I blame Paul Berman, Christopher Hitchens and, of course, Tony Blair. They became the enemy within: the intrepid jihadists parachuted behind the lines into the citadels of the liberal left and proceeded to disseminate ‘kosher’ Islamophobia using the rhetoric of defending ‘liberalism’ against ‘illiberal’ outsiders.
In established industrialised societies, where most of the important debates about the overall general direction of society have been resolved, the debates around the purpose of higher education usually centre around the contests between utilitarianism (vocational and professional skills and employability) and some relatively more lofty ideas, such as ‘self-fulfilment’, ‘nourishing the soul’ and sustaining values, social cohesion, and even social justice.
The Brotherhood’s current narrative about themselves as God’s elect, living apart from the ‘Egyptian society’, contrasts and overlaps with other modern Islamist narratives.
The trip to Whitechapel took much longer than we had anticipated, even though it was a Sunday. Our dear friends in the English Defence League had chosen that of all days to mount an anti-Muslim demonstration close to East London Mosque. A large police contingent was deployed to prevent clashes with angry Muslim youths, and traffic around the centre almost came to a standstill.
The lowest point for the regime of former Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiri (1969–1985), if not for the whole of modern Sudanese history, came on the morning of Friday 18 January 1985. At that fateful hour (around 10am), a seventy-seven-year-old man was dragged in chains to the gallows, with tens of thousands of people watching, most of them cheering with glee.
The bad news, Berman argues, is that this irrationality is not restricted to a small faction of extremists, but is harboured by broad currents of Islamists and nationalists. In a sense, every Muslim or Arab is a potential Islamist or Baathist, and any of those is a potential terrorist. So we must prepare for an endless war against this implacable enemy.
One of the most gripping and revealing episodes of the popular Egyptian revolution that erupted on 25 January, 2011 was a scene in which a disoriented leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood explained to Al Jazeera news channel why he happened to be talking from a borrowed mobile phone outside a prison in the middle of the desert.