Storm Front: The Muslim Mideast and North Africa at a Crossroads?

By: Dr. John G. Weldon; ©Feb 24, 2011
What a difference a month can make — from relative stability to uprisings and revolution. We just might be in the process of witnessing a process with major consequences for both America and the West.
… whatever the cause of the [up]risings, there is no question that radical Islamists will attempt to take advantage and control of them.… that they would want to and are trying to do so is obvious. They are a broad, transnational and disparate group brought up in conspiratorial methods. This is their opportunity to create a broad international coalition.George Friedman, Stratfor Global Intelligence [1]
As the whole world breathlessly watches events unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa, everyone is wondering whether these revolutions will usher in democracy and human rights, or just a new type of oppression for the people in the form of Islamic states ruling with the cruel, merciless fist of Islamic law. — Dr. Mark A. Gabriel[2]

What a difference a month can make — from relative stability to uprisings and revolution. We just might be in the process of witnessing a process with major consequences for both America and the West. Demonstrations of course, aren’t revolutions, but they carry that potential. To be successful, revolutions typically require the power structure (e.g. the military and police) to side with the demonstrators or be split, and so far that has only occurred in Egypt and Libya. And it is also true that revolutions that spread rapidly are a rarity, so if this becomes one, it will go down in history — such revolutions have the potential to change the global landscape and balance of power, and it would affect the daily lives of each of us. For sure, we aren’t there yet, but neither is this thing over.

It might be wonderful if this was a true democratic revolution and everything came up roses, but I’m not sure how realistic such a perspective is, despite the media’s romantic optimism. Revolutions are inherently unpredictable by nature, and those who start them usually don’t end them. And even if a true democratic revolution occurred, this isn’t necessarily something good for America and the West if Islamist regimes are legitimately voted into power as with the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza. The Muslim Brotherhood and other terror groups are clearly hoping to use democracy against itself in an attempt to gain political control: this is the stated goal of, e.g., The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in order to impose sharia law throughout Egypt and hopefully internationally.[3]

The various uprisings appear to be largely youthful and if everything did go truly well, theoretically there could finally be greater overall freedom and human rights (especially religious), better economies and higher employment with lower inflation, and other good things which generally stabilize societies. This might occur in some countries, or possibly many, and this would be magnificent for the Gospel (John 3:16), the good news that is currently so appallingly restricted throughout Muslim nations globally.

Conceivably, we could be looking at a situation that turns out relatively rosy or we could be looking at increasing chaos and eventual war, a war that Israel certainly would be drawn into, and possibly America in order to protect her own national interests.

Indeed, it’s good to remember that this is the Middle East and North Africa where there is one major potential roadblock to a promising outcome: Islamism and radical Islam. (Although there is fluidity between the two, I see Islamism is a revivalist movement usually characterized by a literal interpretation of the Quran and the implementation of sharia law in every aspect of individual and national life, including politics; radical Islam is more sweeping and hopes to bring about a global Islamic rule under strict sharia law, often by terrorist means.) Unless Muslims are able to bring about relatively just governments and a truly moderate Islam in the region, the imposition of strict sharia law will corrupt any movement toward true freedom and human rights. As everyone knows, the area under discussion is almost entirely Islamic; unfortunately the religion of Islam is itself divided and largely (not necessarily entirely) antidemocratic and opposed to individual freedom and human rights to name just a couple of items. (Muslim nations, for example, continue to remain at the top of lists of nations that persecute Christians.[4])

In the end, this may wind up as having been a question of the lesser of two evils. Which would be the lesser of two evils? Kleptocratic/autocratic leaders corrupted by greed and power ranging from the relatively benign to cruel and tyrannical — or an Islamist or radical Islamic rule that is about the same but supports a global caliphate and terrorism on a significantly greater scale? Lenin arose out of great turmoil in the Soviet Union and changed Russia’s political structure and fate forever; Mao did the same in China and Hitler in democratic Germany – at a total cost of some 100-150 million lives. (Indeed, millions have been “lost to genocide and hundreds of thousands sold into slavery in Africa at the hands of Arab elites and militant Islamist militias.”[5])

