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July 27, 2005
Egypt Starts Looking Inward For Answers

The bombings at Sharm el-Sheikh appear to have had one remarkable result -- the Egyptians have stopped making excuses for terrorism. Even their official media now openly acknowledge that their culture has created the elements for terrorism to thrive, especially the autocratic nature of their government:

Stunned by terror attacks in a Red Sea resort, Egyptians are in a remarkably frank debate about whether mosques and schools and the government itself should be blamed for promoting Islamic extremism.

Even pro-government media say authorities have created a climate where young people are turning into radicals and suicide bombers.

In a country more used to hearing general condemnations of terrorism, critics on Wednesday were angry and specific hammering at instances where they say the government allowed mosque preachers or state media to promote intolerance. ...

"There is no use denying. ... We incited the crime of Sharm el-Sheik," ran a bold red headline of a lead editorial Wednesday by Al-Musawwar's editor in chief, Abdel-Qader Shohaib.

The bombers "didn't just conjure up in our midst suddenly, they are a product of a society that produces extremist fossilized minds that are easy to be controlled," Shohaib wrote.

In Al-Ahram, columnist Ahmed Abdel Moeti Hegazi wrote: "This is not just deviation, it is a culture[.]"

This appears to be another symptom of the general liberalization that has slowly occurred in Egyptian politics. While it hasn't come as quickly as some would like, the government has allowed the momentum to build towards more open and honest debate in advance of the coming elections, the first where multiparty balloting will take place. The appearance of this debate in the official media organs of the state really means one of two things: either Mubarak wants to lead people to question the authority of the central government, or he can no longer keep people from doing so. Either way marks a considerable improvement.

It also shows how support for al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism has fallen among the peoples of Southwest Asia and North Africa, even more than the recent Pew poll. As more of these bombings take place, the less radical Muslims take a dimmer and dimmer view of Osama bin Laden and his minions. It has not escaped the notice of Egyptians that most of the attacks perpetrated by AQ occur in Islamic countries, and especially if adding Iraq into the calculations, mostly kill other Muslims. Osama and Ayman al-Zawahiri have miscalculated, at least in Egypt; their efforts have created Muslim moderates, not radicals.

Mubarak has made the correct decision by allowing more openness in the debate and in the electoral process, or if he didn't do it by design, not forcing the dissent to stay underground. Even he appears to appreciate how his autocratic rule may have contributed to the culture of death, and the only antidote to offer is hope. The more that Egyptians feel free to discuss and criticize their government's role in creating this culture, the more complete will be the necessary lancing of this boil in the ummah. If Egypt can deliver truly free elections with multiparty representation and real power to the Egyptian electorate as a result, Osama will have lost a major part of the war and a key recruiting center.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 27, 2005 5:05 PM

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