The demonstrations have died down for the moment, but Friday, demonstration day, is only a few days away. If you follow the Middle East, the demonstrations usually follow Friday’s prayers at the mosques, when the more outspoken mullahs perform like Elmer Gantry in stirring religious and political fervor at times.
Unlike in the West, religion and politics are deeply intertwined, whether it is the opposition in Syria or Hezbollah in Lebanon or the nascent Salafist movement in Egypt. The crowds stream from the mosque and into the streets and things start burning and people get hurt.
The anger began in earnest when Khaled Abdullah, known for his incendiary television sermons against Christians and secularists, demanded justice and retribution. Al Nas, the satellite television station from which Abdullah broadcasts, was originally founded by businessman Mansour bin Kadesh broadcasting music and entertainment, but became first a Sunni outlet, and then later a Salafist station broadcasting across the Middle East. The pot began stirring on September 8 with Abdullah’s first rants. On September 11, he was joined by Mohammed al-Zawahiri, the brother of Ayman, leader of al Q’aeda. Ayman had issued a call for revenge for the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, AQ’s operational commander, at the wrong end of an American Hellfire missile.
Last weeks riots began on 9/11, if you didn’t notice and were in my opinion nothing to do with an obscure Youtube video. The timing is self-explanatory much as Jay Carney and Susan Rice would like you to believe otherwise.
Our Embassy in Cairo has been under daily assault by protesters. Now it turns out that many of them; the professional thugs and even the young and unemployed have been being paid £50/day ($8.50) in a country where that is a lot of money. Hundreds if not thousands of the protesters are being paid, and no one knows where the money is coming from. Saudi interests? The Gulf? Pro Mubarak factions?
The majority in Egypt are angry with the government and Muslim Brotherhood. Not for what you might think, but for not having done enough to stop the violence. But as elsewhere in the Middle East, it is dangerous to speak out, especially against the thugs.
The worst riots have occurred in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. The focal point for American interest in Benghazi seems to have been a planned mission using a small protest as cover according to the latest reports. The timing has become obvious, but the links are still unclear.
What has become clear, though, is that this was not an accident. The majority of people in Egypt are just as concerned as we are. Invisible hands are moving the chess pieces and building upon the violence.
As the Pope visits Lebanon to pray for peace, itself a bold move, denial is not just a river in Egypt; it is our government’s policy.