Those who assumed or took power became much worse than what they replaced, and in general it obviously wasn’t the good people who ended up ruling. The fear is that this will be the case if what takes place is an Islamist revolution throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Certainly matters will become much worse for the US and the West than previously. In the current situation, “The danger is not radical Islam, but chaos, followed either by civil war, the military taking control simply to stabilize the situation or the emergence of a radical Islamic party to take control — simply because they are the only ones in the crowd with a plan and an organization. That’s how minorities take control of revolutions.”[6] A significantly destabilized Middle East and/or North Africa could result in turmoil throughout the world. We can pray it won’t happen, and it probably won’t, but one never knows and there is always the possibility.

Consider a few examples of how dramatically things have changed in just a relatively few short weeks:

Israel is at greater risk for her survival than probably at any time since she was reborn in 1948, and the Israelis know it all too well.

In Tunisia, where the uprisings began, the population is about 98 % Muslim with the Constitution declaring Islam the official state religion – however this is a largely secular culture with limited application of sharia law, although the Islamists appear to be meddling in things. No one can be certain what will eventually happen. Tunisia could conceivably end up becoming a Mediterranean nation such as Greece. It is unlikely but not impossible that Tunisia could also become Islamist within the coming year.

Lebanon has fallen to the terrorist Hezbollah, which engineered the fall of the Saad Hariri government.

In Libya, Col. Muammar Qaddafi is likely to survive without US military intervention, and if so, at significant cost to American credibility in the region, not to mention additional consequences.

In Egypt, president Hosni Mubarak has fallen and the military has taken control but it is no means clear if a secular government will win the day; some authorities believe an Islamist government is virtually inevitable, such as the former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Michael Scheurer.[7] Clearly, the only two organizations capable of ruling Egypt are the military and the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks a global Islamic rule. Unfortunately, if the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, this would not only scuttle the 30-year peace treaty with Israel and virtually guarantee another Mideast war; it would also place the Suez Canal in the hands of Islamists/terrorists and significantly increase chances that the US could be drawn into war to protect its vital interests. According to Dr. Mark A. Gabriel, the author of five books critical of Islam, “If Egypt falls into the hands of a government based on Islamist philosophy, the whole region will be influenced in that direction.”[8]

Iran, run by madmen, remains committed to building atomic weapons as well as the missiles to deliver nuclear warheads to Israel, Europe and America and though unlikely, for all we know may already have one or two atomic weapons. Because of the power of the state police, apart from divine intervention, there is virtually no chance that public demonstrations can topple the Iranian regime – especially since the majority of Iranians are actually in favor of the current government. It has often been argued that the people of Iran generally are not the problem, rather it’s the radical government. It is certainly true that those who are risking their lives in demonstrations and who desire genuine freedom aren’t the problem. But to the extent the population does actively support such an openly evil and hostile government, they are indeed the problem; what else could they be? George Friedman PhD, of Stratfor Global Intelligence and author of The Next Decade correctly observes that there are “a majority” and “a tremendous number” of Iranians who support what is clearly a corrupt and genocidal government.[9]

Indeed, the Iranian regime has been appropriately described as “an apocalyptic death cult” because powerful elements within it hope to proactively bring about the return of the Islamic savior, the mystical Mahdi, by producing massive chaos and destruction throughout the world, even possibly involving the deaths of billions of people. Recently, the Iranian President himself told the Iranian people that the Mahdi is coordinating the current Mideast revolution (not to mention Iran’s nuclear program), and that “the final move has begun” to destroy America, Israel and Western influence in the region. The president of Iran said on February 14: “The final move has begun… We are in the middle of a global revolution managed by the dear [12th] Imam. A great awakening Is unfolding. One can witness the hand of the Imam in managing it.”[10]

