Springtime for Journalism in Cairo

The main thrust of my soon-to-be-published book, Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, is that the “Arab Spring” is not about democracy but Islamization, and that we already know how “spring” will end in the Middle East because it has already happened in Turkey — it’s just that things will deteriorate much faster in places like Egypt. In the Middle East, there has never been a wholesale effort to repress fundamentalist Islam, much less anything like the Kemalists’ 80-year secularization project.

To roll back Ataturk’s Westernization of Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood-allied regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan needed to defang the armed forces. The army was, by law, the guardian of the secular order, and as it retreated an increasingly powerful and autocratic Islamist government has crushed dissent by, among other things, prosecuting journalists. The process has taken several years.

In Egypt, it has been just a few weeks. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi has already managed to outmaneuver the Egyptian army — which, as I warned here a year-and-a-half ago, was not to be trusted to keep Egypt in the pro-American camp — and he has made a grab for dictatorial powers. As night follows day, the crushing of dissent has begun. Sky News reports that two Egyptian journalists, harsh critics of Morsi and the Brotherhood, have been arrested and will stand trial for “incitement” and publishing information considered “insulting” to the new president. More important than this predictably tyrannical use of police powers by the state is the social climate it creates. The population, teeming with Islamic supremacists, realizes it is safe to take matters into its own hands. The mob is now attacking non-Islamist journalists just like it riots against Coptic Christians.

Egypt will go quickly. This is not a “democratic” transformation; the dictator has been replaced by the totalitarians. 

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