Islamists vs. secularists:
Battle between world views
Former Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi, overthrown in a coup last month. Click image to enlarge.
AS THE CRISIS IN EGYPT deepens it is becoming increasingly apparent that the enormous gulf that has opened up between the two sides represents a titanic clash of civilizations.
On the one side is the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader, elected president Mohamed Morsi was deposed in a coup last month.
On the other is the Egyptian military, supported for decades by huge infusions of cash from the United States, which would prefer a secular government.
The clashing world views seem, alas, to be irreconcilable.
The only foreseeable outcome is worsening violence and a protracted civil war.
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I FIRST BLOGGED about this concept on June 18 in “Are Ottoman empire remnants collapsing.”
What seems to be happening throughout the region is the implosion of artificially created nation states that never were “countries” when their borders were drawn.
Perhaps the clearest example of this can be seen in the plight of the Kurds, a tribe whose membership spans the borders of several countries.
If Kurdistan were a “country” this is what it might look like. It would cross several national borders. Click image to enlarge.
If it were a country, “Kurdistan” would include portions of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran.
This tight-knit group was completely ignored when the map of the modern Middle East was redrawn by the British and French in the late nineteenth century.
If this were the only problem, there might be a solution in creating a Kurdish homeland.
But it is not.
Within many of the countries in the region, there are deep divisions along both tribal and religious lines.
In Iraq, a prime example in this analysis, it was the Shiite majority long suppressed by the Sunni Ba’ath party, which for decades was led by Saddam Hussein.
Since the U.S. invasion of 2003, the Shiites have been resurgent, but the Sunnis have fought back tenaciously and the country today is teetering on the edge of civil war.
IN SYRIA, IT IS THE ALAWITE minority represented by President Bashar al-Assad that is desperately trying to cling to power against a collation of opposition forces ranging from secular democrats to Islamic Jihadists.
Thousands have died and millions have fled the country since the civil war began more than two years ago.
Although Egypt has a long history – longer than most western countries, in fact – the society is riven with religious rivalry that has emerged in the modern era.
The Islamists – perhaps has many as half the population – want a religious regime, and elected Morsi in what was deemed a fair and democratic election.
Al Jazeera is providing comprehensive coverage of the crisis in Egypt. Click image to enlarge.
The military was never happy with this outcome, but for more than a year it acquiesced.
Then, in early July, the protests began and provided the generals with the opportunity to take action “in the name of the people.”
The situation in Turkey is remarkably parallel.
After decades of secular rule (with a strong military undertone) that made the country a candidate for membership in the European Union, Recep Erdogan of the ruling Justice and Development party became its prime minister in 2003.
The country has since been drifting towards a more religious authoritarianism.
Clashes with its Kurdish minority bring us full circle to the implosion of what was once the Ottoman empire.
It represents a clash of civilizations like no other on earth.
It is modernism vs. traditionalism; tribalism vs. nationhood; secularism or religious authoritarianism.
There is no easy solution. Perhaps the dissolution is inevitable; many of these countries should never have existed in the first place.
We are, today, seeing the consequences of historical errors made by the colonial powers of the nineteenth century come back to haunt us. It is a human tragedy of vast proportions.
Watch the video: Hundreds killed, thousands injured in Egypt violence
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