While at the macro level of political events such sentiments are most probably insignificant for a political commentator; they bear much weight on the general discourse which drives different political actors and behind them their social base and interest groups.
In any ideological struggle or clash of discourses original ideas may not necessarily hold water. Much has been written on the evolution of thought amongst philosophers and social scientists, similarly there are evolutions of discourse which challenge the logic of conflicting arguments and their implicit assumptions.
Much of the anger and frustration of “Liberals” is directed at the so called Islamists, and many of Liberals will tell you how Islamists are trying to maintain a monopoly on Islam, how they are using Islam as a means to political ends and how they have missed the point when it comes to Islam.
Muslims who claim to fully endorse Islam in all aspects of life are certainly not angels, and their organisational structures are prone to error and mismatch with their own claimed ideals, and this happens in life in general. Nonetheless, it would be very unreasonable to completely dismiss the whole experience, different Islamists had different experiences and one should at least be respectful of the sincere attempts to please God. As a many would say God judges in the end and “don’t be judgmental.”
A problem arises when an “Islamist” is not sincere, this is not only a problem to people in general but also to the Muslim project itself as it contains those who ultimately seek their self interest, which happens to coincide with an Islamist project. These people, like in other movements and political circles, join for a sense of membership, self validation they seek praise, leadership and high status in society. This is why in Islam, the virtue of sincerity and doing things only for the sake of God is not only highly esteemed but a condition for any good deeds to be accepted. And a person who is not sincere in their message is likely to be comforting their ego rather than truly wishing that others find the goodness that person has found for themselves. There are however, plenty of selfless “Islamists” who are genuinely sincere in their means and ends.
Furthermore the mistakes of Islamists whether in actions or way of delivering their message puts many people off, but it also gives many an excuse to completely dismiss the message, not only the messenger. It somehow comforts some people that because a preacher yells on TV about a topic concerning Islam; then it would be ok for the listener to go against the principles of their religion. That because this preacher harshly condemned immodesty or consuming alcohol or gambling then it somehow becomes appropriate to keep doing so. It becomes worse when some people start allowing themselves to hate Islam as a result of this.
Of course no one likes their short comings rubbed in their face, however, it becomes more conducive for one’s self to free their hearts from despise and hate, anger and frustration, to realise that there may be benefit in the message. Biases are not only logical they are emotional as well and just as objectivity would require freeing one’s thought from unsupported assumptions it would require freeing one’s self from emotional affiliations with previous bad experiences associated with the matter in question. Objectivity will enable a better evaluation of the “Islamist” experience.
Many successful Egyptians do have deep commitments to Islam despite their short comings and personal struggles like everyone else and moreover are not pleased with Islamists, on the other hand they do not wish to show their religiosity. They have put for themselves an image and if that image changes everything in their life will change and much could be at stake. This makes it more convenient for them to go with the flow when it comes to popular liberal discourses of critique against Islamists. They might not even call themselves Liberal but it is a label that got stuck on them and they accepted it.
It may be surprising to know that actually many “Angry Liberals” are actually “Closet Islamists” who have not been able yet to commit to their convictions.
(The writer is a columnist at the Egypt-based Daily News of Egypt, where this article was published on Oct. 21, 2012)