Will Egypt’s Luck Run Out Someday?

Dec. 13 2021

With an ever-declining economy, political sclerosis, an Islamic State insurgency in the Sinai, and civil wars in neighboring Libya and Sudan as well as in nearby Yemen and Ethiopia, Egypt seems like a country with every reason to collapse. But it hasn’t. Samuel Tadros reflects on the country’s remarkable good fortune:

In his seminal essay, “The Sorrows of Egypt,” the late Fouad Ajami noted, in his masterful prose, the numerous sorrows of modern Egypt, from the steady decline of its public life and its dependence on foreign handouts to the deep sense of disappointment that engulfs the country as it rotates between false glory and self-pity; he concluded his treatise by remarking that “Egyptians who know their country so well have a way of reciting its troubles, then insisting that the old resilient country shall prevail.” The Arab sage, who professed “approaching the country with nothing but awe for its civility amid great troubles,” concurred with their assessment. “The danger,” he wrote, is not of sudden, cataclysmic upheaval, but of the steady descent into deeper levels of pauperization.”

More than 25 years after Ajami’s essay, his words seem prophetic. While Egypt has continued its descent, it has managed to avoid the fate of many of the region’s other countries. No great calamity has befallen the country as it has in Syria and Libya. Egypt’s avoidance of such a fate remains a puzzle. By all measures, the country should have faced a reckoning. The list of Egypt’s troubles is long and would have broken many a country by now.

After all, if Egypt’s ship has failed to sink, it is not for lack of trying. . . . And yet, somehow, against overwhelming odds, the ship has continued to float.

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Read more at Caravan

More about: Egypt, Fouad Ajami, Middle East

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter