Friday, February 18 may be a turning point in Egyptian history. On that day Yusuf al-Qaradawi spoke to a giant cheering crowd in Tahrir Square.
He praised the army – to ward off it’s repression and to encourage it to support a transformation of the country.
He preached caution and patience, working with the army.
And he also lavished praise on the pro-Islamist chairman of the committee to write the new constitution, which may not be a good sign at all.
There is one easily missed word in his speech that is the most significant. That word is “hypocrites.” In the Islamist lexicon, hypocrites means Muslims who do not practice “true” Islam according to the radicals. To take Egypt out of the hands of “hypocrites” is to put it onto the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood – or at least similarly minded people – which, contrary to the best and the brightest policy makers, intelligence analysts, experts and journalists, is not a moderate organization.
History may show that while president Jimmy Carter may have “lost” Iran, one of his successors may have helped give away Egypt. Is that alarmist? I hope so.
Watch and see.
As so often happens, Israel will be left to pay the bill.
Qaradawi said he looked forward to a similar ceremony in Jerusalem, and he did not mean after a two-state negotiated solution.
IT WAS 32 years ago almost to the day when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned in triumph to Tehran to take over the leadership of that country. Qaradawi has a tougher job, but he’s up to the challenge if his health holds up.
Up until now, the Egyptian revolution generally, and the Brotherhood in particular, has lacked a charismatic thinker, someone who could really mobilize the masses. Qaradawi is that man. Long resident in the Gulf, he is returning to his homeland in triumph.
Through Internet, radio, his 100 books and his weekly satellite television program, he has been an articulate voice for revolutionary Islamism. He is literally a living legend.
Under the old regime, Qaradawi had been banned from the country. He is now 84 – two years older than the fallen president Hosni Mubarak – but tremendously energetic and clear-minded.
It was Qaradawi who, in critiquing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, argued that Islamists should always participate in elections because they would invariably win them. Hamas and Hezbollah have shown that he was right.
Symbolically, he gave the Friday prayer/sermon in Tahrir Square, the center of the revolutionary movement.
The massing of hundreds of thousands in the square to hear a sermon by a radical Islamist is not the kind of thing that’s been going on under the 60-year-old military regime that was recently overthrown.
The context is also the thanking of Qaradawi for his support of the revolution – an implication that he is somehow its spiritual father.
Though some in the West view him as a moderate, Qaradawi supports the straight Islamist line: anti-American, anti-Western, wipe Israel off the map, foment jihad, stone homosexuals....in short, the works.
One of his 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 able to 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 US government by advocating the kind of reform that will disarm the nation from the elements of strength that are holding our people together.”
There is no doubt. Qaradawi, not bin Laden, is the most dangerous revolutionary Islamist in the world, and he is about to unleash the full force of his persuasion on Egypt.
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?
The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. He blogs at www.rubinreports.blogspot.com. A shorter version of this article was published in American Thinker.