments. The IGO is currently investigating his wealth and he is expected to be summoned soon to face charges.
Sorour, however, faces a plethora of charges of political corruption. A case in point is that he exploited his job to help certain cabinet ministers fend off embarrassing criticism in Parliament. One of these is Ibrahim Soliman, a former minister of housing, whom opposition MPs held responsible for misappropriating public funds by selling large plots of land to NDP crony businessmen and construction magnates at below market prices and offering Sorour and other heavyweight officials a number of luxurious villas in Marina resort.

On 7 April, Zakaria Azmi, 73, was put into custody for 15 days pending investigation of charges of illegal profiteering levelled against him. Azmi is widely believed to have used a number of businessmen as “henchmen” to secure illegal gains. One of these is Mamdouh Ismail, a business tycoon whom Azmi helped to monopolise maritime passenger transport between Egypt and Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea. In 2006 Azmi is thought to have helped Ismail escape Egypt after one of his ships – Al-Salam 98 – sank into the Red Sea drowning more than 1300 Egyptians.
Azmi is Mubarak’s closest confidante, having a wealth of information about his secret life and business deals. He was appointed Mubarak's chief of staff in 1989. His job included preparing Mubarak's daily agenda of meetings and visits.

Other details on the three men can be found here.  

In fear that the revolutionaries are serious and plan to march on to Sharm el Sheikh Monday, security around Mubarek's palace is reportedly being increased.  How this will play out to the revolutionaries is anyone's guess.

In the mean time, Tahrir has turned into Egypt's barb wire protected agora, the forum where everything is debated, even the merits of the continuing revolution, the role of the military, their actions and many others.  What may be an epitaph for this stage of the revolution:

Many simply wanted the barricades lifted and traffic to begin following normally. Others, standing near the two burned-out military vehicles, demanded that the youth use their energy to clear the square of all its rubbish and debris - especially the vehicles which had been turned into a refuse dump.
For all the looking into nooks and crannies, eye balling every act or actor as the instigator of the counter revolution, the real counter revolution will begin right under the revolution's nose:

Egypt's revolution blights 2011 tourism revenue

Food prices increase Egypt's inflation beyond expectations

Egypt's risky economy is making investors think twice

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Egypt Terrorism Watch: The Salafis in Egypt's Closet

While many in the west focus on the Muslim Brotherhood as the predominant strain of Islamists in Egypt's religious and political life, another strain of Islamist, more fundamentalist and more violent, is rearing it's head again inside of Egypt.  

Coptic Christian churches are bombed.  Six Christians and a Muslim police officer are gunned down in front of their church after a religious holiday celebration.  These are not new experiences for Coptic Christians in Egypt.  Under the Mubarek regime, these incidents were investigated and suspects brought to trial, but justice was hard to find.  

In the case of the men arrested for the Christmas shooting, two men were acquitted and one sentenced to death for premeditated murder during the height of the Egyptian revolution.  There is no mention of their religious or political attachments.

Today, other religious buildings and icons are under attack even as assaults against Christian Coptics are growing.  In the last month, since a major part of the police and security have disappeared from the streets, sixteen historic mosques belonging to the Sufi order of Islam have been damaged or destroyed.  A shoot out occurred in a small village south of Cairo when a band of men attempted to burn down a wine and tobacco shop.  Another man, working on a farm in southern Egypt, was killed by his fellow employee for not rising to pray the morning prayers.

In Egypt, there is becoming little doubt as to who is behind these attacks even as many express surprise at how prevalent it has become.  On a recent twitter feed, a young woman wondered where this sectarian violence had come from as it was not her Egypt.  A young man proclaimed: the Salafis are everywhere in Alexandria.
(click title to read more)

Monday, April 04, 2011

Observations on the Egyptian Paradox: The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Umma, Unity and the Non-Islamic Islamic State

Continuing Observations on Egypt's Paradox...

In the run up to the referendum, the MB pushed it's supporters to vote "yes" for the referendum, largely to push the elections ahead so that they could maintain their advantage.  However, their reasons to their general mass was to "protect Article II" which states that Islam is religion of the state and Shariah the basis of law.  

