New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Game Over…We Win?

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2011-01-31

The current uprising in Egypt, coming in the aftermath of the popular revolution in Tunisia, is a monumental event that is altering all of the political calculations currently governing how we think about Middle Eastern politics. The emerging popular movements in the region have led to a swift reshuffling of the mental furniture governing the way Tunisians, Egyptians, and likely other people in the region see themselves and their relationship to those who have been ruling them with repression, fear and intimidation. The new thinking shows that the people are no longer afraid of their rulers and their dreaded security apparatuses. Now that that reshuffling has occurred, as one of the most popular Tunisian protest posters declared, “Game Over.” No matter what happens in Egypt going forward, the old game is indeed over.

Middle Easterners are not the only ones whose mental furniture needs reshuffling. Here in the United States, we need to begin to critically assess our silence in the face of the atrocities we support, or knowingly turn a blind eye to. Our officials know that the money we have been pumping into the Mubarak regime for the past 30 years has done nothing to improve the lot of the average Egyptian. Rather, it was being used to strengthen the Egyptian military and the internal “security” forces, which is a euphemism for the forces of torture and political repression. For example, the State Department’s 2008 Human Rights Report for Egypt mentions:

Police and the SSIS reportedly employed torture methods such as stripping and blindfolding victims; suspending victims by the wrists and ankles in contorted positions or from a ceiling or door-frame with feet just touching the floor; beating victims with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; using electric shocks; dousing victims with cold water; and sexual abuse, including sodomy. Victims reported that security officials threatened them and forced them to sign statements for use against themselves or their families should they in the future lodge complaints about the torture. Some victims, including women and children, reported that security officials sexually assaulted or threatened to rape them or their family members. Human rights groups reported that the lack of legally required written police records often effectively blocked investigations.

What is mentioned in this report is the tip of the iceberg concerning the abuses that every Egyptian knows of. The dehumanizing horrors occurring in the “Zinzana” are not well-kept secrets. However, what did the United States do about these atrocities after documenting them? We did the same thing we did about the rigged elections that kept falsely affirming Mubarak and his gerontocracy in power. We did the same thing we did in the face of the grinding poverty of the country, only accentuated by the regime’s enthusiasm to accept neoliberal economic policies that only funneled money from the impoverished masses and into the clutches of the wealthy elite managing their society on behalf of their western sponsors. Namely, nothing. In the name of our war against terror, in the name of our security interests, in the name of our economic interests we did nothing.

It is time for Americans to acknowledge that when we prioritize our interests in foreign lands over the interests of the citizens of those lands, in many instances, those citizens are starved, politically disenfranchised, tortured and sometimes killed. We have to realize that this is not only true in the Middle East, it is just as true in the Congo, Haiti and elsewhere.

Tunisians and now Egyptians have bravely stood up and challenged the hypocrisy, brutality and illegitimacy of their rulers. It is blatant hypocrisy for America to pontificate about the need for peaceful political reform in the Middle East and then support the violent repression of peaceful reformers or circumvent internal reform all together by imposing political change through the gun-barrel of an M1 Abrams tank. It is time that the people of this country stand up and challenge that hypocrisy. The masses in Tunisia and Egypt should be a source of courage and inspiration for us in this regard.

The popular movements emerging in the Middle East are giving birth to watershed events that may well redefine the political map of the region for the next century. We should work to make sure that the vision and hope they embody are not confined to the Middle East. Now is the time for us to express our solidarity with the people of Egypt and elsewhere as they struggle to carve out a dignified existence for themselves and their progeny. If we do so with courage, conviction, vision and principle we may all live to see a day when the old game will be over everywhere. If that happens, we will all be the winners.


By Mtl on January 31, 2011 at 7:06pm

I was waiting for this post. Alhamdulillah

By Afroz Ali on January 31, 2011 at 7:58pm

Thank you so much for that insight, Imam Zaid. It corrects the perspective on the distorted understanding of the reality of these matters.

