Beware of pyramid schemes

Brian Jones
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From a strictly selfish standpoint, I’m glad I’ve already seen the pyramids.

If you have a desire to see them, other than in pictures, you’d better go soon. In all likelihood, it won’t

be long until a vacation in Cairo becomes akin to holidaying in Tehran or Baghdad. In the 21st century, travelling to the Middle

East will be the equivalent of a

“holiday in Cambodia,” as the Dead Kennedys famously sang back in the quaint Cold War era.

Many Westerners have made the mistake of projecting their own values and wishful thinking upon the dramatic events taking place across the Middle East.

TV reports show protesters waving placards reading “Freedom” and “Democracy,” and Westerners — understandably enough — think they mean freedom and democracy. But those words can be, and are, interpreted much differently in, say, a living room in Twillingate and in the heat of Tahrir Square.


Disturbing facts

The Pew Global Attitudes Project released a report in January. In the spring of 2010, the Pew Research Centre of Washington, D.C., conducted a poll of Muslims in seven countries in which a majority of the population is Islamic. One of the countries was Egypt.

Here is a finding worth pondering: 85 per cent of Egyptians think Islam is “a positive rather than negative influence in politics.”

Only two per cent of Egyptians think Islam’s influence in politics is more negative than positive.

This is obviously at extreme odds with the established Western notion that church and state should remain separate. (Yes, yes, I know the Queen is the head of the Anglican Church as well as the titular head of state, but the last time we looked, Lizzy hadn’t sent suicide bombers on missions to foreign countries.)

The Pew project seemingly reveals Egyptians are blithely unaware that Islam’s heavy involvement in politics is one of the world’s main problems at the moment.

Democracy has a serious internal paradox: what if a fair and free election is held, but is won by a bunch of murderous totalitarians?

If Egyptians are lucky, the Muslim Brotherhood will be held in check by a secular military (similar to the situation in Turkey). If Egyptians are unlucky, a Muslim Brotherhood victory will be negated by a military coup, leading to ongoing violence (as in Algeria). If Egyptians are really unlucky, the Muslim Brotherhood will prevail, and the country will get its wished for Islamic involvement in politics (as in Iran).

Some other statistics discovered by the Pew Global Attitudes Project: 82 per cent of Egyptians favour “stoning people who commit adultery,” and 84 per cent favour the “death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion.”

The liberal democracy supposedly unfolding on our TV screens is probably a cruel illusion.


Sending a message

If statistics are unconvincing, as they often are, anecdotes can be enlightening.

There’s one that stands out as a probable harbinger of things to come in Egypt.

On Feb. 11 in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, protesters gathered to celebrate the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. In the tumultuous jubilation, CBS reporter Lara Logan — who just happens to be blond, beautiful and extremely white — became separated from her crew.

Some celebrants surrounded her. They could have taken the opportunity to send their message of freedom and democracy to millions of Westerners.

They could have said, “Tell your viewers we support equal rights for women.” They could have said, “Tell the West we want freedom of religion in Egypt.” They could have, but they didn’t. Instead, they gang-raped her.

I usually deplore clichés, but there are some worth pondering while we watch the revolts roiling the Middle East. Be careful what you wish for. No matter how bad things get, they can always get worse.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: Muslim Brotherhood, Pew Research Centre, Anglican Church CBS The Telegram

Geographic location: Cairo, Middle East, Tehran Baghdad Cambodia Twillingate Washington, D.C. Turkey Algeria Iran Egypt

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Recent comments

  • ed power
    February 25, 2011 - 16:02

    The picture painted by Mr. Jones is a dire one, and recent history would suggest that he could be right. However he should remember that for the past five centuries this region has been attacked, occupied and brutalized by a series of colonial powers and, when the colonial powers started to collapse, the discovery of oil prompted another round of the same. The injection of a largely non-native Jewish population into Palestine around this time did not help the situation. Neither did sixty years of US financed "Strongmen" installed throughout the region to keep the oil flowing, and the Soviets out. It should be noted that when the Shah of Iran was deposed and Mohammed Mossadegh was elected Prime Minister in the first democratic elections (1953) ever held , first the British, and then the US financed and armed the pro-Shah opposition, which overthrew that government and reinstalled the Shah. The present government in Iran is the fruit of that seed. The US helped the al Saud family create and maintain one of the cruelest and most corrupt kleptocracies in history, and the result of that investment came home to the US on 9/11. The most disturbing thing about this column was the arrogant and racist tone. The Arabs are too primative, too obsessed with religion and jihad to govern themselves. If in fact that is the case, then we bear a certain amount of the responsibilty for the chaos that will come. I suggest he read "The Great War for Civilization" by Robert Fisk to obtain a greater understanding of the past 100 years in this region.