In a nation that is at least 83% of the population, this may make some sense, but as usual the MB's reasons have little to do with the general consensus of the people and more to do with their agenda which is to institute and Islamist government.  They do not want to be seen enforcing this over the will of the people or going above the law.  A common tactic by past undemocratic forces who use the democratic process to take power then use the devices of law and democracy, along with claims that they need to secure the population against crimes such as general "thuggery" and criminal behavior.  Criminal behavior as defined by the ruling power.  In this case, the hope of the Muslim Brotherhood to take power in the People's Assembly.

Egypt and countries the world over have seen this all before.

They are consistently framing their arguments that the "liberals" want to destroy Islam in Egypt.  That is it's own paradox.  In a nation that is 83% Muslim and managed to remain so even under the auspices of the past regime, it is difficult to imagine how any force inside Egypt could manage to wipe out the faith of some 65 million Egyptians by removing the phrase "Islam is the official religion of Egypt" or even by removing Shariah as the basis of law.  

Surely, in such a nation with such a Muslim majority, the people elected to represent the citizens will be a majority of Muslims with a Muslim reference to culture and law.  Meaning that most laws would likely reference Islamic society and laws.  If the nation enacted laws protecting the rights of the citizens to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, the practice of Islam as a faith could not be eradicated.  It would have the room to proselytize and minister to it's faithful without interference from the state.  

That, however, is not what the Muslim Brotherhood wants.  This isn't really a matter of protecting Islam in it's extensive, universal and singular teachings nor the great body of Muslims within Egypt or anywhere else.  Because, while the five pillars of Islam may be universal within the religion and the Qu'ran never changing and infallible, the beliefs of all Muslims are not "singular".  They are multi-dimensional.  Not just between the observant Muslim and the back slider or even between the Shia, the Sunni and Sufi, to name a few, but the very schools of jurisprudence that guide the various Imams and the message within the mosques.  

Within Sunni Islam there are four schools of thought, or jurisprudence, depending on what scholar of what era in what scholarly university in what ever emirate of the existing caliphate at the time such a scholar lived in and wrote.  Such frames of reference obviously influenced each of these great thinkers on Islam in deciding which haditha and sunna were important or to be considered to abrogate any other.  Influencing Imams who attended the religious universities that supported one of the schools of thought, thus perpetrating multiple trends within Sunni Islam alone.  Much less the Shia with their twelve rightly guided Kalifas and various schools of thought.  

Casual readers of the Iraq and Iran situation might not know that there is a battle going on between the Shia school of thought in Qom, Iran and the school of thought, currently headed by al Sistani, in Najaf, Iraq.  They are both "twelvers", believing in the twelve rightly guided Kalifas, but the Iranian version believes that the Mahdi is returning any day now and the Najaf school does not.  

That is the reason that al Sadr, the Shia militant that plagued Iraq nearly as much as the Al Qaeda Salafi brigades, went to Qom to finish his religious studies when he had not done so under Sistani's Najafi school.  Sistani had instructed the Shia to remain calm and participate in the elections while the Iranian backed al Sadr was all afire with fighting the invaders.  That is the reason as well that al Sadr's militia referred to themselves as the Mahdi Brigade.  He was not only a "twelver", but a student of Qom that has been infiltrated by the apocalyptic strain of Mahdi-ism that the current "president" of Iran, Ahmedenijad, is an adherent. 

What does Iraq and Iran have to do with Egypt?  The same issues are at play under the cover of political triangulation and the revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood really isn't interested in a pluralistic Islam, much less a pluralistic civil state.  

The Muslim Brotherhood "old guard" and the MB Youth have been struggling over the ruling that MB members could only join the newly formed Freedom and Justice Party.  A young Brother suggested, politely, that the Brotherhood should remain an organization that focused on teaching the "right way" of Islam and leave the politics to the individual's conscience.

It is the teaching of "right Islam" that is concerning the Muslim Brotherhood and has been their concern for many decades, stated in their charters and various papers.  It has been the focus of most of the strains of Islam throughout the history of the faith.  Most occurred under the guise of political struggle for control of the caliphate beginning with the death of Mohammed (PBUH).  Today it is a struggle between various organizations and even states.  All of them claiming to be the strain, sect, organization or state that practices "right Islam".  All of them attempting to dominate the space that is Islam and the Islamic Umma (Muslim People) through whatever methods available.  Mostly da'wa or proselytizing, but also through state control and propagation of religion.  