By faten on February 1, 2011 at 3:21am

i am really glad imam zaid shaker that you said that we are a source of courage and inspiration for you in this regard, because as you know we lived in a very depressive and opressive state that we somehow lose hope of change especially that we are muslims and we should drive community to better ways. you also giving us alot of hope by your zaytuna college, you, shiekh hamza yusuf, ustadh yahya radous, and other. we here in middle east watch you and looking up to you in very ways, you are a role model to us in every aspects. thank you always.

By Zahid Bailey on February 1, 2011 at 5:53am

The brilliance of the movements in Tunisia and Egypt are refreshingly effective. What they have continued to determine pronounces a position on a level that inspires my humble respect. May Allah help the Egyptian and Tunisian people establish justice and peace as much as is possible. Ameen

By Zaynab on February 1, 2011 at 6:14am

Assalamu alaikum, Imam Zaid. Thank you for this excellent analysis and call to action. Why do you think the Western media are trying to stir up fears of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Egypt? Are they trying to deflect people's attention from the real issue, namely our country's hypocrisy when it comes to self-determination and democracy for the Muslim world?

By Mansoor Ansari on February 1, 2011 at 9:20am

Imam Zaid What abt following the law of the land which we have been hearing from scholars including you. These protest r against the law, so how can we support those who break the law?

By Molly Darden on February 1, 2011 at 2:48pm

This comment is correct, as far as it goes. I believe we need to know in more detail how we can support these principles. We know, of course, that politics is generally based on economic and power concerns so, specifically what can we do to change that? It is a reality that, while green fuel is more desirable, we don't yet have it in the degree to which we could live; coal and wood are not the answer. What is the answer? I agree with your abhorrence of Halliburton and similar firms, but abhorrence and outrage do not equate with solutions. Thank you.

By Molly Darden on February 1, 2011 at 3:41pm

The issues we would like to address are political, though Muslims are included as Americans (in residence or as citizens)(by petitioning people of similar political beliefs (not necessarily only Muslim(, writing letters to politicians, boycotting, and commenting en mass on social media sites of media personnel and networks as well as blogs. We have voices, and we have power; we just have to use it. When we complain about the media and we want to be heard, we first have to follow influential media outlets. Muslims here are Americans, and Americans are Muslims. We have ways, and we should use them or just keep quiet. Today, I read a FB status that said, "We can't wring our hands while we are rolling up our sleeves." I agree with this; do you?

By F on February 2, 2011 at 3:07am

Salam aleikum Imam Zaid, thank you so much for this post as an Egyptian in Egypt and according to Mubarak's speech yesterday the game is not over at all unfortunately. Him insisting on staying til September is just a way to ensure who will follow him next, another way to falsify the elections, another way to give power to the police with their terrorizing methods. for the moment i can honestly and unfortunately say we are back to square one. he is completely ignoring all our protests and demands for change. it is frustrating. please forgive my negativity, pessimism. wassalam

By Bakir on February 2, 2011 at 9:11am

Assalamu Alaikum Imam Zaid, JAK for the timely article. A few friends have remarked that the current uprising constitutes rebellion against a Muslim leader ("khurooj 'an al-hakim") which would be haram. I've spent a lot of time in the Arab world and, having visited the mukhabarat (aka "my aunt's house") a few times, can strongly sympathize with the protesters. On the flip side, some countries still suffer from the after-effects of failed Islamic uprisings from 30+ years ago. I was wondering if you could specifically comment on the legality of the protests from an Islamic standpoint.

By Zarlasht on February 2, 2011 at 1:55pm

Thank you Imam Zaid for keeping it real. As these words are being typed Tahrir Square is turning into a blood bath and every day the situation will become worse if the rest of the world sits idley by. What would be great to see happen is a flood of calls, letters, and petitions, and emails to the White House asking for President Obama to put pressure on the Egyptian Military to side with the people and ask Hosni Mubarak to resign. If we, the people employ democratic and peaceful reforms in other countries, then we should demand to see such action by our own government as well. $1.3 billion of tax payer dollars isn't chump change. It's what is being used to support an undemocratic regime and many of us would like to see that stopped immediately.

By Ihsan Abdur-Rahman on February 2, 2011 at 2:44pm

Iman Zaid, thank you for your article. May Allah bless us all to be forces for positive and sustainable change.

