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Focus on Islamism
Thursday 3rd March 2011
Parliament Square is not Tahrir Square


Laurie Penny has published a remarkably ill informed piece over at the New Statesman today. Ordinarily, I would have described it as "disappointing" but to do so would overlook the spectacular decline of the Staggers in recent years. Penny writes:

The difference between Tahrir Square and Parliament Square is one of scale, but not of substance. Across the world, ordinary people are being denied a voice, shut out of work and education, having their dignity trashed.

Penny misses the point entirely about the Egyptian revolution and, more broadly, what is transpiring elsewhere in the Middle East. She argues:

It was youth unemployment, graduate unrest and soaring food prices that catalysed the toppling of dictators in Egypt and Tunisia;

The catalyst for the Egyptian revolution was not unemployment or inflation. Those things matter, of course, but to suggest that is what has motivated these protests only illuminates how little Penny knows.

Agitations for reform built solidly after the murder of Khaled Said in Alexandria last June. Arrested by the police for exposing their corruption, they beat him mercilessly in the street. Said's skull was smashed into marble tables and staircases in broad daylight. The police didn't care about the onlookers. Why would they? They would operate with impunity.

Penny sees similar horrors at home:

I'm standing in Euston Road with 150 anti-cuts protesters, who have occupied the thoroughfare after being wrestled out of Camden Council's budget meeting by a solid wall of police.

"Wrestled out"; "a solid wall of police"; sounds rough.

Protesters on the Arab street are not a bunch of youths demanding the government spend public money on them. They are fighting for political accountability and liberty.

When Egyptians took to the streets, they expected to be arrested and tortured. Many were. Almost everyone I interviewed in Tahrir Square for this magazine told me they would die for their cause. Many did.

It is impossible to draw equivalences between protesters in the Middle East and those opposing budget cuts in London. There is a world of difference between Tahrir Sqaure and Parliament Square.

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Fabio P.Barbieri
March 13th, 2011
4:03 PM
Decline from what? In the seventies, Bernard Levin treated the magazine as a nest of appeasers and its Moscow correspondent, Dev Murarkar, as no better than a Soviet glove-puppet. Read his great articles on Solzhenitsin.

March 5th, 2011
9:03 PM
Elsewhere in this website, Tim Congdon compares banker bashing to the treatment of jews.

Jeremy Poynton
March 4th, 2011
4:03 PM
Poor Miss Penney referred to the recent student demos as an "uprising". I keep asking her how the uprising is going, but she won't answer. I gather she's a Trustafarian Lefty, with a mission. Spare us.

March 3rd, 2011
5:03 PM
Nice post. Lazy (and inaccurate) comparisons need to be called out.

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About Focus on Islamism

Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.

Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London.  He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon. 

To contact the authors, click here

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