Saturday, February 5, 2011

My Books Useful for the Current Crisis in Egypt

I’m pleased that the New York Times selected my book as one of the most useful on the current crisis. But I’m also amused on how even a recommendation of books has to be written to put across the same old message as is in virtually every article.

Here’s the relevant section:

"In recent years, scholars have fervently debated the evolution of Egypt’s main opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood. Does it seek to drastically remake Egyptian society along strict religious lines, or has it entered a “post-Islamist” phase characterized by moderation and tolerance? The latter argument is made by Carrie Wickham in her study of grass-roots activists, Mobilizing Islam. More jaundiced views of the movement in Egypt and its offshoots elsewhere can be found in a new collection edited by Barry Rubin entitled The Muslim Brotherhood. Even as the Brotherhood moderated its message and perhaps its worldview, some of its former members turned to acts of spectacular violence. Their doings are the subject of Giles Kepel’s Muslim Extremism in Egypt, and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, which suggests that Mubarak’s torture cells radicalized Egyptian Islamists such as the future al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and helped bring about the Sept. 11 attacks."

I’m amused that the author of this list tells us what to think. Notice my book is the only one for which the thesis isn't explained. I'm not sure whether the word "jaundiced" is another way to say critical or it has negative aspersions. For the record, my thesis is that the Brotherhood is still a revolutionary organization and the most effective group in the world spreading radical Islamism.

Then we are told as an apparent fact that “the Brotherhood moderated its message and perhaps its worldview.” While the Brotherhood was not responsible for the violence of the 1980s and 1990s I would maintain that it changed neither message nor worldview. Of course there is no proof of any change.

Then we are told that “Mubarak’s torture cells radicalized Egyptian Islamists.” That might be a factor but this interpretation makes them purely victims and not strong revolutionaries who have their own ideology. Read Zawahiri’s book about this point!

And in the end we are told that the September 11 attacks are partly the fault of…Mubarak! So the chain of reasoning goes like this: The United States supported Mubarak, Mubarak tortured Islamists, Islamists became radicalized, Islamists attack America.

But why was the Mubarak government repressing Islamists? Oh, I don't know, might it have something to do with their assassinating officials, attacking Christians, killing tourists, and trying to overthrow the Egyptian government?

Actually, if Mubarak and his regime had a role—and this is not a value judgment—it is because they were so effective at suppressing the radical Islamists (both violent and otherwise) that they gave up on overthrowing him and directed their attention at a softer and more unpopular target: the United States.

But don't worry! The Islamists now feel that they can overthrow, or participate in overthrowing and later take advantage of it, Middle Eastern governments. So they have no need to attack the United States, except for the remnants of al-Qaida, which is now obsolete. 

Here are some of my books you might find useful. I especially want to emphasize the Long War for Freedom as this is--I think--the most serious and comprehensive book on Arab democratic reform movements and the problems they face.

The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement
Barry Rubin
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0230100718
Examines the Brotherhood in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East and the West.

Guide to Islamist Movements

Barry Rubin
Publisher: M.E. Sharpe
ISBN: 978-0-7656-1747-7
Analysis and information on Islamist movements in 55 countries.

The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East

Barry Rubin
John Wiley Publishers
The story of the Arab reform and democracy movement and the obstacles it faces.

The Tragedy of the Middle East

Barry Rubin
Cambridge University Press
Why is the Middle East such a mess? A comprehensive analysis.

Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics (get the second edition)

Barry Rubin
Islamic radical fundamentalist political movements have a long history in Egypt, where they have posed as the most important alternative vision and ideology to the dominant, state-sponsored Arab nationalism.

Modern Dictators: Third World Coupmakers, Strongmen, and Populist Tyrants

Barry Rubin
How dictatorships have risen, fallen, and functioned in the Third World. Includes the Middle East and Europe.  You can download this book for free

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