By LaMarcus on February 2, 2011 at 2:45pm

I always though Imam Zaid and the rest of the Zaytuna crew was anti revolution. Why the change of heart?

By Ameena Jandali on February 2, 2011 at 3:30pm

May Allah preserve and keep you.

By Umm Sulayman on February 2, 2011 at 6:15pm

So how? What is the first step?

By DC on February 2, 2011 at 8:08pm

الحمد لله

By A Concerned Muslim on February 3, 2011 at 2:10am

As-Salaamu 3'alayykum Imam Zaid, As the first comment states. I too was awaiting this post. Thank you Mubarak is a stubborn dictator who is responding in a text book manner to the millions of Egyptians demanding that he leave their country. Ben'Ali fled within days of being asked to. Mubarak on the other hand appears to be confident in holding on. The only reason I can see for his determined stance is the faith he has in the "power" of his backers. Namely Israel, who have a vested interest in preventing the collapse of his gerontocracy. His latest concession stating that he'll leave in September is a ploy to buy time and ensure the destruction of archives which the US & Israel do not want the world to see. The West are hyprocrites, that we all know. What is even more disturbing however is the silence of rogue Arab & Muslim states (exceptions being Turkey and Iran)? Where is our unity and our standing by the truth at all costs? Why have Western powers been so sucessful in infiltrating the ranks of our governments who are far too often willing to sacrifice their populations?

By Adil Cole on February 3, 2011 at 8:56am

Rebellion against a Muslim leader, lol. What kind of Muslim leader is Hosni Mubarak? What has he done in his 30 years of power that shows that he is a Muslim leader? If he is a Muslim, he should believe in the primacy of the Sharia'h as the correct system of law for a Muslim country. He obviously had the power to implement such a system, because he implemented his corrupt dictatorship.

By Sami Dean on February 3, 2011 at 9:26am

Asalamu alykom Imam Zaid, Like the other individuals I would like further clarification on some points. 1- How do we reconcile between the aqida article of not uprising against ones government and what is happening in Egypt? 2- And where is the line drawn for an "oppressive ruler" and an "oppressed people". Can muslims rulers basically do what they want, and the people just have to take it? 3- How are we to compare the state of the Egyptian people to that of the Palestinian people, who have suffered oppression at the hands of foreign occupiers for the past 50+ years. Are they one in the same? and how are the rest of the Muslims supposed to react to each scenario? Jazakal Allahu khayr

By Amjad Tarsin on February 3, 2011 at 1:18pm

Imam Zaid, May Allah reward you for this article. It would be beneficial for someone like myself of little knowledge if you could highlight some of the differences between what is going on in Egypt now and an unlawful coup d'etat. Is it that most of what we see otherwise is violent and these protesters are non-violent? Thank you and may Allah always bless you.

By Hassan on February 3, 2011 at 5:39pm

As-salaamu `alaykum Imam Zaid, Indeed if we in the United States had not been complacent, then most likely what is happening in the Middle East now would not be happening.

By Muslim on February 4, 2011 at 11:17am

As-Salaamu 3'alayykum Imam Zaid, As the first comment states. I too was awaiting this post. Thank you Mubarak is a stubborn dictator who is responding in a text book manner to the millions of Egyptians demanding that he leave their country. Ben'Ali fled within days of being asked to. Mubarak on the other hand appears to be confident in holding on. The only reason I can see for his determined stance is the faith he has in the "power" of his backers. Namely Israel, who have a vested interest in preventing the collapse of his gerontocracy. His latest concession stating that he'll leave in September is a ploy to buy time and ensure the destruction of archives which the US & Israel do not want the world to see. The West are hypocrites, that we all know. What is even more disturbing however is the silence of rogue Arab & Muslim states (exceptions being Turkey and Iran)? Where is our unity and our standing by the truth at all costs? Why have Western powers been so successful in infiltrating the ranks of our governments who are far too often willing to sacrifice their populations?

