This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 20/02/2011
A dear colleague, Suleiman Juda, editor of the newspaper "al-Wafd", recently wrote an article in the " al-Masry al-Youm " newspaper, in which he talked about who he described as the "turncoats" in Egypt – people who have suddenly 'turned' to attack the regime of the ousted President Mubarak, when they had previously defended it fiercely. This is a problem for Egypt, and the Egyptians, but our problem, as Arabs, is of a different type. Our problem is one of "deceivers". Of course, there are many deceivers in our region, but let us examine an example I know personally: The Saudi media personality Jamal Khashoggi is described by some western media outlets as an advocate of reform and democracy, and he presents himself as such in Saudi Arabia, and in the Arab media. Yet the day before yesterday, after Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi delivered his Friday sermon in Tahrir Square, Egypt, my colleague Jamal Khashoggi wrote on "Twitter": "Allahu Akbar...Islam is the greatest, free and strong. They have watched Sheikh al-Qaradawi from Tahrir Square on Egypt Channel 1. Now we realize the magnitude of the change that has happened!"
The questions are: Which change is Khashoggi talking about? And which Islam is he talking about? Is Islam's greatness connected to Sheikh al-Qaradawi? Was the greatness of Islam not evident in Egypt before the "25th of January" [revolution]? What about al-Azhar? There are many confusing questions in the minds of those following the situation, and they cannot be ignored, or bypassed, for many reasons. With regards to the future of Egypt, do these deceivers hope for the Muslim Brotherhood, or another fundamentalist rule model? What about Egypt's Christians? Should they leave, as is happening now with the Christians in Iraq? It is amusing that Khashoggi praises Wael Ghonim, because in Khashoggi's opinion, Ghonim [indirectly] praised al-Qaradawi when Ghonim quoted Qaradawi's words on Facebook: "I will not say O Muslims; I will say O Muslims and Copts". [Referring to this] Khashoggi said "you are a seasoned politician Wael, you have prevented those who tried to drive a wedge between you and al-Qaradawi, with your last message". Here are we witnessing idle cafe talk, or are we facing a serious stage that poses serious questions?
Do we want a genuine, civil democratic state in Egypt, a state that respects freedoms, and is based upon the constitution, or do we want an Islamic state under the umbrella of the Muslim Brotherhood? My colleague Khashoggi is entitled to his viewpoint, I have no objection to this, he has the right to express any opinion, but an important question remains here: Why has Khashoggi preoccupied us for many years in Saudi Arabia, presenting himself as an advocate for reform, and making the first steps towards such reform, during his two tenures as editor [of al-Watan newspaper]? He routinely attacked the religious establishment in the Kingdom, hunting down clergymen one after the other, whatever their status – here I am not talking about those affiliated with al-Qaeda; but all clergymen in general - yet now Khashoggi is satisfied with the Muslim Brotherhood rule model, and accepts the authority of the Sheikh? Is this 'reform' which Khashoggi talks about merely a switch from the current Saudi model, to that of the Muslim Brotherhood? Does he want to change the Saudi Sheikh for a Brotherhood Sheikh?
I know this is a controversial question, but it must be asked, and not in order to settle scores, but so we know the turncoats when we see them. They have been playing a manipulative game for years, and it seems that the magnitude of the earthquake in Egypt may have upset their balance, exposing them without their knowledge!