I’ll be honest: I don’t have a firm grasp on what’s happening in Egypt. That ignorance is what’s stopping me from passing any comment on the protests. Like a lot of Americans, I know more about Egypt under the Pharaohs than under Mubarak.
I think my ignorance is shared by a lot of America’s far right, but that’s not stopping them from weaving these current events into end-times scenarios or conspiracy theories. Not surprisingly, the worst offender is Glenn Beck, who combines a whole mess of conspiracy and rapture buzz words to describe the situation. From Religion Dispatches Anthea Butler:
Beck, without having to say anything religious, recites every end-time theme; fire, riots, Islam, Israel, you name it. Beck’s latest assertion is that the Egyptian uprising will result in a Muslim Caliphate. Ridiculous, yes, but it is the dog whistle that calls together conspiracy theorists, rapture-watchers and end-times purveyors. His constant refrain that this is our “Archduke Ferdinand” moment no doubt will sear a vision of an impending World War III into the minds of his listeners, and his blackboard will continue to contribute to the growing right-wing conspiracy theories that President Obama is engineering this from the White House.
Butler’s colleague, Sarah Posner, discusses some of the other celebrities amongst the far right. Apparently the narrative that is taking shape there is more firm than Beck’s confused speculation. The current meme is blaming the entire uprising on the Muslim Brotherhood, which actually seems to have come late to the protests.
In fact, Haroon Moghul argues that the uprising in Egypt is not an Islamic uprising like the one seen in Iran. He teases out the differences in 4 Reasons Why Egypt’s Revolution Is Not Islamic, mostly based on his read of the culture of Egypt and Iran. In summary:
1. The particular brand of authoritarian Islamism seen in Iran has had it’s day, and it is no longer trusted by most of the Islamic world.
2. Iranian Shi’a Islam has a more powerful, more organized and more independent clergy than in Sunni Egypt.
3. The Shah of Iran had sought to impose a Persian identity over an Islamic identity, which partially explains the backlash. In comparison, Egypt has never had those stresses. Which leads to …
4. Islam really isn’t part of the disagreement in Egypt the way it was in Iran. For better or worse, Egypt is a deeply Muslim country, and no one feels that their religious identity is under threat.
Interestingly, Stephen Prothero has his own four points. They’re from of an outsider’s perspective, but they come to the same conclusion
So, at least for the moment it doesn’t look like the nightmares of the far right are coming to pass. It is very unlikely that we’ll see another theocracy or a new caliphate come out of Egypt.