Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

Guest Post: Islamist Foreign Policy in a New Egypt

by Ed Husain Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Egyptian protester holds up a Quran while participating in a rally at Tahrir square in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

My friend from Cairo and a former Muslim Brotherhood member, Abdelrahman Ayyash, analyzes how a Brotherhood-dominated government may approach foreign policy. He can be reached at ayyash@ymail.com.

The overwhelming success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s first free parliamentary elections since the end of the Mubarak regime is raising questions about the Brotherhood’s stance on a number of issues. As an Egyptian and a former Brotherhood member who remains close to its activities, I am as interested as anyone in discerning how the group’s foreign policy will take shape in its new leadership role. Read more »

Advice to Michele Bachmann

by Ed Husain Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann speaks during the Republican debate in Sioux City, Iowa on December 15, 2011 (Eric Gay/Courtesy Reuters).

I am not a Republican—much less a Bachmann enthusiast. Still, I happen to share Bachmann’s concerns about the dangers of a nuclear Iran. For arguing against the whims of the clerics, I am banned from entering Iran. They monitor criticism of their regime. They build a case against their critics.

Just as Iranians know their enemies, as it were, it’s doubly important for us in the West to know Iran. It is us, not them, who seek to prevent conflict and make claims to seeking objective truth. When a U.S. presidential candidate speaks about Iran, it is reported in their domestic press and the political class, clerics, and bazaar merchants analyze and comment. More importantly, the standing of the United States in Iran is in the balance—despite Iran’s public pronouncements of anti-Americanism, the United States will be judged by the quality of its insights about Iranian society and politics in U.S. public discourse. As such, Michele Bachmann’s repeated attacks on Iran must not only have veracity, but objectivity.
Read more »

Should We Fear the Muslim Brotherhood?

by Ed Husain Thursday, December 15, 2011

In view of ongoing developments in Egypt, here are my latest thoughts on the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel, tourism, and the rise of Salafism in Egypt:

I was in Egypt last week to witness the rise of Islam as a political force in the Arab world’s most populous country. In the past when I visited Cairo people would only whisper the name of the then-banned Muslim Brotherhood for fear of unwanted attention from the authorities. Not anymore. The movement now stands on the point of sharing power in Egypt and shaping the future of the country and the wider region. The mothership of all Islamist movements, its political offspring have already won office in Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia. Read more »

Why the United States Still Can’t Count on Iraq

by Ed Husain Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When al-Jazeera Arabic switches its live coverage from the White House to the parliament in Tunisia, you can be sure that Arab masses are not interested in the meeting between President Obama and Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.

As I watched the press conference being broadcast in Arabic yesterday, I was surprised that despite all the noise made by al-Jazeera about the Iraq war, it had little interest in allowing its viewers to understand the current state of play between the United States and Iraq. Read more »

Was Senator Kerry Right to Meet the Muslim Brotherhood?

by Ed Husain Sunday, December 11, 2011

There is much anger among many Egyptian secular liberals about Senator John Kerry’s meeting with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo on Saturday. Soon, in Washington, DC, Republican lawmakers will chide Senator Kerry too. I am no friend of the Muslim Brotherhood, but old policies of isolating the Muslim Brotherhood are no longer viable in the new Middle East.

Meeting only with secular Egyptian leaders such as presidential candidates Mohamed ElBaradei or Amr Moussa yields very little political profit for the United States, and results in a net loss of remaining credibility for Egypt’s secularists. By meeting with Islamists, the United States ensures political gains for the short to medium term. Read more »

Guest Post: How Pakistan Sees the United States

by Ed Husain Thursday, December 8, 2011

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi (Courtesy Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi)

The following was written by Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, the founder of Pakistan Youth Alliance and a member of Khudi Pakistan. He tweets at @ali_abbas_zaidi.

It was November 1979. Anti-American outrage filled the streets of Pakistan. Several U.S. facilities were attacked across the country. A mob in Islamabad nearly burned the U.S. embassy to the ground. The chant “Kill the American infidels!” echoed in the air in response to the siege of Mecca’s grand mosque, Islam’s holiest site.

Pakistani crowds angered by the unprecedented events unfolding in Mecca concluded that such a plot could only be orchestrated by Americans. It turned out they were wrong. The homegrown radical group in Saudi Arabia that led the bloody siege had no link with the United States.

While the U.S.-Pakistani relationship has experienced many changes in the decades since, miscalculations of ground realities on both sides and anti-American sentiment have remained.

The majority of people in Pakistan admire the way Americans live—almost every Pakistani family has a member settled in the United States—but a glaring majority hates the impact of U.S. policies in Pakistan. The United States is considered by many to be the “great Satan.” Every U.S. political move in Pakistan is interpreted as an effort to destabilize Pakistan or to fight a war against Islam. Aggressive rhetoric on the Pakistani side—at times reflecting an unrealistic worldview and at times responding justifiably to belligerent U.S. action—molds mass perceptions. Read more »

Conversations With Cairo’s Christians

by Ed Husain Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Coptic priest queues to vote outside a polling station in the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters).

“When there is no certainty, everything is a possibility,” said a church pastor when I asked him about his expectations for Egypt’s future. During my week-long stay in Cairo, I twice visited Shobra, home to many ordinary Egyptian Christians. I did so because an important marker of a democracy is how it treats its religious minorities. Recurring violence against Christians in Egypt happened under Mubarak’s regime, and continues to happen now.

My first visit was on the first day of the election. Three things surprised me: Read more »

Radical Changes

by Ed Husain Friday, December 2, 2011
Demonstrators hold placards outside the U.S. embassy in London (Paul Hackett/Courtesy Reuters).

Members of an Islamist group hold placards outside the U.S. embassy in London (Paul Hackett/Courtesy Reuters).

Am I allowed to wear a necktie? I was a 17-year-old Muslim growing up in England in the early 1990s, and questions like this dominated my daily life. Born and raised in London, I was British. But my parents were from India, and I looked different: brown skin, black hair. At the same time, thousands of blond, blue-eyed Europeans were being killed for being Muslim in Bosnia.

During that teenage identity crisis, an older friend I met at a mosque gave me a magazine with a picture of an Egyptian imam from the 1940s, wearing a tie and jacket, albeit with a traditional fez! All the imams I knew in London mosques wore flowing Arabian robes. On television, representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran refused to wear ties; Saudi kings never wore Western clothes. Read more »

Why Egypt’s Salafis Are Not the Amish

by Ed Husain Thursday, December 1, 2011

Parliamentary candidate Abo El-Maty of the Salafi party Al-Nour greets supporters outside a polling station during the parliamentary elections in Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Here on the streets of Cairo, I sense a new pride today among Egyptian Salafis. Reports of their electoral success in the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections have injected them with confidence in their religious agenda and struck fear in the hearts of millions of Egyptians. Those who denied that Egypt had a problem with Muslim radicalism were sharply awoken from their sleep.

Now, while many in Egypt are terrified at the prospect of Salafis in parliament, left-leaning policymakers in Washington, DC, will be arguing that Salafis are harmless, pious, and orthodox Muslims. Wrong. Read more »