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"Egypt on the brink",
This review is from: Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution (Hardcover)
This is an excellent book on the current state of affairs in Egypt. Egypt has been under a military dictatorship since the early 1950s - its latest living embodiment, Hosni Mabarak, who took power in 1981 after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, is in charge of an increasingly corrupt, violent regime, beset by significant economic and social problems, and facing a possible succession crisis - the author is sceptical of Hosni`s son, Gamal`s, chances of inheriting power although he doesn`t rule it out entirely.
The author also addresses the possible main contender for power, the Muslim Brotherhood. He delves into their beliefs and aims, and interviews one of their leading spokesmen - there is little there to reassure outside observers of a 'happy ending' as per the Turkish model. In fact, one is more struck with the unerring parallels with Pakistan - longlasting military involvement in running the country (down), squeezing out of moderates and secularists from involvement in parliament and civil society, the use of alliances with Islamic extremists to send "signals' to the American government not to take the current leadership for granted, stay away from trying to promote human rights and keep the financial support coming - the author reckons the latter at over US $ 2 billion per annum. (One other common item - ownership of nuclear arms, is missing now). Mubarak has been adept at sending the US government the right signals - when the US wanted to push for more transparency and accountability in Egypt, Mubarak, as dictator and in whose power it lies, "awarded" the Muslim Brotherhood 20 % of the seats in the new parliament in 2005. The author states that this was a reminder to the US of along the lines "apres moi, la deluge" and accordingly the US backed off. The author states the turnout was around 25 % - giving an indicator of the population`s disenchantment with the regime. The author concludes that there is a real danger that by his actions of support, Mubarak may yet end up creating the Brothers as the only viable political force in the country apart from the military. If the military choose to disengage, they will emerge as the party of power with all the consequences.
The chapter on "Torture" in the book is not for the sqeamish.
The chapters on social issues - religion - the influence of Shiism on certain rites, the pressures faced by Coptic Christians as well as the effects of tourism ie foreigners buying land and marrying locals and the consequences for the local inhabitants, are also of great interest.
The author has provided a thought provoking and highly readable book on this country and its future prospects.