The author doesn't dwell too long on Egypt's storied past. Instead, he gives a blistering overview of what it's like to live today in this autocratic, hopelessly corrupt society. The Egypt he depicts is a place where anyone can be jailed or tortured at any time for no reason, where Islamic fundamentalism is slowly gaining a foothold among people formerly proud of their diverse heritage, where in some places the only viable form of employment for young men is prostitution, both gay and straight. Bradley also examines why the United States spends $2 billion per year propping up President Hosni Mubarak ("the third-longest-ruling Egyptian leader in the past four thousand years"), despite his crackdowns on anything approaching democracy and his blatant favoring of anything that will bring in more tourist dollars over the best interests of the Egyptian populace. Mubarak is able to gin up American interest, the author notes, by playing up the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, a nominally political organization that provides social services far more efficiently than the government does and wants to reinstate the Caliphate. Needless to say, Bradley isn't hopeful about the future, fearing that an Iranian-style theocracy is in the cards for a once-proud nation whose pedigree dates back more than 5,000 years. Unlikely to win the author any friends among the Egyptian political elite, but terrifically well told and extremely sobering.Update: I'm told that the author is a quite well-respected journalist -- am looking forward to reading this book.
Cairo-based journalist Jeffrey Black, who is currently in Yemen, has a new blog: Middle East Diaries.
(Speaking of Yemen, a radio journalist friend of mine who left for Sanaa yesterday told me she was going to look into a Yemeni movement that aims to take the US to international arbitration courts because of the probes NASA has landed on Mars (the red planet). Their argument, you see, is that Yemen has prior claim to Mars and therefore NASA should have asked permission. Has anyone heard about this?)
Khaled Hamza is the editor of www.ikhwanweb.com , the Muslim Brothers' impressive English website. I met Khaled several months ago and he's a very affable, intelligent man. Last week he was arrested after meeting a human rights activist in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo and thus become the latest Egyptian web activist to be imprisoned. Even for those who don't agree with the MB's religious, political or social views, Khaled is the type of person you wish you saw more often in Egyptian journalistic life. The way Ikhwanweb has been run, notably the inclusion of many points of views that are critical of the Ikhwan, is a testimony to his own open-mindedness (note to current MB leaders: you could learn something here about not being thin-skinned, as you were when your political program was criticized).
There is an online petition calling for Hamza's release here.Update: What he says.