Bahrain consists of a large majority (70%-80%) of Shiite Muslims ruled by Sunni Muslims which is why Iran is doing everything it can to support the demonstrations and topple the regime. (Shiite Iran is also meddling in Sunni Egypt because e.g., the head of the terrorist Sunni Muslim Brotherhood apparently has similar views about the return of the Madhi; war indeed makes strange bedfellows.) An Islamist Bahrain would not only significantly increase Iranian power in the region, it could even force the critical US fifth Fleet out of the area and further disrupt the Middle East. As George Friedman cited above observes, “If this turns into a rising of Shiites in the Persian Gulf region the entire region could be destabilized. The country to watch is Saudi Arabia.… if that starts to move, then were looking at an earthquake in the region.”[11]

Saudi Arabia is blessed with fully 20% of the world’s total oil supply, and while it fights terrorism with one hand it also supports it with the other. The Kingdom is possibly endangered if the demonstrations and unrest that began February 14 continue and grow. In addition, Arabia now has seriously strained relations with the US because of President Obama’s support for overthrowing Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, which may have placed several countries in the Middle East at risk for an Islamist revolution. According to a report at Bloomberg.com, “Violent protests in Bahrain provoked by discontent among majority Shiite Muslims risk spilling over to their co-religionists in neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, analysts said.”[12] If the unrest continues and increases, the price of oil could skyrocket with serious economic repercussions for the West. “’Unless problems facing Saudi Arabia are solved, what happened and is still happening in some Arab countries, including Bahrain, could spread to Saudi Arabia, even worse,’ Prince Talal [Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz] told the London-based TV broadcaster [BBC Arabic TV] in an interview aired late Feb. 17.”[13]

There are ominous signs elsewhere outside the region we are discussing e.g., Turkey’s 75-year old experimentation with secularism seems to be ending, with the nation likely headed toward an eventual Islamist rule, making its continued membership in NATO of no small concern. There are ominous signs in other Muslim nations around the world, such as Pakistan, which seems increasingly Islamist and appears to be increasing its nuclear capability. In a Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project poll, the survey “finds that Muslim publics overwhelmingly welcome Islamic influence over their countries’ politics.” Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria range from 88%-95% approval, with Lebanon at 72% and Jordan at 53%.[14] This is precisely what isn’t helpful for genuine freedom in the Middle East.

If we are indeed witnessing the transformation of the Middle East and North Africa, for either good or ill, how this might fit into a “last days” scenario of biblical prophecy remains to be seen. (Although it seems fairly evident that if this region eventually turns Islamist or worse that the prophetic wars of Psalm 83:1-18 and Ezekiel 38:1-39:29 are implicated.)

Stanley Kurtz is correct when he observes in his article, “Not a Liberal Revolution,” that “… Islamism speaks to the needs of the modern Arab public. The unemployed and impoverished Egyptians who are joining the student protesters are less concerned about democracy than about their declining economic well-being. They have been fed on a diet of virulently anti-American rhetoric,…What’s brought Mubarak down is not the middle class thirst for democracy, but massive unemployment, corruption, and inflation, in a system whose traditional roots [i.e. Islam] have long blocked modernization. This is not a scenario for successful democratization. Everywhere we’ve seen to date, it is a scenario for expanding Islamism. Gerecht himself seems to think that’s what we’re in for quite some long time. I fear he’s right.”[15]

But whatever is uncertain now, there are other things that are clearly certain, no matter what happens.

First, God remains in sovereign control and by whatever means, He will fulfill his “good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) Christians need to continue to pray that “His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Second, Christians also need to pray for the region generally, that it would be opened up to the gospel, because even with all the suppression and persecution of Christians in Muslim nations in the Middle East and elsewhere, millions of dear Muslims have still come to personal faith in Jesus Christ, yet the price they pay is characteristically heavy. And we must pray for our brothers and sisters who will be martyred and persecuted far more than currently if and wherever Islamist revolutions may occur. For what may be headed our way in the relatively near future, economically and otherwise, Christians also need to be well-versed in biblical theology and Christian apologetics will help sustain faith in difficult times.

