Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh Paperback – 20 May 2003
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"[With its] intensity of interpretive detail and convincing evocation of the economic and political contexts in which Islamist movements in Egypt have developed, this book is in every way a worthy sequel to the work of Richard P. Mitchell, to whom it is dedicated."--Dale F. Eickelman, "The Muslim World"
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"Perhaps more than any other, this book gives the background necessary to understand the purpose and mindset of today's religious radicals. In this classic study of the roots of Islamic extremism, Gilles Kepel demonstrates the pivotal role of the Egyptian connection. He skillfully traces the story of Islamic anti-modernism in Egypt from the early part of the 20th century to its tragic involvement in some of the most violent incidents in recent years, including the terrifying attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001. Kepel's treatment is even-handed and sensitive, though the world he uncovers is the dark side of today's global culture."--Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious ViolenceSee all Product description
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This book shows how Egypt's experiment with socialism resulted in a corrupt, dishonest, and totally failed state. Kepel points out the costs of this experiment by showing that the state created a horrific perfect storm, using the establishment of Israel as the ultimate bogeyman to deflect the masses attention away from the failures of socialism. Essentially the Egyptians were no different than the other kleptocracies in the Middle East and held the hand puppet of Israel as the focus of attention while the other hand deprived the general population of any semblance of a decent standard of living. Kepel's insights into the assassination of Sadat because of his overtures to Israel were most enlightening, essentially showing that Sadat was killed by forces he had nourished with years of hatred toward modernity. Carter and his advisors probably still do not understand to this day what damage they did in the Camp David accords when Sadat traded Soviet handouts for American ones. The view held by the vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East of the American-Zionist plot to overtake the Middle East was cemented and fermented in the accord. It took another generation for it to come to fruition in 9/11, but it all started there. Kepel was not aware of Carter's funding of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in the 70's at the same time so is not able to link the beginnings of bin Laden's lunatic fringe groups as well. Another interesting observation by Kepel, which is now becoming more apparent is that the Islamic social code of the separation of the sexes lends itself to sexual frustration on the part of the massive numbers of young and horny Muslims so that the lure of 72 virgins may well be the primary recruiting tool for the jihadists to get them to be a "martyr" by committing suicide and getting the sex they cannot get in their own societies.
Having traveled throughout Egypt many times myself, I can say that the classic "jelly bean" theory has come to pass. Feed the bear a jelly bean to ward him off will only work as long as you still have jelly beans. When you run out, be prepared to be the next meal of the bear.
A great book, especially given its date of publication. It was far ahead of its time. If only the idiots in the US State Department, CIA, or FBI had read it, the prime instigator of the first attack on the World Trade Center would have been banned from the US instead of being allowed entry after the Egyptians arrested him for his terrorist activities in the 1980's.
Ideally, Kepel's work should be read in tandem with Mitchell's work on the Muslim Brothers as Kepel himself seemed to see this work as the follow-up to Mitchell's groundbreaking work. Mitchell's work stopped at the incarceration of the Brotherhood after the Free Officers now longer found their support politically desirable or expedient, and basically, Kepel's picks up at that point-the inhumanity of the prisons, the gallows, and the torture rooms.
Unlike Mitchell's work, however, Kepel's study is not confined to a study of the Muslim Brotherhood but is a study of the radicalization of the Islamic trend in Egypt which splinter into many factional, competing parts-at times as a result of state initiatives as under Sadat. The differing policies of the Nasser and Sadat regime are compared, the influence of Sayyid Qutb emphasized, the moderation and political compromise of the Muslim Brotherhood emphasized, and the desperation and impoverishment of the violent groups such as al-Jama'at al-Islamiyyah and Takfir wa-l-Hijrah are cited as their sources. These all became classic themes in the field. Kepel's work demonstrates that the sources of political Islam are as varied as its social manifestations.
Nonetheless, intractable socio-economic problems have made it ever more difficult to contain unrest. The continuing reduction of the public sector since the late '70s and the failure to stimulate private economic enterprise has made it even harder for Egypt to sustain the precarious economic conditions that stimulate Islamist unrest. Although the Egypt achieved significant development in the '50s and '60s, it has pursued misguided economic policies that have fallen short of their potential. The benefits of the oil boom after 1973 and the Sadat-Mubarak economic liberalization policies that followed were mismanaged. Economic liberalization was primarily directed in the speculative construction and real estate sectors and failed to attract foreign investment in other labor intensive and professional areas. Unemployment persisted as the State reduced spending in conformance to IMF debt re-structuring that by 1986 brought about a gradual erosion of the human development achievements of the '50s and '70s. The series of economic reforms benefited the already wealthy. Islamist organizations have also gained popularity by absorbing the void left by the declining State.
Support and membership for such organizations has cut across class and income barriers and is representative of the frustration of a large portion of society, and youth in particular, with the current political establishment in Egypt. The government has not offered viable solutions to problems of unemployment, housing shortages, deteriorating municipal services or the poor quality of health care and education. Kepel also shows that Islamist organizations have solved problems that the government has been unable or unwilling to confront. Unlike government and private banks, the Islamic Brotherhood has operated Islamic Investment Companies (IIC) since the mid-'70s that have provided a real positive rate of interest. Ultimately, in view of chronic economic difficulties and the Government of Egypt's inability to adopt serious reform and tackle the problems of poverty and unemployment seriously makes Egypt very vulnerable to the zeal and violence of militant Islam.
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