There is an historic irony here. Islam's explosion out of Arabia under Umar, was more than a military conquest. The Byzantine empire was a rotten relic of Rome. It fell to a more rational, more "modern" system inspired by the Prophet's time as the chief magistrate of Medina. From the beginning of the conquest, the forces of Islam, brought the rule of a law and a sense of classlessness quite alien to the Bishops and Bureaucrats of Roman Christendom. Islam offered a system based on equality and opportunity, at least for those willing to accept the Prophet's new religion.
For many Muslims, including Malcom X, that sense of community, that sense of fairness is Islam itself. As flawed as Iran is, Khomeini's vision was to build a modern democratic state on the principles of Medina. Is al Qaeda's reticence the result of their fear of true democracy arising in Egypt?
I have never been to Egypt and am sure that the Egyptians I have met represent a very special sample of the population. Still, there is something Jeffersonian about what is happening in Egypt.
There is a famous Arab saying that the dog barks but the caravan moves on. In Egypt, the caravan of change has moved fast this winter, but one of the dogs most expected to bark has been silent so far. Al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman Zawahiri, who has spent his life fighting Hosni Mubarak and calling for a revolution in his homeland, has yet to comment in public on the momentous events in his native land. His silence is probably temporary. But it shows al Qaeda’s top leadership is under significant pressure in Pakistan today from the American counter-terrorism offensive ordered by President Obama two years ago.