In Professor Dabashi’s recent article,(1) which draws a comparison between the 1979 Iranian revolution and the Egyptian revolution, is both a deeply biased representation of the Iranian revolution and a misreading of Egypt’s ongoing social movement. The Egyptian revolutionaries could examine the mistakes they have made, such as their failure to develop a democratic alternative that was communicated with people more widely, which left a political vacuum rapidly filled by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis and the regime; or the fact that they embraced the Egyptian army after removing Mubarak, not realising that, as in Iran, it is simply a military-financial mafia(Whether they did it out of belief or political expedience is irrelevant here.) As a result of these mistakes, they are caught between a rock and hard place, and Professor Dabashi simply proposes ways to choose between ‘bad’ and ‘worse’ in the elections. But this is a false dichotomy. Professor Dabashi’s suggestion that the choice is real is a fantasy, and if it is believed by the Egyptian people, it will work as an opiate for revolutionaries.
Furthermore, Professor Dabashi reproduces a dichotomous formula for polarising a comparison, and for 'othering'. Edward Said's criticism of Orientalism was that it constructed people from 'the West' as being 'rational, peaceful, liberal, logical, capable of holding real values, without natural suspicion', and those from 'the East' as 'none of these'. In Professor Dabashi's article, Egypt (once 'the Orient') takes the place of 'the West', and Iran, 'the East'. This is done through the most extreme of simplifications and misrepresentation of facts; so that anything and everything related to the Iranian revolution becomes evil, while the opposite is true for Egypt.
The Egyptian people should remember that more than two years ago, Professor Dabashi, also misrepresented the Iranian Green movement by referring to it as a ‘civil rights movement’. He took it out of its particular context and compared it with the U.S. Civil Rights movement, while at the same time calling the term revolution ‘old-fashioned’. Such misrepresentations of the movement, produced by Professor Dabashi and other intellectuals, weakened the Green movement considerably.
Therefore, I suggest that those working for revolution now in Egypt think critically about any representations, and create the theories of your own experience through your own perspectives and critical powers. Do not allow others to misrepresent your heroic social movement.
If I get time, I would like to deconstruct Professor Dabashi’s image of the 1979 Iranian revolution, which he argues was nothing but violent and others argue was the model of non-violent social revolution which subsequently inspired revolutions from those in Eastern Europe to the present time. I just hope I can make time for this.