We, the West, have to find a way to help Egypt

The feeble rebukes of Western leaders confirm many Muslims' worst suspicions

Share

For many Muslim onlookers, there was a dull familiarity to the hideous scenes in Cairo this week. This is what they have come to expect – and not only from the Egyptian army. The massacres fitted into a bleak and enduring historical pattern.

What do these events have in common: Russia’s genocidal war against the Chechens, the butchery of Bosniaks by Serbs and the West’s wars against Iraq and Afghanistan? In each case, the overwhelming majority of those killed were Muslims, and in particular Muslims who had discovered the desperate courage to imagine and then try to bring into being a future free of non-Muslim domination. That, in each case, was enough to invite mass murder.

And those are only the most recent bloody suppressions. What we think of as the growth of the British empire can equally be seen as the shrinking of the lands Islam once ruled, and their subjection to the “infidels”, whether in Persia or India or the Ottoman lands. Back in 1896, the Persian radical Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani wrote: “The Islamic states today are pillaged and their property stolen. [The foreigners] chain up the Muslims, put around their necks a yoke of servitude, debase them, humiliate their lineage … sometimes they call them savages and sometimes regard them as hard-hearted and cruel and finally consider them insane animals.”

How to end this humiliation? One common view was to look inward: the reason for the decline of Muslim power, these voices said, was not its failure to keep up with the West but its failure to keep faith with God. In this view, only by cleaving ever more rigidly and literally to the word of God could the ummah, the world community of Islam, be redeemed.

Others saw hope in emulating the one major country to elude the West’s clutches. What Islam needed, the Syrian reformer Rashid Rashida wrote in 1930, was “an independent renewal like that of Japan”. Rashida was a key inspiration behind the Muslim Brotherhood – but in the way that the Brotherhood fatally abused its unique moment of power in Egypt, it is clear it has forgotten what he was trying to impart.

To call the Mohammed Morsi government “immature” would be an understatement. It obtained, with all the legitimacy the ballot box can confer, the right to rule Egypt in the name of, and for the good of, all Egyptians. It proceeded, with the systematic method of the deranged, to snub, attack, marginalise and infuriate every constituency that did not correspond to its own: women, Christians, socialists, atheists, Shias.

Its failure – while exercising what it doubtless saw as its religious duty – was preordained. Morsi was the accidental beneficiary of a revolution waged by others, precisely those young and creative and non-doctrinaire forces which he began persecuting. And once the real revolutionaries had cut their Faustian deal with the army, this week’s bloodshed was merely a matter of timing.

Having lived for many decades, until the spring of 2011, in a state where even the tiniest demonstration was instantly and violently crushed, the holdouts in Nasr City knew the ruthlessness of which the army was capable. And in the sense they were prepared for the likely outcome, which was martyrdom, they were asking for it. The fatal vocation of the fundamentalists for martyrdom has, once again, led Islam into a ghastly cul-de-sac. And the feeble rebukes of David Cameron, John Kerry and Baroness Ashton confirm the cynical certainty of many Muslims that, yet again, we really don’t mind the spilling of that sort of blood.

But what happened in Cairo – in the Muslim world’s most influential city – was a plunge towards civil war, one in which the West is complicit. We cannot sit through more weeks like this, intoning along with the fatuous Kerry that such events are “a serious blow to reconciliation”. Ninety years after the fall of the Ottoman caliphate, the Muslim world desperately needs a sane exit. It is in the interests not merely of Egypt but the world that we do all we can to help them find it.

 

There’s still some independent spirit lingering in Hong Kong

I have just returned from Hong Kong where the old British flag of the colony has once again been flying. No, they are not seriously clamouring to be handed back to us: the flag was being waved by democratic protesters against what they see as the increasing influence of the mainland on the ex-colony’s affairs. Also hoisted were the flags of Taiwan and Tibet, which must have taken some nerve.

The democrats get plenty of attention, and they have plenty to moan about, too. Sixteen years into the half-century of special status agreed by Thatcher and Deng, it is clear they are running down an up escalator: by 2047, Hong Kong will again be just another Chinese province. The old flag they don’t need, but if they can hang on to the rule of law – the Supreme Court, a British lawyer insisted, is the admiration of the world – and their independent spirit, they may end up changing China more than China changes them.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Katie Hopkins is a true Twitter villain

Felicity Morse
Adele performs onstage during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A  

Adele knows that privacy is the best gift a famous mother can give her child

Chloe Hamilton
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game