Egypt and New World Order

The revolt in Egypt signals a significant step forward in the evolution of the emerging world order. Hosni Mubarak has resigned and the army has taken over. It has pledged an orderly transition to democracy. Going by the army’s conduct these past few days it appears that it will honour its pledge. Most likely the new Egypt will change the Arab world. Most likely the new Arab world will change the rest of the world. To assess how and why that may happen a few salient points in the emerging scenario deserve attention. 
If Saudi Arabia is the centre of Islamic theology, Egypt is the cradle of Islamic civilization. Saudi influence extends to madrassas and clerics. The Egyptian influence prevails over Arab Street. Dissident Saudis created Al Qaeda. Much earlier dissident Egyptians had created the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Qaeda is Islamist and terrorist. The Muslim Brotherhood is Islamist and reformist. 
The winds of change have started blowing even in Saudi Arabia. The grand Imam of Mecca’s holiest shrine, Abdul Rahman Al Sudais, considered the Pope’s counterpart in the Islamic world, has strongly decried terror for being anti-Islamic. He has attempted to alter traditional Muslim attitude to women to make it compatible with modern times. Inevitably his moderating influence is gradually percolating to Muslims worldwide. Deoband in India is already displaying signs of change. Within the next fortnight Mecca’s most revered Imam will for the first time visit a non-Islamic nation in Asia. He will visit Deoband to lead the evening prayers.
Little wonder then that the more politically oriented Muslim Brotherhood is also attuning itself to the changing times. While the revolt in Egypt was sparked and directed by Egypt’s young professionals, the Muslim Brotherhood lent it full support. Fear has been expressed that the Brotherhood’s participation will lead to fundamentalist dictatorship. That is unlikely. The Brotherhood seeks to make the Islamic world compete with the developed world to assert its identity. To achieve that it is aware that traditional Islamic practice must be made compatible with modern norms of equality as demanded by the democratic world. The most significant long term consequence of the current Egyptian revolt therefore will probably be the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in creating the movement’s agenda. How will that affect the future?  
The Brotherhood is a transnational movement and the largest political opposition organization across many Arab states. It is recognized as the world’s most influential Islamic group. The Brotherhood’s original goal was to order the life of Muslim communities worldwide according to the teachings of the Koran. The movement officially opposed violence to achieve results. It unambiguously condemned the 9/11 terrorism. It has been accused though of violent killings in its fight against British rule in Egypt.
The most significant aspect of the Brotherhood that could affect Arab Street in the days ahead lies in its attitude to Zionism. The Muslim Brotherhood collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Like Hitler, the Brotherhood swore by the allegedly forged Protocols of the Elders of the Zion which outlined the Zionist conspiracy to rule the world. The Protocols surfaced in late 19th century to coincide with an international Zionist conference held in Switzerland. Allegedly the forged treatise originated in Tsarist Russia.
In practical terms the Brotherhood’s opposition to Zionism boils down to its opposition to the Israeli State. The Palestinian Hamas controls Gaza which borders Egypt. Hamas depends heavily on Egyptian support. It is likely that the substantial entry of the Brotherhood in Arab politics will fan opposition to Israel’s current policies towards Palestine. The Brotherhood reiterated during the recent Egyptian uprising that it opposed the Zionists but not Jews. It is unlikely to echo the extremist views of Iranian President Ahmadinejad who seeks the obliteration of Israel. The Brotherhood most likely will content itself with the establishment of the Palestinian state.
And that could well be the most significant long term consequence of the Egyptian revolution for the rest of the world. The timing of the Brotherhood’s entry into mainstream Arab politics could not have been more propitious for the Palestinian cause. The world is tiring of this small centre of the earth’s land mass perpetuating tension and strife across the world. Europe and Asia are tired of Israel’s rigidity in opposing the creation of a Palestinian state. In America an increasing number of people are beginning to believe that US support for Israel is entailing an unbearable cost to the nation’s foreign policy.
This growing sentiment is not confined to traditional anti-Semites. The recent publication of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, two highly respected academicians, is symptomatic of American fatigue with its Israel policy. Even more significantly Israel itself is getting bitterly divided. On the one hand is the Israeli Left which decries excessive violence against the Palestinians in Gaza. On the other hand orthodox Israeli Rabbis are decrying the Zionists as non-Jewish. In other words, the pressure to settle the Palestinian issue could become unstoppable after the Egyptian revolution.
So what kind of settlement might emerge for resolving the Palestinian issue? That is where India could play a significant role provided it succeeds in setting its own house in order expeditiously. A stable world order demands a federal democratic system. For achieving that nation states would have to coalesce regionally on the basis of cultural nationalism into larger groupings as was attempted by the original fifteen founding member nations of the European Union (EU). That experiment is floundering because cultural identity was overtaken by corporate greed seeking larger economic markets through thoughtless expansion of EU.
Now it is India’s turn to replicate the experiment without repeating mistakes committed by EU. A colonial legacy created irrational and bitter animosities in South Asia. Today both India and Pakistan are in turmoil. The survival of the Pakistani state is threatened by terrorism. The survival of Indian democracy is threatened by corruption. Both crises can be overcome if governments of the two nations read the writing on the wall and cooperate. Together India and Pakistan can initiate an arrangement to reclaim the cultural nationalism of South Asia. If that were done a template for resolving the Palestinian crisis, and indeed for resolving issues in many parts of the world, would be created.
One solution that suggests itself for resolving the Palestinian crisis could be the creation of two new Palestinian states, Gaza and West Bank, separated by Israel. That would be much like Pakistan and Bangladesh separated by India. Subsequently Israel, Jordan, West Bank and Gaza could form a union of sovereign nations cooperating in commerce and security. The inhabitants of this area have a distinct identity that sets them apart even from much or the remaining Arab world. India is among the three largest Muslim population countries in the world. And India is unique for being the only country in the world where its Sunni and substantial Shiite populations live together in peace and harmony. The potential for a meaningful Indian role in the Middle East should not therefore be minimized. But first India must itself initiate basic political reform. 


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

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Views: 3412      Comments: 1

Comment The idea of a Union of nations in the Middle East is excellent. But first democratic processes have to be set in motion. That can be set in motion by the United Nations. But then United Nations have to frame a model constitutional framework for all sovereign nations.

Sharbaaniranjan Kundu
14-Feb-2011 05:26 AM

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