‘Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak’ shines a light on the Middle East’s least understood state

Tarek Osman has been making a name for himself with his authoritative book Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak. With a string of events in Egypt attracting attention from the international media, Osman’s book provides a succinct, readable and meticulously researched account of the country’s tumultuous journey from a haven of religious pluralism to a divided land dominated by Western influence.

With the New Year bombing in Alexandria following  a widely-criticised parliamentary election, Egypt is finding itself under growing international scrutiny, especially as Mubarak’s increasingly contested regime continues to receive funding from the US. The recent political eruption in Tunisia also has a knock-on effect on Egypt’s febrile political situation. As Boyd Tonkin points out in his review of Osman’s book in the Independent, the overthrowing of Ben Ali’s regime stymies Egypt’s argument that political dissent is fermented by radical Islam:

Regime change [in Tunisia] has called the bluff of the Mubarak clique, which has always justified its stagnation and repression by saying to its US patrons: back us or the weird beards take over. That line won’t work any more.

The success or failure of democratically held elections in Tunisia is also likely to affect how Mubarak tackles the increasing pressure from activists in Egypt arguing for electoral reform.

Egypt’s political legitimacy also effects its ability to act as an effective partner in the Middle East peace process. As Osman discusses in his interview on CNN, Egypt’s position as American ally has ‘diluted its influence’, due to the country’s reversal of its previous independence from Western interests, as championed by Gamal Nasser during the revolution of 1952. However, Osman claims Egypt still has plenty to offer if it wants to make its voice heard in the peace process:

Egypt still has a major role to play because across the Arab world today the main rising trend is political Islam. Over the past 100 or 150 years only two political narratives managed to successfully challenge political Islam. These were Arab liberalism and Arab nationalism and both of them were born out of Egypt… So, if the Arab world is to have an alternative narrative apart from political Islam then certainly Egypt will play a role.

Tarek Osman is fast proving himself to be an excellent authority on this important but misunderstood Arab nation. As critics in the Economist, Independent and Literary Review have discovered, Egypt on the Brink is a ‘timely, lively and authoritative’ account of a country whose development in the coming decades will be hugely important in the political evolution of the Middle East.

More about the Book

Egypt on the Brink explores what has happened to Egypt since President Nasser took control of the country in 1954. Osman examines Egypt’s central role in the development of the two crucial movements of the period, Arab nationalism and radical Islam; the increasingly contentious relationship between Muslims and Christians; and perhaps most important of all, the rift between the cosmopolitan elite and the mass of the undereducated and underemployed population.

Egypt on the Brink is available to buy from Yale University Press

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