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      The Dangerous Rhetoric of Repression

      Supporters of Mohamed Morsi pray near the University of Cairo in Giza on July 5.

      The rationale for the Egyptian coup is a familiar racial one, that supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are not qualified to be in power even when they compete in peaceful democratic elections. 

      “It’s no use lamenting Morsi’s bungling because incompetence is built into the DNA of radical Islam,” says New York Times “enlightened” conservative David Brooks. “They lack the mental equipment to govern…It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack the basic mental ingredients.”

      And here is how leading “democracy advocate”, Nobel Prize-winning Mohamad ElBaradei, defended the coup and crackdown, “They [the generals] are taking some precautionary measures to avoid violence; well, this is something that they have to do as a security measure.”

      ElBaradei was speaking of the forcible ouster of an elected president, the roundup of Brotherhood leaders and the shutting down of Islamic television stations. He lobbied Secretary of State John Kerry to support Morsi’s overthrow, and he insisted that the coup supporters were sending “a message of reconciliation and an inclusive approach.”

      In an atmosphere of Islamophobia, many otherwise rational Americans will nod in agreement. Their problem is ignorance and forgetting. The same could have been said about their own forebears in America’s own evolution of democracy. In overwhelming numbers, the American colonists assumed that the indigenous majority and African slaves were far too “savage” for inclusion. The white, propertyless majorities were excluded because they threatened to become a “majority faction.” Women were too emotional. Mexicans were lawless. Catholics were agents of the Vatican. Jews were a secret conspiracy. In every case, blood was shed, persecution was rampant, and all manner of “politricks” were employed to prevent the steady enfranchisement of the many against the few. When the multitudes finally enabled themselves to vote, they found new barriers to access, from campaign finance laws to gerrymandering, to voter suppression campaigns to ferret out alleged “fraud” by minority voters. 

      The core argument of the Islamophobes is an echo of this history of fear and prejudice, that there is something inherent in “radical Islam” – in its DNA – that automatically makes its inherents incapable of governing. Brooks is confused as well as smug.

      How is “radical Islam” in one’s DNA? Isn’t “radical Islam” a learned form of thought and practice? If it is an inherent stupidity, what not establish and police a two-tiered society starting with Islamic children? But if “radical Islam” is learned, or cultural, or an adaptation to social conditions, isn’t the suppression of “radical Islam” guaranteed to reinforce the militant paranoia Brooks is so worried about? 

      In either case, both Brooks and ElBaradei assume that they are privileged to decide which Islamists are “qualified” to participate, and which are not. It turns out that the qualified always are those who remain subservient, grateful, accommodating to their old masters. The outcome is called neo-colonialism. 

      Neither Brooks nor ElBaradei seem concerned that the coup has plunged Egypt into chaos and civil strife, nor that it strengthens the historic argument of Al Qaeda that the road of peaceful transition is a closed to Muslims. 

      And what of the youth? They apparently think that a coalition with the generals is preferable to a future with an elected Islamic government. If they believe the results of a future Egyptian election will be better for their agenda, that is a dream that depends on whether and when another election is held, and whether a sectarian war is more likely. What are they thinking?

      This is Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations”, with its historic roots in the Crusades, once again renewed in blood. Obama, who prides himself on logic and wordsmithing, is likely to become more Orwellian in his denials by the day while he keeps funding the Egyptian generals.  

      All this will fortify the Right here at home: the military, the spies and informants, the police, the neo-conservatives and the Christian Ultras. For now, they can content themselves on films like White House Down, and dream of 2014.

      For more, please see also by Tom Hayden, "The Coup in Egypt: An Arab Winter?"

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