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The rise of the Arab right wing

File photo of an Egyptian protestor at a rally on November 04, 2014
File photo of an Egyptian protestor at a rally on November 04, 2014

The assassination of Jordanian writer and left-wing activist Nahed Hattar at the hands of an individual who was grieving the death of a loved one and unable to avenge their death is not separate from the context of the tense and polarised environment prevalent in the Arab world. It is a practical translation of the spread of the hateful and exclusionary rhetoric which has become a common denominator in the official and unofficial Arab discussions and debates. This incident is also not unrelated to similar incidents occurring, albeit in different contexts, such as General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s adoption of racist right-wing terms and his speech in America, in which he accuses Islam of violence and terrorism. He is not ashamed of using the term “radical Islam” which President Barack Obama refuses to use to describe the acts of violence and terrorism committed by the bitter individuals who lost loved ones whose ideas and means are not very different to those who assassinated Nahed Hattar.

It is surprising that Al-Sisi praised the racist Republican candidate Donald Trump, describing him as a strong man while Trump responded by describing the general as a “fantastic guy”, as part of poor political flattery. This is also not unrelated from the overhyped right-wing discourse in Syria, whose UN representative, Bashar Jaafari spoke brazenly and arrogantly and spread his lies to the attendees, protected by the applause of his Russian counterpart. He gave a lesson on manners, morals and politics to the UN Security Council members while the planes of his president and his allies are demolishing homes over the heads of Syrian people in Aleppo and other areas.

On the other hand, Egyptian groups did not shy away from mocking dozens of young people who died on a boat while trying to flee the country from the shores of the city of Rosetta. Instead of blaming and criticising the failed authority whose policies pushed these people to flee, the most of whom are young people under the age of 20, they blame the victims and criticise them for fleeing. This is a shameful position that will go down in history as a disgrace. These are the same groups who danced two years ago on the bodies of their political opponents and blessed their murder in cold blood.

All of this occurs while the Egyptian parliament discusses a draft bill which increases the punishment for fleeing the country rather than looking into the reasons for such moves and addressing them. This all coincides with a somewhat humorous statement by the Egyptian Cabinet’s spokesman who said: “Citizen immigration is not caused by unemployment or poverty.”

These incidents seem separate and unrelated, but if we look into them and examine them, we find the similarities between them, i.e. we are facing the strong rise of an Arab right-wing trend, both on the level of the elites and the public. This trend does not see anything wrong with getting rid of all of its opponents in any shape or form until there is no one but them left. The rise of the Arab right wing is ironically coinciding with the rise of the right wings in Europe and America. It is as if we are facing an “international wave” of the right wing hitting both the east and the west, although the Arab right wing trend has a number of distinctive characteristics that set them apart from their western counterpart. First of all, it seems that the Arab right wing is closely linked to the corrupt authoritative regimes and benefits from these regimes and their policies and therefore supports these regimes and their survival. The Arab right wing also seems to be spread across the elite social levels and the upper middle class who are bound to the regimes by economic and social interests, making them the staunchest defenders of the regimes and their authorities and corruption.

On the other hand, many of those affiliated with the right wing also adopt liberal values that focus on freedom and economic and social wellbeing at a time when they look down on all those who oppose them intellectually and politically and despise those who are socially different to them. This reflects their moral and behavioural contradiction and reflects a deformation in their value system. They are not shy to express their double standards in many situations such as what is going on in Egypt.

While they pretend to copy the West and follow its lead in appearance, clothing, and food, they continue to hold on to their ignorant medieval values that reject pluralism, tolerance and the acceptance of others. They are also the most supportive of the rise of fascist and authoritative regimes around the world, viewing Russian President Vladimir Putin as the prime example of nationalism and power. I wouldn’t be surprised if they openly expressed a liking for the leader of North Korea, the last totalitarian regime in the world, and consider him an extension of a great legacy extending from the grandfather to the son, as a famous Egyptian column writer did a few days ago.

In addition to this, the Arab right wing adopt a chauvinistic discourse towards the outside world, considering themselves an embodiment of ethnic and national purity that others should not distort or ruin. This discourse is stuck in the past, as it brings up terms from a far away time in an effort to prove its purity and superiority over others. The time of such discourse is long gone after the pluralism and complexity that societies have reached. This discourse sometimes reaches the point of accusing those who oppose them of being unnationalistic, thus justifying the execution of those who oppose them on charges of treason.

This Arab right wing supports governments, countries and groups and uses all means to control minds and dominate the political and social discourse. We have recently seen countries funding and embracing groups and individuals that have disavowed their opponents from their doctrines, such as what happened in the Grozny conference in which Muslim Brotherhood members and the Salafists were denounced as “Sunnis”. All that is left is to denounce them from the religion itself. This same right wing is cozy with its Western counterpart and supports it financially, in the media and politically and is not ashamed of such support, rather considering it a requirement and a need of the current phase.

This right wing made its friends enemies and its enemies allies. Therefore, it does not seem weird that Israel becomes a friend and ally in the eyes of the Arab right wing and that the neo-Nazis and fascists become potential allies for them in their battle against their ideological opponents. The relationship between these trends has gone beyond being just partners in discourse and characteristics and are not joined by common interests.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 28 September 2016

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