As is the case in Saudi Arabia where they not only control the selection of Imams and Grand Sheikhs, the building of mosques, the religious education in schools and even the decisions made by the Grand Sheikhs, but they spread their message far and wide with copious amounts of money, building mosques and sending preachers all around the globe.  That is exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood would like to accomplish in Egypt.  Not quite as heavy handed, but through a similar fashion of controlling the state, retaining Islam as the official religion and Shariah as the law.  Gaining control of the mosques through retaining government control and subsidizing.  

They are not interested in protecting and propagating just any Islam, nor the monolith that is greater Islam, but the Muslim Brotherhood's strain of Islam based on the Hanafi school of jurisprudence.  The power over the ministry and departments that over see the building of mosques and the appointment of Imams or preachers insures that it is the Brotherhood's ideology that will be propagated, regardless of the leanings or strains of faith within Egypt's Muslim Population.

No one is supposed to talk about these schisms.  Muslims are all Muslims, part of the monolith that is Islam and the Islamic Umma.  There is an insistence that Islam, a religion boasting one billion adherents around the globe and growing, is constantly under attack from forces outside.  Thus, the demand for a "unity".  A demand that is supposed to keep the Islamic Umma silent about these divisions even as the struggle to gain dominance of one sect or strain over the teaching and practice of Islam plays out in the public sphere.  

Witness the Salafis in Alexandria and other areas of Egypt becoming more outspoken and more active attempting to achieve hisbah, or forcing Muslims and non Muslims to adopt to their socio-religious beliefs.  They are burning down liquor stores, accusing women of being prostitutes if they are out alone or without at least a hijab (they would prefer a niqab), and murdering other Muslims for not praying when they should.  They are burning down Sufi shrines and Christian Churches.  At this rate, they may well be planning to go into any of the other mosques in Egypt and plant their own "right thinking" Imam, by force, as they have attempted to do in several other countries.  Particularly in times of upheaval.

Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood associated religious leader, recently called the Salafi strain "stagnant" and "extreme".  Qaradawi, though widely revered among the Brotherhood, is not exactly a main stream Imam.  Further, the Brotherhood is showing it's displeasure with the Salafi groups in small ways.  The MB recently canceled a debate at a university with a Salafi scholar.  The University claimed that it was to avoid a confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi youth.  The question left unasked and unanswered is why there would be a confrontation between these two groups?

A Salafi leader recently claimed that all of these acts do not represent the Salafi and that the media, headed by some unknown "liberal" kabal, is orchestrating an attack on the Salafi to discredit the group.  It is interesting that this is the same argument that is being used by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Not only are the "liberals" and "media" organizing attacks against the Brotherhood, but attacks against Islam and Muslims in general.  Even as the Brotherhood is orchestrating virtual and verbal attacks on the Salafi.  No violence between the groups has been reported.

Apparently, reporting each groups' activities, meetings and their own words is "an attack".

The Salafis are only one visible aspect of this struggle to dominate Islam, Sunni Islam, in Egypt.  The Salafis are an easy target as they are both reviled and feared by the west as well as many Muslim Egyptians.  The Salafis and these unnamed, faceless "liberals" are a useful tool in gathering the rest of the Egyptian Muslim population under the Brotherhood's banner.  They are using the age old cry for "unity" and a good dose of fear to silence any internal opposition within their organization and the Umma and cover their actual intent.  An intent that is not only to impose some form of Islamic State on Egypt, something that a recent poll suggested would not be opposed by many Muslim Egyptians, but to impose the Brotherhoods ideology, their strain of the Hanafi school, on the rest of Egypt's Sunni Muslims.

Whether this intent to control the mosque through the government is apparent to the rest of Egypt's multi-dimensional Muslim population is the question.  This is the same tactic that the previous regime used to control religion within Egypt.  It is the same tactic that Gaddafi used in Libya, the one used by the Khomeinis in Iran and the same in Saudie Arabia.  That is only a few of the obvious states, none of them "free" as Egypt is attempting to become.  By controlling the religious institutions and the strain of Islam that is being preached, the Brotherhood, through the auspices of government agencies, would seek to control the conscience of the majority of the people.  That would bring the majority of Egyptians under the Brotherhood's political and religious control insuring their domination for years to come.

How the Brotherhood would manage to set up this scenario would be by easily winning an uncontested, solid block within the People's Assembly.  They do not need to win a majority of seats as El Erian recently pointed out.  A position of 30 to 35% of the parliament seats against untold numbers of parties in any other seats who refuse to unite to form the governing block, would leave the Brotherhood in control.  They would be the party that would either select the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet or they would have the final approval if some other group did manage to form an alliance.  