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By Adil Cole on February 11, 2011 at 8:30pm

Just wanted to state that the various guidance in the Islamic sciences concerning not rebelling relates to doing so against a corrupt khalif/sultan who still basically ruled under the guise of Islam, but may have been corrupt in their personal sinning or too harsh in trying to hold power, etc. It does not relate to dictators such as Hosni Mubarak who rule on other than what Allah commands. And Allah knows best.

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By mohd on February 20, 2011 at 2:14am

as salaamu alaikum Its sad to see Muslims react so emotionally without asking themselves what is Islamically justified and what is the position of the Shariah in regards to protests, rebellions, etc. Under what guise can a Muslim rebel, if any? Hajjaj ibn Yusuf was far worse than Mubarak (It is said that Hajjaj killed 120,00) and the advice of the 'Ulama at the time was to be patient and obey. After Hajjaj killed Abdullah Ibn Zubair, Ibn Mas'uud walked by his body (which was hung upside down on the Ka'ba) and mentioned Ibn Zubair's good deeds before saying, "I used to warn you from doing so."(rebelling against Hajjaj)Despite his ruthlessness, the sahabah (especially the learned from them) and the tabi'een never supported revolt. And those who revolted like the followers of Ibn Ash'ath (who committed suicide) all regretted what they had done. Stronger than that is the hadith of Prophet (Peace be upon him) refering to tyranical leaders, "Listen and obey even he were to beat your back and take your wealth." Or "Listen and obey in times of ease and hardships" Or "Whoever sees from his ruler that which he dislikes, then be patient" The Prophet described (in the hadith of Hudhaifa in Sahih Muslim, refer to An Nawawi's explanation of this hadith) rulers who would prefer themselves (and their cronies) over the ruled and they would follow a sunna other than the sunna of the Prophet. Also, they would have the bodies of men but hearts like shayateen. Even still, the Prophet ordered the Muslims to listen and obey. During Imam Ahmad's time, the ruler fell into what Imam Ahmad believed was disbelief (although Imam Ahmad did not declare him a disbeliever) and his advice to his followers and the Muslims in general was to be patient and not rebel. When his uncle said to him, "But he teaches our children kufr!" Imam Ahmad's reply was , "Be patient. Allah will grant victory to His religion!" The protestors' only goal is the dunya, nothing else! Just like the Khawarij of old. What we as Muslims should do is look at the root of the problem. Mubarak is only one person and the Egyptians are close to 80 Million. What is one tyrant in the face of several million? What has been lost in the entire discourse about the events in Egypt is the fact that calamities/misfortunes/opressive rulers/rises in costs are a direct result of sins! Many the scholars in their tafseer (Ibn Katheer, As Sa'di, As Shawkani etc.) of ayah 129 in Surah An'aam {And like this We place some oppressors over others as a result of their actions.} say that an oppressive ruler is at times punishment to a people. And this understanding is well known in the books of the salaf. That is why they used to say, "As you are so are your rulers!"Or "Your governors are your actions!" With that understanding, the situation in the Muslim world warrants reflection on the condition of our obedience to Allah ta'ala and how short we've come in implementing the first obligation of Tawheed and then all other manifestations of Iman/obedience to Allah ta'la. The current events are by no means a cause to celebrate seeing that what the future holds could be far worse! Allah doesn't change the condition of a people until they change that which is in themselves. The means of this change is not via chaotic protests who resemble the Khawarij moreso than the sunna of our beloved Prophet. Finally, to state that a Muslim government is illegitamate is a shair'ah ruling that would need evidence and scholarly ijtihaad to back it up which is something that the writer is qualified to do so. Not to justify Mubarak or his atrocities, but we should understand or own limitations and not make broad sweeping statements about affairs we're not qualified to speak on.

By Richard Horton on February 22, 2011 at 4:40pm

There are no winners and there are no losers , there are only those who live by Allahs will and those that don't , and if you do , then there is no game and it is never won or lost , there is no we and there is no them , they ,. there is only Allah . stop your foolish score keeping !! you are telling us that the cycle will only continue ! go read your book and then beg Allah he allow you to be a part his solution !

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All happening in Tunisia, Egypt and some more countries happened by a trigger. Poverty and unemployment have made it happened. We see in Saudi, which is more prosper than Tunisia and Egypt, protest are minimal.

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