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On the issue of ‘secular’ Arab regimes vs. Islamists

March 29, 2010

“It is a common misperception that Arab regimes and the Islamists are sworn ideological enemies, when it is much more accurate to think of them in biblical terms as two brothers wrestling for the same share of power.  (It was no coincidence, for example that the organizational structure and elitist ethos of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad were almost identical to those of the Free Officers, the Arab nationalist military clique that had put Nasser into power).

Political repression is not the root cause of Islamist terror. Repressive violence and terror are two aspects of a political culture that has no mechanism for either sharing power or transmitting political authority from one governing body to another except through inheritance, coup or conquest. The Islamists make war to win power; the regimes fight to maintain it. And so in the end, there are only two laws of Arab politics: the first is to seize power, after which political legitimacy is granted, provided that the second law is observed – to maintain power.”

– Lee Smith, The Strong Horse: Power, Politics and the Clash of Arab Civilizations

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