Last week I posted the transcript of Yusuf al Qaradawi’s sermon at Tahrir Square in Egypt, a sermon notable for its embrace of political moderation and Egyptian nationalism. Qaradawi made his appeal not just to muslims, but to all Egyptians, explicitly inclusive of the Coptic minority. It really was a remarkable speech, far more important that President Obama’s speech in Cairo.
However, some may mistake my endorsement of the sermon as evidence I am a big fan of Qaradawi now. I’m not. Just peruse his Wikipedia page and you will start to understand some of the major issues that anyone of reasonable conscience will have with his various statements and positions over the years.
I’ve never withheld my critiques of Qaradawi or had illusions about him. But Qaradawi’s political support of an explicitly secular revolution and Egyptian identity are critical to moving Egypt away from a Iranian outcome. And there is some irony in that, since if the anti-Semitic Qaradawi can foster a liberal Egypt, it will be better for Israel’s security in the long run.
Anti-Semitism is something the dysnfunctional muslim world will only address after political freedom. It just lacks the intellectual framework at present, under autocracy and “blame the Jews” reflexes of its ruling autocracies, to mature in that direction overnight. Simply put, religious tolerance in the muslim world has been severely retarded.
The bottom line is that political moderation must come first, before we can hope to see intellectual moderation. This is in fact typical of how mature liberal socities have developed – take America as an example, with the Constitution and Bill of Rights preceding Emancipation, Abolition, civil rights, and women’s suffrage. The muslim world is just starting out – 2011 is 1776,.
And what of Qaradawi? He’s not a teddy bear. But he’s an integral part of the liberalization process. Once that’s finished. hopefully the Egyptian people will outgrow him.
Meanwhile, if we hold eradication of anti-Semitism, and even religious tolerance in general, as prerequisites for democracy in the Arab world, then the Arab world is doomed indeed. If however we can hold out hope that political freedom will create the space needed for tolerance, then there’s real hope for Jews and Arabs alike of a golden age ahead.