The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Al-Erian demands apology from West

I've known Dr. Essam al-Erian, a prominent Muslim Brother and long one of its spokesmen, for ages. I see often for the simple reason that his office is around the corner from where I live (a small area that also includes Alaa al-Aswani's dentistry cabinet, so I have a good range of the political spectrum). He used to be known as one of the "moderate" Brothers until 2009, when it seemed he joined the more conservative faction. Since the revolution, those who know him have noted how much more abrasive he's become, and much less conciliatory in his approach to secularists. Many would say he's become quite arrogant in his public statements. 

Helena Cobban had this interview with him during which he expresses the opinion that the West (whatever that is) should apologize to Egypt. I've heard him say similar things in off-the-record situations, including get into a big row with a Western ambassador a couple of months ago. Anyway here it is:

"I am asking Europe and America for an apology. For the last 150 years they have blocked any development in this area... We believe that we have a lot to contribute to world civilization in terms of spirituality and values, but we want the help of the west in allowing our democracy to flourish. We want an apology that they supported dictatorship here for so many years, and then when the revolutions challenged the dictators, they tried to find a safe exit for some of the dictators...

"So please don't intervene in ways that corrupt our new politicians. Westerners corrupted so many of our local NGO's and even human-rights organizations in the past. (But I want to note that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch did a great job! They are my friends!)

Should the West apologize for its treatment of Egypt? Does this blaming the West amount to an exculpation of the local elites (include the likes of the MB) that are responsible for Egyptian backwardness and authoritarianism? The West contributed to the perpetuation of authoritarian regimes, but it did not create them. Following this logic, should Egypt apologize to Sudan for years of dominion? How does this work exactly?

I do agree on one thing: it'd be best for Egypt is Western governments stayed out of its affairs. It doesn't have to accept the aid, either.