Egypt and the U.S. must face their demons

Abdel Latif el-Menawy
Abdel Latif el-Menawy
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"He who summons the demon must dismiss it," is a well-known Egyptian proverb. This proverb has crossed my mind several times during this last period. I remember it whenever someone begins to talk about political Islam or whenever someone begins to mix politics with religion. The real problem here is the repeated failure of everyone who summoned the demon and did not know how to dismiss it. The examples here are many but the most prominent ones are that of former Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and for Americans, it was al-Qaeda.

When Sadat wanted to confront his leftist and Nasserite political rivals, he brought in political Islam parties who were back then represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leaders were either on the run or in jail.

He released them from jail to use them, or so he thought, in his political confrontation. It didn't stop here but he created Islamist group al-Jamaa al-Islamiya in universities for the same purpose – the purpose of confronting leftists and Nasserites. Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya thus surfaced due to the regime's support.

Back then, Sadat was not aware of the graveness of letting the demon out. He may have realized this while he took his last breath as he suffered from bullets that the demon's sons fired at him.

The second model here is the U.S. administration which is also responsible for the blood being shed everyday due to its continuous unawareness of the gravity of mixing religion with politics. The Americans thought they were far from the arena which the demons they summoned may influence. Their illusion lasted until they woke up from it 12 years ago - on September 11. Its memory still haunts us.

America itself has several times paid the price of letting the demon out. But the September 11 events remain to be the highest of prices.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Al-Qaeda is a multinational movement established in the period between August 1988 and end of 1989 and the beginning of the 90s. In the beginning, the aim of forming al-Qaeda, which America contributed to establishing, was to fight the communists in the Soviet War in Afghanistan.

The U.S. and its allies' support was obvious. The U.S. looked at the struggle between the Communists and the Afghans allied with the Soviet parties on one hand and the Afghan mujahideen on another as a flagrant manifestation of expansion and Soviet aggression. At least the U.S. marketed the situation as such in front of the world and in front of its allies who took charge of the funding and the recruitment processes. The U.S., through the Pakistani intelligence, funded the Afghani mujahideen who fought the Soviet occupation. The funding was carried out as per the C.I.A.'s Operation Cyclone. At the same time, the number of Arab mujahideen who joined al-Qaeda (they were dubbed Arab Afghans) for jihad – as they thought – against the Afghani Marxist regime increased. They joined them upon the aid of international Islamic organizations particularly of the office of Arab mujahideen services which supplied them with funds worth $600 million a year. These funds were donated by governments, institutions and people who back then thought they were supporting Islam. They were not aware that they were funding an American creature. They were not aware that they will one day pay the price of participating in manufacturing it. The problem is that some of them are still unaware of that.

America itself has several times paid the price of letting the demon out. But the September 11 events remain to be the highest of prices. Consecutive American administrations bear the responsibility of their citizens' blood which was shed by a party they created. Their claim of war on terrorism does not lessen their responsibility. Their murder of Osama Bin Laden, whom they created, and who will continue to haunt the minds of those who made him even after they dumped his body in the ocean, does not lessen their responsibility either.

What pushes me to mention this today is not only the memory of the September 11 attacks, but also the insistence to repeat the same mistake.

The demon’s safe haven

I am surprised by the current American insistence to support the experience of political Islam and enabling it to attain power. They are committing the same mistake again. This time, they think that keeping political Islam groups and jihadi groups busy will dismiss the threat of these groups from them. This is why they worked for years to implement this scheme. We can also sense the insistence of ignorance, by us and them, that this scheme of theirs will make them avoid threats.

I remember that for the last 13 years during my conversations with western politicians and media figures, I warned them that they will witness another September 11 and that the British subway stations will witness an event similar to what happened on July 7, 2005. I also warned them that terrorist events which European cities and capitals witnessed may repeat as long as these political Islam groups continue to find support and as long as these countries overlook that. These countries, and particularly America, thought that as long as these groups are far from them and as long as they are contained in their countries, then they will remain safe. They are thus unaware that they are granting them a safe haven that they can use to gather and organize themselves and that they will be among their targets. Their biggest mistake is that they are unaware that once the demon is out, dismissing him is not that easy. Their biggest mistake is that they are also unaware that demons do not care about borders.

This article was first published in al-Jarida on September 14, 2013.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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