The polycom rang and a voice cackled that Dr. KissHanger was ready in the Omaha Studio. Our Mars City Universe Broadcasting team was keen to interview him.
“Dear Mr. KissHanger,” I started, “we on Mars are curious to hear what all this trouble in the Middle-East is about. The only thing we heard are those ancient stories of Arabian nights. You have been scuttling frequently between these countries, so please enlighten us.”
“Arabian Nights were stories told by Queen Scheherazade to her Persian King Shah Ryar. The stories emanate from the eight to thirteenth centuries of Muslim caliphates. The main story is that Shah Ryar executed his wife for infidelity and then thought all women were unfaithful. So he rounded up virgins in the country, married them and executed them the next day, till there were no virgins anymore. Scheherazade, the daughter of his chief officer who collected the virgins, proposed she replace them and told him stories that never ended. As a result, the Shah was forced to listen to the next segment each night. That went on for a thousand nights. Scheherazade was pardoned and became the Shah’s wife. It’s today’s principle of each writing course. Make sure the reader turns the page. It is also the framework for the Middle East: a never ending story of religious strife.”
“Very interesting, Dr. KissHanger,” I said. “But what has this got to do with those riots in Egypt?”
“It’s part of the never ending story. The greater Middle-East that includes Iran, are millennia old civilizations. In the United States they don’t understand that because their world only started with the Mayflower landing on the shore of Massachusetts in 1620. Some tourists visiting the pyramids near Cairo may still remember how high Egyptian civilization and mathematics had risen centuries before Christ was even born. Since then, Egypt has passed through many upheavals, including invasions of the Greek and Roman Empires, and the Byzantine era during which many Christians migrated to Egypt. It became a victim of Islamic religious strife after the prophet Mohammed emerged in the early seventh century. Many Christians were persecuted, and Egypt was subsequently disrupted by Western colonial occupations starting with Napoleon from France and later by Britain. It’s a troubled country with 80 million inhabitants wounded by its past.”
“But what are the protesters so mad about?” Shamus asked.
“The same thing as in Tunisia. Massive unemployment, no job offers for many well-educated youngsters, and a repressive regime that limits freedom of speech and advocates secularism which confronts the tenet of Islamic religion which wants social justice for all.”
“Why is everybody so afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood?”
“Because the Muslim Brotherhood, which was created in Egypt just after the first World War in 1919, has become a militant Islamic force. It didn’t start that way. Its mission was to return to the origins of the prophet Mohammed’s revelations in his writings of the Quran, the teachings of the first caliphs up to the tenth century and the adherence to social justice and pious life. It derailed into extremism. Said Qutub, who had studied and worked in the United states, became adamantly opposed to its way of life and made the Brotherhood into a militant organization as of 1950. They started terrorist activities in Egypt. The Brotherhood abhors the urban secularism of Egypt’s elite leaders and adheres to the Sharia law which is based on Mohammed’s religious principles and agrarian way of life in the seventh century. Secular leaders such as Nasser, who executed Said Qutub, and Mubarak, banned the Brotherhood. Though it is reported that the Brotherhood has only twenty percent of the voters’support, other reports say that some 70 percent favors Sharia law because it protects them from the decadent western way of life. The Brotherhood has remained a vibrant part of the country’s political landscape and is, therefore, a threat to Israel and the West.”
“Is Iran getting involved to support Egypt as an Islamic state and destroy neighboring Israel?” Tamil asked.
“Iran is Shiite, while the Brotherhood is Sunni. Shiites believe that only Mohammed’s direct family members are the rightful descendents of Mohammed; Sunnis believe that the first caliphs were the rightful descendents. This is a serious political schism that occurred after the murder of Husain, the grandson of Mohammed, in the seventh century, and may not necessarily alley them together politically. Iranian Imams and Arabian Caliphs have strongly opposed views. But in Arabia, it’s me against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, and my brother and I and my cousin against the rest. So it is likely they would join to fight Israel.”
