The alternative resolution or the other Islamic state, the one that avoids the tyrant’s despair – or, put more politically-philosophically, allows for a liberal-Islamic assimilation that would also be integrative or unitary rather than irrecuperably conflictual – would appear to rely on modes of idealization of religion that would evolve simultaneously and bi-conditionally, or, as Fadel or Fadel’s Khaldun puts it, “organically.” Their current impermissibility is a reflection of the same problem.
In Egypt, what Hussein Ibish calls “accommodation” would for Islamists, as well as for the felool, equate with capitulation, under the longer term prospect of extinction. This prospect is deemed intolerable, just as the proposed or traditional “accommodations” of liberal or other minority aspirations under Islamist or nationalist-authoritarian regimes may be perceived as intolerable to those “accommodated.”
As long as the liberal-seculars and the Islamists in Egypt view their belief systems as mutually exclusive except under the ultimate and effectively permanent neutralization of the adversary – as long as each sees the other as evil – the decision between them will be determined as a matter of the violent conversion of the errant believer that is for each held to be a foundational impossibility, so must develop under a mutually external power or authority. The connection might otherwise be a beginning point, an at least half-shared location of the sacred, if it did not remain invisible amidst the teargas, and unheard among the shouting. It will still be there, nowhere, whoever happens to be declared the winner.
If there really is a coherent argument for U.S. intervention in Syria, however, it is one in which humanitarian concerns as well as Islamophobic nightmares play an at best secondary role. It may therefore come across as amoral or worse, making it ill-suited for public diplomacy and patriotic myth-making. That the desirable level of intervention squares with the semi-covert policy that the U.S. actually put into effect suggests that the Obama Administration, intentionally or not, is following just such an approach.
Hussein Ibish sees the workings of a master plot, not quite the same as a the plot of a mastermind, in Morsi’s Egyptian maneuvers. Yet the strengths of Ibish’s criticism undermine themselves: The picture of Egypt that emerges – of the real Egypt rather than the Egypt of liberal aspirations – is of a nation dominated by non-liberal forces, in which the primary negotiations are effectively two-sided, between the forces of the nationalist-military deep state and of the Islamists.
On, appropriately enough, July 4 of this year, via Twitter as @hhassan140, Hassan Hassan (“HH” below) offered a provocative summary of an article on Islamists and the Arab Spring by Hussein Ibish (@ibishblog, “HI”). A colloquy between Hassan, Ibish, and myself (“CM”) ensued, its terms anticipating the same arguments, and the same situation, that informed that tweet of Hassan’s at the head of my “1st Précis.”
The day that the forces or vectors currently aligned against each other in Egypt as “Islamist” and “opposition” no longer treat each other with suspicion, mistrust, and fear would be the day that they no longer recognized any meaningful contradiction between their beliefs, the day that reason and revelation were the same, the day that the theocratic utopia and the liberal-democratic utopia were understood and experienced as the same utopia, which would also be the same day that neither was utopia any longer – “and many nations shall join themselves to the Eternal in that day.”
Those who see or portray sharia as inherently illiberal will have already given up on a liberal politics in Egypt for the foreseeable future, while, as so often, expressing their liberal commitment to the inclusive and tolerant society through pre-emptive exclusion and intolerance.