You will search the New York Times today in vain for the most important news story yet on the unfolding events in Egypt. As of this morning there has been no mention of the triumphant return of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the best-known Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world and one of the most famous Islamist thinkers. His weekly Television show from exile from Egypt was watched by ~60,000,000 people every week. His ideas are anathema to the West and his idea of Freedom is freedom to submit to Sharia Law. He is now in Tahrir Square preparing to give the Friday Sermon. As of this morning, the Square is filled, with one report claiming the crowds are larger than at any time during the Revolution. Ahrom on line is live blogging the event; here are some early highlights:
13:35PM Journalists march from their syndicate to Tahrir demanding that their profession be cleansed of all symbols of Mubarak's regime.
13:27PM Activist Mona Seif reports on Twitter that Cairo University staff are marching to Tahrir from Manyal.
13:18PM The number of people in Tahrir today could be the highest so far, certainly this early in the day. The square is packed.
It is deplorable that the learned commentators at the Times and our prominent media outlets do not even know that they are missing the most important story in Egypt. Worse, our government and media seem to have adopted the belief that the Muslim brotherhood is "moderate."
[Claire Berlinski does an excellent job describing how "expert opinion" can be shaped by those who have a particular slant; like Wormtongue, the experts are insidious. The best advice remains: Follow the Money.]
Here is some information about Yusuf al-Qaradawi that might be relevant to our policy considerations in Egypt:
Qaradawi, though some in the West view him as a moderate, supports the straight Islamist line: anti-American, anti-Western, wipe Israel off the map, foment Jihad, stone homosexuals, in short the works.
One of Qaradawi's initiatives has been urging Muslims to settle in the West, of which he said, “that powerful West, which has come to rule the world, should not be left to the influence of the Jews alone.” He contends that the three major threats Muslims face are Zionism, internal integration, and globalization. To survive, he argues, Muslims must fight the Zionists, Crusaders, idolators, and Communists.
Make no mistake, Qaradawi is not some fossilized Islamic ideologue. He is brilliant and innovative, tactically flexible and strategically sophisticated. He is subtle enough to sell himself as a moderate to those who don't understand the implications of his words or look beneath the surface of his presentation.
What is his view of both the Mubarak regime and the young, Facebook-flourishing liberals who made the revolution? As he said in 2004: “Some Arab and Muslim secularists are following the U.S. government by advocating the kind of reform that will disarm the nation from the elements of strength that are holding our people together.”
Have no doubt. It is Qaradawi, not bin Ladin, who is the most dangerous revolutionary Islamist in the world and he is about to unleash the full force of his power and persuasion on Egypt. [Emphasis mine-SW]
Who are you going to bet on being more influential, a Google executive and an unorganized band of well-intentioned liberal Egyptians or the world champion radical Islamist cleric?
Perhaps Barry Rubin is too pessimistic about his neighbors in Egypt. Maybe all will turn out well and a relatively moderate government will emerge in Egypt. Unfortunately we are still paying, 30 + years later, for our failure to anticipate and counter the radical Shia Revolution in Iran. A radical Sunni revolution in Egypt has the potential to be an exponentially greater disaster.