Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Understanding Egypt's Worldly Miracles

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Understanding Egypt's Worldly Miracles

Article excerpt

Understanding Egypt's Worldly Miracles Review Article by Raymond William Baker The New Arab Revolt: What Happened, What It Means, and What Comes Next, by Council on Foreign Relations/Foreign Affairs. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2011. 496 pages. $8.95.

The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square, by Steven A. Cook. Oxford, UK and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. 424 pages. $27.95.

Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak, 1981-2011, by Galal Amin. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2011. 180 pages. $24.95.

Egypt: The Moment of Change, ed. by Rabab El-Mahdi and Philip Marfleet. Zed Books, 2009. 224 pages. $28.95.

The Copts of Egypt: The Challenges of Modernisation and the Challenges of Identity, by Vivian Ibrahim. London, UK: Tauris Academic Studies, 2011. 288 pages. $96.

The Autumn of Dictatorship: Fiscal Crisis and Political Change in Egypt Under Mubarak, by Samer Soliman. Trans. by Peter Daniel. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011. $22.95 paper.

'Ulama', Politics, and the Public Sphere: An Egyptian Perspective, by Meir Hatina. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 2010. 256 pages. $25 paper.

Political Life in Cairo's New Quarters: Encountering the Everyday State, by Salwa Ismail. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. 264 pages. $24.50 paper.

Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the Modern Nation through Popular Culture, by Ziad Fahmy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011. 264 pages. $80 cloth; $24.95 paper.

Egyptians performed a miracle in the great public squares of their cities in January 2011. The whole world watched mesmerized as the ordinary people of Egypt, Muslims and Christians, brought spiritual power into Egypt's Tahrir Square to stage their extraordinary revolution. Millions joined hands in cities throughout the country to crash through formidable barriers of violence and fear. The tyrant who had ruled Egypt cruelly for three decades was swept away.

It is no wonder that Egypt's revolution confounded the policy pundits and academic experts, the Mosad and CIA operatives who swarm all over Cairo, and even the countless brave souls who acted as the revolution's agents. No planning, no calculus of politics or economics, no abstract speculations of "tipping points" that tally accumulating causes or "swans" of any color telling us to expect the unexpected can diminish the wonder of so momentous an event.

Those averse to metaphysical explanations have no hope of understanding what transpired. Quite clearly, revolution in Egypt was impossible. Just consider the odds. The greatest power on the planet had spared no expense to keep America's man in Cairo in power. Mubarak's Egypt boasted a gulag of prisons and concentration camps with torture machines second to none. The dictator and his cronies were protected by a military of half a million and an even larger force of a million and a half security police. The hated central security police swarmed all over the land, dressed in their black uniforms and with shields and truncheons in hand. They had as their sole responsibility the elimination of "enemies," i.e. the brutal repression of any who might be tempted to act on the mildest criticism of the regime. In Cairo and the major cities, the security forces were always just around the corner, packed into transport trucks in side alleys or left standing to bake in the sun for hours on end. They were poor, undernourished, and abused young men from the villages and slums, tormented themselves by a regime that trained them as torturers of their own brothers and sisters.

And just who provided the inspiration to challenge this Leviathan and its American enablers? The spark was struck in distant Tunis by Muhammad Bouazizi, an unemployed university graduate whose unlicensed fruit and vegetable cart was confiscated by police. He could not accept one more humiliation, so he set his body on fire in protest. …

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