- April 7, 2007
Amr Al Shobki Writes: From Washington
When I was invited by the US university of George Town, to present a research in a conference entitled ” Trajectories of the Islamic Movements in the Arab world”, I apologized in the beginning to colleague Samer Shehata- a professor of political sciences in the university and organizer of the conference; this is because I used to write my research papers and interpositions in Arabic or French; he replied that what is required is a draft and there is a sufficient time for checking the research linguistically, before publishing it later next Summer.
Desiring to discover America for the first time, I decided to accept the invitation willingly, specially that I did not leave the Mediterranean Sea Basin for more than 16 years because I went to study in France, and participated in many activities and conferences that took place only in the European North and the Arab South .
The first impression for any observer living in Europe, and goes to America is certainly the unusual simplicity of the Americans and their dealing with the other without any psychological complexes or barriers, unlike many Europeans involved with complicated imperial relations with many Arab countries; the US simplicity is actually mixed with a considerable shallowness and ignorance of the outside world, something that helped the current administration- the worst administration in the US history- to draw stereotypes of good and the evil for laymen, making the Arabs, Islam and the Islamic movements as equal to absolute evil, while Israel is the absolute good, according to this stereotyping.
Colleague Francois Bourga, a French political sciences professor, and one of the most important experts of the Islamic movements in the world, whom I met in Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris and took together the plane bound for Washington, told me that he went to America more than a quarter of a century ago and worked in restaurants and cafes; I kidded him and said we expect him to be a president because president Jacques Chirac did the same job in his youth; the employer”s wife told him once: When people travel to England or outside America, what language do they speak?. What raises eyebrows is that this woman asked him about the language people use in England , the country whose language is the same like the Americans”.
This stereotype has partly changed for sure; but it is certain also that the Americans are one of the most ignorant peoples in the world as much as ignorance of the other world”s peoples concerned; the Americans feel satisfied with their affiliation to their United States; their geographical culture is restricted to knowing the difference between habits of the people in New York and those California or between Washington and Los Angeles.
The US political culture lacks any obstacles towards any social, financial or political movement; the public order can very easily attract the best elements and help them ascend the social and political ladder regardless of color, race or religion, something not found with the same degree in Europe- we find the opposite of this in Egypt; this reflects a US pragmatism appears in its utmost degree, a pragmatism that can benefit from any person who can add anything in the political level or economic fields in America.
In return, we find that the US model is, unlike its European equivalent, making you fee that if you are poor, it is your problem or the problem of your abilities that did not allow you to become rich; many of the forms of the state”s social solidarity towards the poor in Europe disappeared; therefore, the rates of violence and crime in America are considerably higher than all European countries.
As for the seminar that was held in Washington and in one of the most important US universities, researchers from many countries all over the world participated in it; from France came Francois Bourga who presented a general reading into the trajectory of the Islamic movements, and a social/ political interpretation for the reasons of Al-Qaeda network rise; from Germany, researcher Mourial Asburg presented a paper about the relations between the West and the Islamic movements.
Egyptian MP Saad Al Katatni, the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood”s bloc in the Egyptian parliament, tackled the same issue in a good manner, and he was a source of pride for us on the personal level and humane levels and gained respect of all, enough reasons for making the government keen on excluding this kind of MPs in the next parliament, and stick to the ruling National Party”s MPs who left some shameful memories in many western capitals.
Colleagues Samer Shehata and Amr Hmzway presented two papers about the Muslim Brotherhood, the first: focused on their parliamentary performance, and the second: about their dealing with political reform issues; also, the famous Turkish journalist Roshan Shaker presented another paper about the Islamic movement in Turkey .
There was also the US researcher Gohnny White from Boston university, and a writer of one of the most important books about the Islamic movements in Turkey, I used this book in the past in a comparative study about the development of the Islamic movement in Egypt and Turkey; there were two other top US researchers who participated in the seminar: Raymond Baker and Nathan Brown; there was a group of colleagues who attended the seminar, including colleague Dina Shehata, and opposition politicians, the most prominent of them was Anwar Haddam, previous leader in the Algerian Salvation Front, and other activists who were studying in short scholarships in some US institutes.
The Arab embassies sent also their spies; the Egyptian, Jordanian and Tunisian embassies sent their representatives to attend the seminar; Egypt, unlike all and as usual, sent two different persons during the two days, one of them was a young man who was still sticking to the remaining traditions of the Foreign Ministry, while the other did not really know whether we were in Egypt or in America; that”s, he is a diplomat who hasn”t read any study or article in a field of political sciences in which the number of writers are no more than twenty, and whose experts are still some hundreds, in the Foreign Ministry, think tanks or some newspapers.
This seminar has certainly explained that the Western interest in the Islamic movements isn”t a spur of the moment and isn”t just a reaction to 9/11 attacks; most of the researchers who participated in this conference have been interested in the Islamic phenomenon since the 1980s; neither president Bush nor Chirac asked them to praise or attack Islamists; when the western governments” interest in the Islamic movements has recently increased, they found that a various academic base in their views and ideas, the US chose the conservatives who are a minority in academic fields, but it was also based on a practical reading, unlike the absurdity we are witnessing in Egypt.
Unless we tried to establish a new method in understanding Islamic movements apart from the battle on rule with Islamists, making use of the leadership of Al-Ahram center for political studies in this field, and attempts of Al-Mustaqbal center for strategic studies, and other serious attempts, in understanding the complications and future of the phenomenon, we would let our future be determined by others, this is what is seemingly taking place amid our queer calm.
Dr.Amr Al-Chobaki is a prominent and well respected political analyst at the prestigious Al Ahram Center for Political and Startegic Studies and (ACPSS).