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After the Arab Revolt

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Muslim Brotherhood Rides the Crest of the Wave of Arab Protests

June 3rd 2011

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

In my most recent book, The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East (completed July 4, 2010), I argue that civil societies in the Greater Middle East and Arab world had reached a “critical stage” in their repudiation of all authoritarian forms of government: regime, theocracy, military, and ultra-nationalist. The projections therein were based on a thorough study of antecedent Cedars and Green Revolutions in Lebanon (2005) and Iran (2009) respectively, both with limpid narratives, particularly online, and both auguring a continuation of bottom-up, regime-crumbling uprisings in the region. Even before the region’s revolutionary meltdowns began, our findings were accompanied by a sober warning—a grueling contest would ensue between the dispersed and disorganized proponents of liberal democratic reform and the Islamists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Indeed, as soon as the uprisings erupted on the streets of Tunis and Cairo, the Islamist political machine went into high gear. With Al-Jazeera’s influential backing and the support of Qatar’s “diplomatic duo” and Turkey’s Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP—Justice and Development Party), the region’s mostly-Sunni Islamist movements gradually rose from the bottom and seized the initiative. The first of three tactics the Islamists have pursued in their protest-infiltration strategy was avoidance of any statement or action that might associate the demonstrations with long-term Muslim Brotherhood goals. Members were put on notice—no mention of Sharia or the caliphate.

The second was to focus on the affected regimes, not on the West. U.S., European, and even Israeli flag burning were forbidden. The third tactic involved invoking Shabab al Thawra (youth of revolution), a rubric the Islamists used repeatedly to camouflage their predatory intentions with the uprisings’ secular, liberal democratic lexical accouterments. While the masses, and particularly real revolutionary youth, were exploding against dictators from Egypt to Libya and Yemen to Syria, Islamist networks were systematically climbing the ladder of each national revolt.

Like the anti-Tsar Bolsheviks of the October Revolution and the anti-Shah Khomeinists of the Iranian Revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood are hampered in their own milieu by citizens’ knowing them well enough to see through their maneuvers.

In the West, on the other hand, the Ikhwan are supported by a vast army of apologist elites who obfuscate their mission by referring to them as “revivalists,” a misnomer that has been spoon-fed to the public and policymakers for years.

As evidence that this propaganda still achieves its intended effect, a high-ranking U.S. official recently referred to the Ikhwan as “a loose network of secular groups.” Thus the Ikhwan, far better organized and funded than their authentic counterparts in the region and buttressed by an illusory international reputation, are riding the turbid wave and controlling the dynamics of the so-called Arab Spring created for them by the region’s true secular reformers.

Dr. Walid Phares teaches Global Strategies in Washington, DC, and is the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad and The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East. 

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