Jean-Pierre Filiu, author of Apocalypse in Islam, was interviewed by For Your Ears Only on the ideology, technology, and diplomacy at play in the current demonstrations in Egypt. Filiu, a historian and Arab expert at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris and currently a visiting professor at Columbia University School of International and Pubic Affairs, speaks about the escalating conflict in Cairo and the potential for Facebook and other modern technologies to spur on the popular movement.
In response to the question of whether Mubarak’s government can can coexist with the essence of modernity, Filiu says its decision to shut down internet access throughout the country was “pathetic, because it shows once more that they are trying to wage a war of the past against their own people.” Filiu goes on to discuss the prospects for ElBaradei as a popular leader, the role of Islamist parties and the Muslim Brotherhood in the movement, and the challenge for the Obama administration in Egypt going forward.
Dan Smith, author of The State of the Middle East, considers the conflict’s connection to the Algerian Civil War in his latest blog entry, and what it means for U.S. and European involvement. Smith points out that “when it comes to democracy in the Middle East, outside powers have persistently got it wrong.” He warns against the temptation for “outsiders [to] link up with anti-democratic forces in a ‘we know best’ display of force and power.”
Smith writes, “‘Orderly transition’ is the call of the day in Washington and London. It sounds so reasonable and moderate. But if outsiders say what constitutes ‘orderly’, if they try to join in to fix the terms of that transition according to their interests, and even if their interests coincide with those of a few articulate internal power holders who will be damaged by a transition of any kind, orderly or not – if outsiders fall for that temptation, the result may well be catastrophic.”