Any compromise would likely see the Brotherhood in charge of the cabinet posts and ministries that over see these institutions as they will be the party with a vested interest.

Not only religious institutions, but education institutions where religious scholarship is taught giving the Brotherhood control of religion from the instruction of a preacher, to approving buildings of mosques, to appointment of Imams and even the messages that are preached.  Edging out any other strain or school of jurisprudence and changing the practice of Islam for millions of Muslims forever within Egypt.  All under the disguise of protecting Islam in Egypt by maintaining Article II.

This is why the mixing of religion and government, not just "politics" and "political parties", is dangerous.  It is not only dangerous to Christians, Shia, Bahia, "liberals" or any other minority group who may be forced to adhere to laws that are contrary to their faith or conscience.  It is dangerous to millions of Muslims who do not currently worship or practice Islam under the Brotherhood's strain of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence.  The retention of Article II in the constitution and any ministry that is responsible for organizing any aspect of religion in Egypt, will give the Brotherhood a power that is the power of dictators and kings, not the power of a free people living in a truly free democracy, finally governing their own conscience.  

While the Brotherhood speaks the words of Freedom, insisting they believe in the freedom of religious choice,  the people most under threat by this constitutional article and government control of religion are the millions of non-aligned Muslims who may find themselves dispossessed of their faith.  Not by an outside force or unnamed "liberals", but by the very people who are presenting themselves as the guardians of Islam and Muslims in Egypt: the Muslim Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, no one can speak about this issue in Egypt.  Even the liberals and the Coptic Christians must be silent because any mention of the dangers of mixing religion and state has already been framed by the Brotherhood as an attack on Islam.  The revolutionaries are so concerned about maintaining their own "unity" that any liberal aspect within the movement has been unable to discover or articulate this danger, selling themselves, minority religions and their fellow observant Muslims down the river.  Politicians from every corner that are not the Muslim Brotherhood and who are not interested in imposing religion, are rushing forward to proclaim they are not against Islam underscoring the fact that the Brotherhood still controls the argument over religion and state.

At the recent launch of the Free Egypt Party, Naquib Sawiris, head of Orascom and FEP founder stated that he would rather die than fight a Muslim.  Rather he should have said that he would die to defend the right of every Muslim to practice their faith as they see fit and according to their own conscience.  Every Muslim has the right to choose what mosque they will attend, what Imam they would follow and what message they would receive without the interference of the government in the personal choices of a free people.  That is the promise of freedom to all people in Egypt.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the Egyptian Paradox, the Non-Islamic Islamic State of Egypt...

A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood recently said that the MB did not support an Islamic State like Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Meaning of course that they do want an Islamic state in Egypt.  Islamic lite?  One wonders who then can explain the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Shura Council advocating for a Modesty Police along the lines of Saudi Arabia' Vice and Virtue Police.  

A "police" force that in recent history forced fleeing girls back into a burning school because they were not wearing a hijab.  Many of these girls died and their families were understandably distraught, demanding answers from the government and the king.  The government responded by insisting it was the wrong application of a right practice and that the police were understandably confused.  

The Saudi government did not apologize, instead giving each of the angry families blood money and quietly instructing the Vice and Virtue Police to not be as strict in an emergency situation.  Even Mohammed, (PBUH) did not insist on maintaining restrictions in an emergency. The problem here is that any citizen and human being had to be instructed to place their humanity above their religious beliefs or perceived orders  instead enforcing "death before dishonor" on young girls who couldn't possibly understand why they had to die for lack of an hijab.

Durba insisted that:

"The new police must have a department with limited authorities to arrest those who commit immoral acts,” Durbala told the newspaper.

As if, after thirty years under a police state, what Egypt needed was another security force running around, wasting Egyptian money on "modesty police" when he people can barely afford to buy bread and intruding  in every aspect of their lives which they had just escaped when Mubarek resigned.  When what Egypt really needs is a police department trained in modern investigation, chain of evidence controls and respecting basic human rights.  What Egypt needs is an economic plan that will allow investments and employment opportunities for all Egyptians.  What Egypt needs is a better education system that provides education and opportunities to all Egyptians instead of leaving high percentages of illiteracy among the crowds.  

Those are things that Egypt needs.  Egypt needs a Vice and Virtue squad like it needs a whole in its head.