“Why can’t Arabs live together with Israel?” Elmer asked.
“Because Israel was created on Palestinian soil, which the Arabs consider theirs. Palestine was not a country when that happened but a left over of part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire that was dissembled after World War One. It became a British protectorate and was partly linked up with Jordan, in a territory called Transjordan. As a result, Jews had been migrating into Palestine as it was an area that they had lived in since Moses’ time. They felt a cultural affiliation with Palestine as their homestead and felt safe under British regime. Many believed in Theo Hertzl’s push for an Israeli state, as Jews were persecuted the world over. After the holocaust, the United Nations created Israel in 1948 with American support. But it was never accepted in Arabia because of the diametrically opposed religious views.”
“That’s what we don’t understand here,” Pasha said. “We believe in the universe as our almighty God but you on Earth have all these fighting religions. What’s the point?”
“Misdirected human emotions. We love to write books about it but nobody knows how to solve it. Iran believes it will with their Islamic atomic bomb. They don’t mind being destroyed in the process because they don’t fear death and believe that the hidden twelfth Immam will rise up and bring them back to life.”
“What did you learn from your shuttle trips between the quarrelling nations?” Tamil asked.
“That the damn thing is insoluble, excusez le mot,” Dr. KissHanger said. “Religious strife is a favorite pastime on Earth. Islamic countries have warred through the ages, with millions dispersed and slaughtered in their empires created in the name of Allah, and so have Christians during the Crusades and after that, in the name of God. Shiites and Sunnis in Arabia, Hindus and Islamists in India and Pakistan have never given up war. Catholics and Protestants have been battling for centuries and that has only stopped with the last terror war in Northern Ireland some fifteen years ago. Since Mohammed started Islam 600 years after Christ, we still have a few hundred years to go before they give up. In short, more to come, like a popular feuilleton. Remember the Arabian Nights. A never ending story.”
“How do you see the Egypt situation evolve?”
“Nobody knows for sure and I don’t either. It’s not the same as Iran. Iranians had been ruthlessly suppressed by the regime of the Shahs, lastly Muhammed Reza Shah, who killed and tortured many who dared to protest his secularity and disrespect of Islam. That was the breeding ground for bringing back the Shiite Ayatollah Khomeini from France, who restored the country’s religious beliefs and decreed the compulsory installation of Sharia law. Egypt’s Sunni population has a different composition. It realizes that Sharia law is basically an agrarian law originating from Mohammed’s life and his writings in the Quran and would have to be modernized to make it palatable to today’s civilization. But that does not solve the crisis with Israel. Most analysts say that the Army should decide. The Egyptian army is not the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. It has substantial American training and equipment and they are talking with the Pentagon day and night. But so had the Iranian army and they were severely purged after Khomeini came. Every revolution ends up in turmoil and so will Egypt’s and after all, it were elements of the army that killed Anwar Sadat.”
“You talk about the Quran all the time. What’s the difference with the Bible of the Christians?” Huda asked.
“First, there are many similarities. Mohammed received his visions in a cave from the angel Gabriel. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Jesus are mentioned in the Quran as prophets of Islam. They accept elements of the previous Scriptures, such as Moses’s Ten Commandments. But Mohammed considers Jesus just another prophet like him, not the son of god or the virgin Mary. For him, God is Allah. And he is the last Messenger after Jesus. Don’t forget that the stories about Jesus were written six centuries before. Mysticism still was a large part of life in those days. Mohammed also didn’t believe that Jesus was crucified, which is definitely true as this is historically proven. These are not insurmountable differences with Christendom but they have become so through political strife. The Jews believe in their Messiah. So do the Shiites who believe that their “hidden Imam”, the son of Hussain who was murdered, will come back as the twelfth Imam, the Mahdi. Lesson of all of the above: When you give something good to humans, they’ll find a way to screw it up.”
“Why is Islam so much against women?” Pasha asked.