  • james
    February 25, 2011 - 14:37

    you need a map

  • We certainly do have to be aware of Pyramids and Concepts.
    February 25, 2011 - 11:29

    By the way Mr. Jones so much of what was built in the Western World in the last two economies over the past 30 years that went kaput, for instance the bubble that burst in 2000 and the banking bubble that burst in 2008 were built with the template of a Pyramid or otherwise just a concept winging it as a large Corporation with no template at all, for instance, the Madoff scheme or the Worldcom Corporation, etc, etc,. It is truly time for the Whole World to become more honest in its dealings. So many people have suffered greatly because of the corruption that has had a blind eye turned to it by our not so honest politicians and bureaucrats. I can't let the electorates of the hook either. They have not been minding what their politicians and bureaucrats were doing, especially here in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Of course, corruption not only applies to the pseudo-Democracies of the Western World but the Dictatorships that exist elsewhere in the World, as well.

  • We are not living in a True Democracy.
    February 25, 2011 - 11:06

    I agree with the comments of Abdul Saieed and Majed. As Abdul said "A minority of citizens trotting out to the polls every few years to elect leaders whose campaigns are heavily funded by big business interests is hardly the basis of a vibrant democracy". We know full well where that as gotten us Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and our province over the past 61 years. We have had our natural resource base exploited for the benefit of other parts of Canada with very little to show in the name of infrastructure or industry that provide jobs here in this province. It is nothing short of corruption that which has happened to the kind province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which was endowed by nature with many coveted natural resources and a great geographic location. It is sad that our part of the World upheld Dictators in the Middle East and North Africa for the sake of Oil and the passage through the Suez Canal to bring the Oil it to the Western World. True Democracies should not be conducting business in that manner.

  • Majed
    February 25, 2011 - 10:28

    To the dismay of Mr. Jones and his neocon friends,the Egyptian revolution showed the real spirit of the Arab people. Christians and Moslems prayed together in Tahrir Square and people from all walks of life rose in a peaceful way ( except when attacked by the regimes thugs) against tyranny. Mr. Jones,would have loved that his favorite despots continue their corrupt and blood thirsty regimes.

  • Herb morrison
    February 25, 2011 - 10:08

    Brian Jones makes a good point. The point being, as I see it, that the words freedom and democracy don’t mean the same thing to two different individuals or groups of people. The question that arises is freedom to do or say what? Obviously, in unfortunately for reporter Lara Logan, some demonstrators chose to exercise their new-found freedom to infringe on the rights and freedoms of Ms Logan, simply because they could get sway with rape. The fact that Ms. Logan’s right to freedom was violated, along with her physical being, highlights the fact that in exercising our own freedom we don’t have that right to infringe on the rights of other people or groups of people. At least some people living in Egypt haven’t learned this lesson as yet. The same can be said about democracy. Democracy only works when all people are free to exercise so-called democratic rights. In the case of places like Egypt and Libya, and in past generations, places like South Africa, and the southern United States, whether or not a person could exercise their democratic rights depended t on whether the person was the correct race, or gender; or depended on how much money they had. Sadly, some of these criteria are still used to determine whether or not a person can exercise any democratic rights.

  • Politically Incorrect
    February 25, 2011 - 09:28

    I was just wondering how long it woud take Jones to wriite some anti-Muslim drivel on Egypt, which, by the way, isn't int hte Middle East. Still waiting for the plum job at FOX News or the National Post? Yeah, I don't think the get the Telly.

  • Abdul Saieed
    February 25, 2011 - 09:02

    Firstly, Brian, the West doesn’t have a monopoly on “democracy.” A minority of citizens trotting out to the polls every few years to elect leaders whose campaigns are heavily funded by big business interests is hardly the basis of a vibrant democracy. Secondly, the predominance of Islam is no different from the predominance of Christianity in America where “Christian” extremism is not uncommon. Thirdly your assertion that “Islam’s heavy involvement in politics is one of the world’s main problems at the moment” is patently racist. I would argue that the West’s, specifically America’s, aspirations for control of world markets to quench the unquenchable appetite for corporate profit is one of the world’s biggest problems. (The other being global warming and our refusal to address it) This ongoing need to dominate has necessitated the United States (and its junior partners) to impose and support brutal dictatorial regimes, while consistently undermining any real rumblings of democracy. Fourthly your characterization of the Muslim Brotherhood as “murderous totalitarians” is nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric. It’s worth noting that the Muslim Brotherhood was rather slow in getting on the ground with the rest of the protestors. Indeed, the protests were for the most part secular, which is to be expected as Egypt is by-and-large a secular state. If the “murderous totalitarians” took power again (presumably without Washington’s backing this time) the same people would be back out on the streets. And if the people democratically elect a government that is critical of the United States (or Israel), rest assured the Americans will do, as it has many times in the not-so-recent past, do what it must to undermine (Palestine, Venezuela, Ecuador, Lebanon) or abolish (Haiti) it – in the name of democracy. Finally, Brian, your characterization of the rape of the reporter as indicative of Islam or the anti-Mubarak protestors is ludicrous. Are you prepared to use the same generalizations when American solders rape, beat, and murder Iraqi and Afghani civilians?

  • Taxpayer
    February 25, 2011 - 07:34

    Just the usual dribble!