Last Sunday, as the media were reporting that the Muslim Brotherhood was sitting down with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, the BBC reported in an unrelated story that British Prime Minister David Cameron had announced that “state multiculturalism has failed”:
“David Cameron has criticized ‘state multiculturalism’ in his first speech as prime minister on radicalization and the causes of terrorism.
“At a security conference in Munich, he argued the U.K. needed a stronger national identity to prevent people turning to all kinds of extremism. He also signaled a tougher stance on groups promoting Islamist extremism. … As Mr. Cameron outlined his vision, he suggested there would be greater scrutiny of some Muslim groups which get public money but do little to tackle extremism.
” ‘Ministers should refuse to share platforms or engage with such groups, which should be denied access to public funds and barred from spreading their message in universities and prisons,’ he argued. ‘Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism,’ the prime minister said.”
For those of us who have been calling for years for the United Kingdom and Europe to become “intolerant” of the radical Islamist threat to our culture, this is a thrilling and gratifying moment. (See my book “The West’s Last Chance,” Regnery Publishing, 2005, particularly Chapter 7.)
It is the obligation of both citizen and statesman to avoid both illusion and self-delusion when considering national threats. And so it is ironic that on the same weekend that the British government finally removes the scales from its eyes and looks straight-on at the mortal threat that aggressively asserted Islamist values pose to our civilization, in Egypt - at the constant hectoring of Washington voices - the remnants of the Mubarak government begins its halting, perhaps inevitable march toward the illusion of Egyptian democracy.
Regarding Egyptian democracy, I agree with the tone of Mohandas Gandhi’s answer while in London in 1931 to the question of what he thought of Western civilization: “I think it would be a very good idea.” I, too, hope for - but doubt - the plausibility of Arab Islamic democracy.
The sad, failed history of reform in the direction of Western democratic values by Arab - and particularly Egyptian - culture and governance is superbly presented in Lee Smith’s 2010 book “The Strong Horse: Power, Politics and the Clash of Arab Civilization” (Anchor Books).
As Mr. Smith points out regarding the hopeless Western search for “moderate” Muslims, “It is only Western intellectuals who distinguish between moderates and fundamentalists; people of faith distinguish between believers and non believers.” (See also “The West’s Last Chance,” particularly Chapter 3). Edward N. Luttwak confirms that observation, saying, “Mainstream Islam, not just Islamism, rejects the legitimacy of democratic legislation that could contradict Shariah law.”
In fact, the history of Islamic reform has been the search for and effort to return to a literal interpretation of the text of the inerrant (in the faithful Muslim’s view) Koran. It is a search to purge the corruptions of man from society. It is the effort to be ruled by God, whereas democracy is the effort to be ruled by men.
Whether the Muslim Brotherhood currently and sincerely believes in violence or not is far less important than its urge and that of most other Islamic peoples in Islamic lands to live under Shariah law.
In February 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini gave the most honest description of government by Shariah: “This is not an ordinary government. It is government based on the Shariah. Opposing this government means opposing the Shariah of Islam. … Revolt against God’s government is a revolt against God. Revolt against God is blasphemy.” In other words, under Shariah government, dissent is punishable by death.
Be under no illusion: If the Egyptian government in the future is shaped by the obvious Egyptian majority opinion - whether the path is slow and peaceful or fast and violent, led or not led by the Muslim Brotherhood - the result will not be Western-oriented democracy.
Regarding the “illusion of stability,” as the successful American policy of the past 30 years has been described sneeringly by those waiting expectantly for democracy: It was no illusion. For 30 years it was a reality, and the reality was good for us and the world. One can’t expect much more value from a foreign policy.
If we can perpetuate anything like it for another month, year, decade or generation, we and the world will be better off. The only possible path to more stability is to encourage the Egyptian army - the nation’s only trusted national institution and one with which we have the closest working relations - to maintain its guidance on whatever government it can cause to come into being.
This would be both good policy and good politics. According to a new Rasmussen poll, 60 percent of American voters think it is more important for the United States to be allies with any country that best protects our national security rather than only to ally with freely elected governments.
There is a lot of dreamy nonsense trying to pass for foreign policy at the moment. The bill for such illusions will come due - probably sooner rather than later. As Jean-Paul Sartre reminded us, we all have an obligation not to act in bad faith by deceiving ourselves - however lamentable the truth may be.
Tony Blankley is the author of “American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century” (Regnery, 2009) and vice president of the Edelman public relations firm in Washington.