A man in Jakarta, Indonesia takes part in a demonstration in front
of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.
For Now at Least,
it's Lose-Lose for the U.S. in the Muslim World (Der
the 2011 revolutions saw no U.S. flags burning, the old regimes were hated and
deprived of their legitimacy because they were said to be puppets of imperialistic
policy. These resentments have not been healed. On the contrary, new resentments have been added: those of secularists
and liberals who now accuse the United States of forging pacts with the ruling Islamists."
One question haunts all commentaries about recent protests
in the Arab world: Is it genuine religious furor driving people into the
streets, or are they puppets in the hand of political manipulators? When asked,
from Morocco to Yemen, they give the same answer: They protest for their
At the same time, Egypt's new prime minister, HishamKandil, indicated that “a
number” of protesters had been paid by the Cairo government. He gave no evidence,
however, and neither did he say who in Cairo paid them. This reminds one of the
knee-jerk reaction of Libya's interior minister, who blamed the U.S.
ambassador’s death on "Qaddafi henchmen." Likewise, Mubarak followers
in Egypt are blamed "whenever a bicycle falls over in Aswan." Bad jokes aside, Kandil is perhaps resorting to conspiracy theories because
on Sunday, which was the first day of the week and the beginning of a new
academic year in Egypt, the real issues were unleashed against his government: a
petrol crisis, an energy crisis, strike threats from a wide variety of sectors,
war in the Sinai Mountains, etc.
The anti-Mohammad film is without doubt a gift to the Salafists, who could showcase that in Egypt, Tunisia and
Libya, the new governments are not much different from the old with regard to political
necessities that have priority over defending Islam, among which are good
relations with the U.S. Domestically,
these groups haven't managed to drive moderate Islamists into an "Islamic
competition." On a supranational level against the U.S., however, they
have succeeded. And they have won.
Nevertheless, not all protestors are Salafists,
and not all Salafists are protestors: Not all
ultra-religious people have abandoned their political quietism and respect
for the authorities. And it is not only the losers of revolution who are protesting.
There are, for instance, Egypt's football ultras, whose critical contribution
to the revolution has never been appreciated and who are now venting their
wrath. On the other hand, secular and liberal groups, who are the losers in the
political process, are not protesting. Even Syrians have a hard time
understanding the recent protests, although the uproar in Syria is partly religious
as well: "What idiots you are in Cairo! Where have you been as Assad’s
troops have been plundering and burning down mosques?," one tweet reads.
Essentially, today’s protestors - whose significance should
by no means be underestimated - are not dissimilar from those who revolted in 2011:
They have a common slogan, and those who scratch the surface will find similar
motivations and backgrounds. Nevertheless, they reveal once again that the media
pronouncements at the time of the 2011 revolutions are kitsch, i.e.: that the region’s
fixation on supposed external conflicts was over, and that its problems would
be identified as internal, would be addressed, and be resolved.
Even if the 2011 revolutions saw no U.S. flags burning, the
old regimes were hated and deprived of their legitimacy because they were said
to be puppets of imperialistic policy. These resentments have not been healed. On the contrary, new
resentments have been added: those of secularists and liberals who now accuse
the United States of forging pacts with the ruling Islamists.