"The real genesis of Al Qaeda violence has more to do with a Western tradition of individual and pessimistic revolt for an elusive ideal world than with the Koranic conception of martyrdom".This seems to me to be a more useful approach to modern violence of this kind than recent attempts to identify the harmful ideology behind the attacks in London or Sharm el-Sheikh. In the UK, a lot of attention has recently been paid to the fiery clerics operating in Britain who are thought to have inspired the London bombers. This is relevant and useful, but at the end of the day, the violence is carried out not by those clerics, but by their hearers. Comparisons with 1970s anarchists, or even with their 19th century forebears in Russia, suggests that it is nihilism in search of the cause that is the constant in the most savage acts of this kind. Looking at Binladenism, it seems that nihilism is the essence and the pursuit of a caliphate is the accidence. Which leads to the conclusion that defeating the ideology of Binladenism will bring only temporary respite from acts like 9/11 and the London bombings. (Incidentally, the New York Review of Books publishes some excellent articles on the Middle East, many of which are free on the website. This issue has an illuminating essay on the Ahmadinejad phenomenon in Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue, and a somewhat alarmist look at rising Iranian influence in Iraq by Peter Galbraith. Last month had an essay on the PA and Hamas by Robert Malley and Hussein Agha).
The campaignâ€™s near-total focus on senior officials in President Mubarakâ€™s NDP has been concurrent with the political rise of his son, leading to speculation that the crackdown is simply clearing a path for an increasing public role for Gamal....Given the rumoured shake-out in the state-owned media, should we assume that the patronage networks at al-Ahram and al-Gomhouriyya will simply be replaced by new patronage networks headed by cronies loyal to the new generation of rulers rather than to the septuagenarian leadership? Or have the rules of the media in the Arab world changed so much - as Brian Whittaker suggested in his Guardian column a few days ago - that state media empires of the kind so useful to Safwat Sherif and his clients are a thing of the past? A second question comes from the report's mention of a period of parliamentary diversity in Egypt after the 1987 elections, when independent and opposition MPs held 30% of the seats in parliament (the NDP has since taken firm control of parliament). Was this parliamentary diversity reflected in the broader political environment? Was the executive ever questioned or tested by parliament in this period? And how and why did Mubarak allow this diversity to come about? I'd be grateful if anyone can shed light on this.
Egypt has a number of agencies that could, if properly empowered by the president, promote transparency and fight corruption. A central auditing agency, working out of the prime ministerâ€™s office, is engaged in privatization of government assets and strives for financial transparency. 42 The Administrative Control Authority is Egyptâ€™s primary anticorruption watchdog,43 although it does not have jurisdiction to investigate accusations of corruption against certain categories of state employees. All of these agencies are directly tied to the executive branch and thus the presidency; therefore, reform (with public accountability and transparency as part of that overall agenda) is only possible if the president wants it.