A discussion on the Arab Spring at New York Encounter today included: Frank Anderson (center), Former Chief, Near East Division, Directorate of Operations, CIA and Wael Farouq (right), Professor of the Arabic Language Institute at the American University in Cairo. Marco Bardazzi (left), a journalist with La Stampa moderated.

LE asked Mr. Farouq about Islam’s compatability with modernity? He said: “The contradiction is false between Islam and modernity.” He added: “If you read the programs of the Freedom and Justice Party, representing the Muslim Brotherhood, it will be difficult to find a difference between their program and the Republican program.” Mr. Farouq suggested that the failure in Egypt had been a “failure of modernity under a secular dictator.”

Throughout his talk, Farouq mentioned the “utopia of Tahrir Square” and how “Mubarek tried to stop the utopia.” I asked Frank Anderson if he saw any connection between the Arab Spring and Bolshevism? He said: “I don’t know.”

In refering to Egypt during his talk, Mr. Anderson said “the slate could be wiped clean for positive change.” That brings to mind a quote in Robert Payne’s book The Life and Death of Lenin (1964). The chapter called: The Education Of A Revolutionary, begins with a quote from Turgenev: “Permit me to observe,” said Nikoly Petrovich, “that if you deny everything, or to put it more precisely, if you destroy everything, then you must also construct, you know.” That is not our business,” Bazarov replied. “Our first task is to clear the ground.” —Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

The so-called Arab Spring has seen Secularists and Islamists ‘clearing the ground’. As with Russia after its revolutions in 1917, the outcome (for Egypt, Libya & Syria) will not be a vital society, or even an improvement on the past, but rather displaced persons and greater injustice.

Photograph: Stephen Wise