I linked it a week ago, but if you haven’t yet read Lee Smith’s analysis of how Qaradawi’s emergence in Egypt could mirror Khomeini’s return to Iran from exile, read it now. (“Qaradawi approves of wife-beating, he defends female genital mutilation and signs off on female suicide bombers, and he attacks Shia for trying to subvert Sunni nations.”) And bear in mind, not only is the Brotherhood an international movement, Qaradawi himself is already internationally famous throughout the region for his show on Al Jazeera. So the spectacle of his appearance in Tahrir Square — no doubt to be carried live on AJ — is something that could galvanize fanatics in Egypt and beyond, reaching other Sunni countries that have gone wobbly like Yemen. Or, in the ultimate worst-case scenario, Saudi Arabia.
For the first time since he was banned from leading weekly friday prayers in Egypt 30 years ago, prominent Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi will lead thousands in the weekly prayers from Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday.
Sources told Al Arabiya that a military force will accompany the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars from his home to Tahrir Square, provide security for the prayers and accompany him back to his residence…
Sheikh Qaradawi confirmed in a telephone call with the German Press Agency that he would lead tomorrow’s prayers in Tahrir, with hundreds of thousands expected to attend.
Once you’re done with Lee Smith’s piece, dive into this post at Hit & Run by Stephen J. Smith collecting evidence on the wires (and beyond) that the Saudis are already hard at work inside Bahrain to crush the Shiite protests there. That’s not surprising — a Saudi intervention was expected there at some point given how high the stakes are — but the extent of their presence is a shock. Hit & Run makes it sound like a full-fledged invasion, with at least one eyewitness reporting that Saudi tanks are “everywhere.” The Journal also reports a full military crackdown, replete with troops now in control of the square where protesters demonstrated for three days, but they seem to believe it’s the Bahraini military at work. Until last night, the demonstrations had been comparatively upbeat, with some protesters even advocating leaving the king in power if legal reforms could be worked out. Now it’s a death struggle, literally: “Shouts of ‘Death to the al-Khalifa’ have increasingly been heard.”
If the Saudis are scared now, wait until tomorrow when Qaradawi leads the region-wide democracy parade. Exit question: There’s no way the U.S. wants this guy seizing the moment in Egypt, especially with our “friends” in Riyadh getting nervous. Is this the best proof yet of how little leverage we have left over the Egyptian military?