The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt on the Brink

My oh my oh my...I just spent some time listening to a BBC shortwave broadcast on the events taking place in Egypt, and then browsed for a while on the Al Jazeera website to get the Arab view, and quite honestly, I think the entire Middle East is in the midst of an upheaval of mammoth proportions, one that just might spread throughout the Muslim world. Seeing what happened in Tunisia, and how quickly it was exported to Egypt (and now also to Jordan and soon probably elsewhere in the area) one gets the sense that these long-corrupt, near totalitarian governments are doomed.

I don't think anyone expects President Mubarak, Egypt's longtime dictator, to be president much longer. Assuming he has any sense of self-preservation, and doesn't actually believe that 30 years of power have made him invincible, he'll quite likely join his family in exile sometime very soon. Once the Army comes to believe that the regime has no future, it will join the protesters and bring it all to an end. The problem, of course, is, who or what will replace Mubarak? That's the trouble with dictatorships, especially long-term corrupt ones that impoverish and tyrannize the people. They don't allow the development of the institutions necessary for representative democracy, really for anything other than another dictatorship. And since most of the Islamic world is rife with corruption and has no real experience with democratic institutions, we can probably rule out any flowering of democracy in Egypt. The most likely successor to the present regime are the Islamists, folks like the Muslim Brotherhood who already have in place a kind of shadow infrastructure and are no doubt ready and willing to assume control. And, like Hezbollah and Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood should probably be included among the world's terrorist organizations. I expect Egypt will be a very different place if they are in charge. If you check out their website it's pretty obvious that they are positioning themselves for a major leadership role in whatever evolves out of this situation.

Protesters in Jordan
And don't you think the Saudi royals are getting a bit antsy about now, wondering whether this revolutionary fervor might infect the kingdom's population? If Mubarak, one of the true strongmen of the Middle East, falls, this just might spread throughout the entire Muslim world. And why do I see the hand of Iran in all of this? After all they've been active and overt supporters of Hezbollah and Hamas, terrorist organizations that are now key players in the Lebanese and Palestinian governments. The fact that Iran is predominantly Shia and Egypt Sunni is really immaterial. Indeed many of Iran's religious leaders have praised Egypt's Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, an approach in line with their focus on Islamic unity that downplays Shia-Sunni differences.

Because the United States has allied itself with, or at best tolerated and supported, most of these dictators for decades, I think we can safely assume that any new governments will not be very friendly toward us. The Islamists, of course, see us as the enemy of Islam, the prime example of decadent Christianity, so we shouldn't expect anything but hostility from them. Sadly, I believe we can also expect increased persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East. And little Israel must also be very concerned since they had developed a tolerable understanding with Egypt, a situation that will likely change.

Pray for peace in that troubled part of the world and take solace in your knowledge that our loving God is in charge.

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