“They are against liberated women. Especially fundamentalist movements, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Brotherhood or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, not to forget the Saudi Wahabi Islamic religion, want women to be like the time of the prophet, not ostentatious like the western women on Earth who like to show their bosoms and bottoms openly on beaches and in movies, and entice man with their sexy tricks, either in public or in pornographic movies on the internet. There are Christians who do not entirely disagree with that criticism either. However, Egypt, Tunisia or Iraq have many educated women who can hold responsible jobs, so they are not likely supporters of militant Islam to limit their freedom and expression of views.”
“Will the fundamentalist threat increase in America?” Elmert asked.
“It will get worse before it gets better. The Islamic strife is contagious and encourages thus far silent elements to become more militant in the USA and Europe and possibly cause more attacks from within. Islamic militants believe that their religion is a total way of life, not something to be left for private practice, as in the West. Islam is the State. But, while there may be some 5 million Muslims in America and 10 million in Europe, they cannot change the nature of these countries. The USA is a nation of Christian immigrants, its founders were Christians, its laws, culture and political systems are based on freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Many Muslims have middle class status, earn a good living there, and don’t want to change that. Increased threat perhaps, but no fundamental change. Some liberal pundits may share the Islamist views on total control, but socialists are in a minority, even though you wouldn’t believe that if you look at their TV.”
“Do you see a wider spread of the Egyptian revolution?” Shamus asked.
“It’s not impossible. Algiers has so far stayed calm, but there is a strong fundamentalist movement against the secular regime. It has a better economy due to plenty oil and gas reserves, but you never know what a spark can put ablaze. Jordan is delicate as it is economically weak and most Jordanians align with the Palestinians. The King felt forced to change his cabinet. In Iraq, Moctar Sadr, who just came back from Immam studies in Iran, sides with the Iranian Shiites, is very anti-American and against the Government. Prime Minister Maliki, a Shiite himself, felt forced to say he wouldn’t be prime minister again. Lebanon is a lost case with three major blocs of Hezbollah Shiites, Sunni Muslims, and Maronite Christians, with Syria and Iran meddling, and their fate hangs in the air with the UN investigation report on the murder of Rafik Hariri. There is no government there. All are feeling the pinch, so are the Arabian Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Americans favor democratic rule but these countries have never experienced it. It’s not in their culture nor in their blood. I’m not sure the Egyptian revolution is a democratic one. It may be more one of hunger and hopelessness and envy of what they see is possible in the USA and not in Egypt. Requiring democratic rule may not bring stability and catapult the best-organized group to power. That could be the Brotherhood. If that happens, all bets are off.”
“How is the American Administration handling this crisis?” I asked.
“Please, let’s not go there. First, they talk too much and too soon. Second, when they talk they sound like the colonialists of Egypt, or they contradict each other. Egypt’s Mubarak was a good friend but he has to go quote now unquote. The USA knows its friends. He helped against the terrorists, was a wall against attacks on Israel, and kept Al-Qaida out of town. Don’t forget Al-Qaida’s number two, Al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian and qualified surgeon, and running that group. He may want to go back as his uncertain life in the caves of Waziristan must be pretty dismal. The Brotherhood would welcome his advice and maybe they are already talking on closed circuits. You would wonder what other friendly dictators will think of the USA. The less Obama says, the better. He should support free speech and that’s all.”
“Dr. KissHangar, do you believe in God?”
“That’s a very personal question. Yes I do but not as a political system, as Islam has become. I think that Mohammed had good ideas and was sincere in passing on his beliefs, even when he had to defend them against the pagan forces of his time. But religion should never become a political dictum, like Islam now wants from the West. That’s where we differ. I’m rather like you, the Universe and the Ten Commandments are good enough for me.
“I’m afraid we can talk about this much more but we’re out of time,” I said. “There will be other opportunities, I’m sure. Thanks very much, Dr. KissHanger.
Dear viewers on Mars, you must be feeling lucky we only have one God and that’s the Universe and our own Ten Commandments. That’s good enough for us. Good bye for now.”