Fear that grassroots revolutions could be hijacked by Islamists

The spate of revolutions in the Middle East were started by young people who wanted jobs, an end to government corruption and freedom, but there was a real risk that these events could be hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood and extreme Isamists, a Middle East expert said in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

James (not his real name) who has been an undercover Open Doors missionary in the Middle East for 20 years said the young people who triggered the turmoil in the region were not well enough organised to stay in control of developments. Open Doors was concerned that better organised radical Islamic movements could seize control of events. He was speaking at a briefing session at St Columbas Presbyterian Church.

The results of a recent referendum in Egypt, which saw 77 per cent of voters backing constitutional changes that will allow the country to move quickly on to elections, was the first warning sign that events could play into the hands of Islamists. He said that Christians in Egypt were unhappy about the vote which would only benefit established political blocs. Christians were not opposed to constitutional changes; they just wanted the rate of change to be slowed down so that the process could be carefully weighed step by step.

James said that during a recent visit to Egypt the word on the ground was that many unsophisticated voters had been manipulated into voting for a speedy constitutional change process.

He said that in Jordan, traditionally regarded as a moderate Middle East state, militant Islamists had been quick to recognise the potential for the Egyptian revolution to play into the hands of Islamic radicals and they had already started mobilising on the ground. Open Doors believed that if there was an election in Jordan now it could be won by the Jihadist al-Quaida  group.

He said that Open Doors was observing that throughout the region the voice of Islam, expressed in Mosques and on Muslim television stations, was becoming much more radical.

Meanwhile persecution of Christians was increasing at an alarming rate in Iraq. The Christian population in Iraq had decreased by more than 50% from over 500 000 to about 250 000 as Christians fled for safety, he said.

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