Finally, we need to remember that whatever the consequences to America and the West, and our own lives individually, either in this uprising or one more potent in the future “… we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, emphasis added)

This is a promise to believers that has no limits and no qualifications and is absolutely true 100% of the time – whether our personal or national circumstances are positive or negative, joyous or difficult, prosperous or impoverished. This promise explains why we can give “thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20, emphasis added) How do we know this? Because Romans 8:28 is a promise from God and “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18) — and because God is all-powerful and had the ability to cause this bountiful reality to come to pass. Whatever our circumstances, we know that God will work them together for our eternal good, and for His eternal glory and this means one thing, unmistakably: if we truly believe in the biblical Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, regardless of our circumstances, things will never get any better – except forever.

Notes

  1. George Friedman, “Revolution and the Muslim World,” February 22, 2011; http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110221-revolution-and-muslim-world?utm_source=GWeekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=110222&utm_content=readmore&elq=95241a3608bd4259b71311680badd131_
  2. “Gaining Control Through Democracy: The New Strategy of Muslim Brotherhood,” February 24, 2011; http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.8812/pub_detail.asp
  3. Mark A. Gabriel, “Gaining Control Through Democracy: The New Strategy of Muslim Brotherhood,” February 24, 2011; http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.8812/pub_detail.asp
  4. E.g., the yearly “World Watch” list of Open Doors: for 2011 see http://members.opendoorsusa.org/worldwatchlist/
  5. Gary H. Johnson, Jr., “The War for Freedom: A review of Walid Phares’ book “The Coming Revolution” February 23, 2011; http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.8800/pub_detail.asp. Johnson observes that: “Dr. Phares’ book taught me that an iron curtain exists in the Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian regions. Behind this Islamic iron curtain, a host of absolute monarchies, autocrat dictators and Islamist Regimes were working in tandem with jihadist elements and Islam’s supremacist movements. Together, they have been marginalizing, isolating and stamping out pockets of dissidents who clamor for a mixture of alternative agendas like democracy, individual rights, secular governance, self-rule, and economic liberty.”
  6. George Friedman, “Revolution and the Muslim World,” February 22, 2011, op.cit.
  7. Interview, “America’s News Headquarters,” Fox News February 5, 2011
  8. Mark A. Gabriel, “Gaining Control Through Democracy: The New Strategy of Muslim Brotherhood,” February 24, 2011;http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.8812/pub_detail.asp)
  9. Interview, The O’Reilly Factor, February 21, 2011
  10. Cited on the Glenn Beck show February 17, 2011; additional information in this paragraph from Mehdi Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of Iranian Policy; Joel Rosenberg, “Ahmadinejad Says “The Final Move Has Begun,” Global Revolution Managed By The Twelfth Imam,” subscriber e-mail, February 18, 2011; Joel Rosenberg, Inside the Revolution: How the Followers of Jihad, Jefferson & Jesus Are Battling to Dominate the Middle East and Transform the World (2009), p. 176 and Epicenter 2.0: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future
  11. Interview on The O’Reilly Factor, February 21, 2011
  12. Henry Meyer, “Saudi Arabia Risks Shiite Unrest in Wake of Bahrain Turmoil,”Feb 20, 2011; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-17/saudi-arabia-risks-contagion-from-shiite-protests-roiling-neighbor-bahrain.html)
  13. Ibid.
  14. “Most Embrace a Role for Islam in Politics,” Dec 2, 2010; http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/)
  15. Stanley Kurtz, “Not a Liberal Revolution,” National Review OnlineFebruary 1, 2011; http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/258578/not-liberal-revolution-stanley-kurtz

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