Allah Want to do is Have Some Fun

2011 February 24

by Wesley M. Brown

The recent upheaval in Egypt has caused me to do some thinking on the Middle
East. Other than oil and strife, I have no particular interest in the
region.

Most pundits are wrong about the Middle East. They see clips of zealous
young men crowed around mosques and instantly conclude that the toppling of
Mubarak (and the uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain, and now Libya) are religious
in nature.

On the surface, that conclusion is nearly unavoidable. We’ve heard nothing
but trouble coming from mosques worldwide, and we constantly see images of
(mostly) men yelling while being exhorted to do Allah’s will by some weirdly
dressed, heavily-bearded, Imam or mullah with funny headgear.

But these uprisings are actually economic and romantic in nature and only
use religion as justification for the uprisings.

Egypt has three factors that sparked this revolution. First, Egypt is a very
young country, having a huge 15-50 demographic band. Secondly, Egypt is one
of the most highly-educated countries in the Middle East, with a
disproportionate number of its citizenry having college and post-graduate
degrees. Lastly, the country has not invested heavily in industrial
development or infrastructure over the last 30 years of Mubarak’s rule.

What do those factors produce? A boiling pot of unemployed/underemployed,
well-educated young men. I said the day the revolution started that it
happened mostly because your cab driver or waiter in Cairo has advanced
degrees, and he considers himself only slightly luckier than the rest of his
family that is unemployed.

Mubarak, while ostensibly supporting higher education, completely missed the
point that educated people still need good jobs when they are done.
Admittedly, America fails miserably in this respect as well.  You cannot
have a young nation of too many over-educated cab drivers and expect them to
stay content with their lot in life for long.

Thus, the cornerstone of this revolution is truly economic in nature, with
an army of discontented young men ready, able, and willing to embrace any
ideology that may lead to full employment.

The second part of this equation is likewise economic in nature, but it
finds its root in a battle of the sexes. Universal education in Egypt has
also included large numbers of women for a number of years, unlike many
other more conservative Muslim nations. For the same reasons that American
immigrants in the northern states rioted against the draft during the Civil
War as they felt that freeing slaves would open up competition between freed
slaves and immigrants for work, so too must the average Egyptian male feel
that at least part of their employment woes could be solved by removing
women from schools and ultimately the workforce altogether.

That being said, a return to fundamentalist Islam is just the ticket. Not
only can you allege that Allah supports the “return” of the country to
traditional Muslim values generally, you can kill two birds with one stone
and likewise deny women the rights and privileges you’ve granted them for
some time. After all, Allah would want women back at the home, dependent,
uneducated, and raising another generation of Muslim soldiers.

Secondly, this revolution is romantic in nature. By romantic I mean that the
rhetoric involves big themes of Allah versus secular government, east versus
west, clean hands versus dirty money, and all of the other big whopping
issues they have chose to showcase rather than simply admitting the debate
is really about jobs, economic development, and many other far more
technical maters.

Additionally, the revolution is romantic, or at least nostalgic, in that the
men leading it get all misty-eyed when they think how much better their
society was when men were the kings of the castle and women weren’t all
educated, employed, and independent. That must just frost the sandy balls of
each and every self-respecting Muslim male that their wives have more
degrees than they do, and it won’t be too long before the women demand that
the men stay home and look after little Mohammed.

These are the realities of the Egyptian revolution, and it will be
interesting to see if the country can resist the urge to usher in a new era
of Islamist theocracy to ensure that Egypt devolves into a fully third world
country like the rest of their Muslim brotherhood.

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