Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Egypt

The most recent lecture of Scott Powell's Islamist Entanglement series focused on the history of Egypt. Despite the fact that Egypt had not been an independent country for many centuries, Egypt follows a path somewhat parallel to Turkey's. Its first (unsuccessful) period of westernization started while still under Ottoman rule early in the nineteenth century under the leadership of Muhammed Ali in reaction to the British and French interventions in 1798. A much-hated British occupation followed some disastrous financial decisions that the Egyptians made. Egypt has what Scott termed a somewhat hollow but nevertheless strong "sense of nationhood" that's tied to its ancient history. As a result, there was much anti-colonial sentiment in Egypt which resulted in clashes with the British and ultimately culminated in Gamal Abdel Nasser's takeover that kicked out the remaining British influences by 1954. Nasser's rule was ultimately a failure, having governed as socialist dictator at home and squandered his perceived grandeur during the Six-Day War with Israel, in which Egypt lost territory along with Syria and Jordan. Nasser was nationalism's last great champion in Egypt. The leaders that followed Nasser, including Sadat and Mubarack, merely tried to maintain the dictatorial system that Nasser established. Thus, nationalism as a motivating political ideology in Egypt is spent. In its wake, Islamism has begun step in, in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood and can be expected to ultimately prevail, as has also been discussed elsewhere.

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