Reflections on the Arab Spring, the challenges besetting Muslim communities, the crisis of the nation-state project, the Sisi Conspiracy…
Bolstering the Sisi Regime
Robert Fisk in the Independent, 20 July 2015
The images of an Egyptian gunboat exploding off the coast of Sinai last week were a warning to our Western politicians. Yes, we support Egypt. We love Egypt. We continue to send our tourists to Egypt. Because we support President Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – despite the fact that his government has locked up more than 40,000 mostly political prisoners, more than 20,000 of them supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, hundreds of whom have been sentenced to death. The Egyptian regime continues to pretend that its Brotherhood enemies are the same as Isis. And Isis – in its dangerous new role as the Islamist power in Sinai – has killed hundreds of Egyptian troops, more than 60 of them two weeks ago, after which a military spokesman in Cairo announced that Sinai was “100 per cent under control”. However, after last week’s virtual destruction of the naval vessel, we might ask: who does control the peninsula? click here.
Exposing the apologists for the military coup of 30th June 2013 & various Sisi supporters
El-Baradei was involved in the coup that toppled the elected Morsi government and then accepted the post of Vice-President (to resign later). Now his mea culpa is as follows: ‘ EU Envoy Bernardino Leon ‘is the one who planned the military coup against President Mohamed Morsi.’ click here.
Shaykh Ali Ju’mah
Shaykh Ali Jum’ah was my teacher, 25 years ago. I have always respected his knowledge and profound critical thinking. Today when I see him supporting the dictators (Mubarak and Sissi), turning a blind eye to autocracy and corruption, issuing criminal fatâwâ justifying torture and the killing of innocent people, I cannot remain silent. He went on blaming the Muslim Brothers for confusing religion and politics while he is the first to instrumentalize religion to support dictatorial political regimes! Is this knowledge? Is this Sufism?...click here for Tariq Ramadan’s exposé
Former Grand Mufti Ali Goma
Since Morsi was ousted by military coup on July 3, 2013, and especially since Sisi was elected president in a sham election in early 2014, Gumah has offered strong support for Sisi’s political programme, which has featured the worst human rights atrocities in Egypt’s modern history, including mass killings, mass arrests, mass death sentences and mass state executions. In spring 2014, following several state-sponsored massacres of protesters, Gumah aggressively supported Sisi’s campaign for presidency.click here.
Talal Asad’s reflection in http://criticalinquiry.uchicago.edu/,
Some years later, well after the July 3rdmilitary coup, looking back at the January uprising, it becomes apparent that there never was a “revolution” because there was no new foundation. There was a moment of enthusiasm in the uprising, as in all major protests and rebellions, but the solidarity it generated was evanescent. A hopeful attempt at beginning a tradition never guarantees the hoped for future: clear aims, good judgment, patience, and willingness to learn a new language and how to inhabit a new body, are required to respond to the various dangers and opportunities that emerge from attempts to found a new political order. Paradoxically, the first attack on the promise of a new political tradition in the January uprising was the removal of Mubarak—by the military. Most activists were delighted at what they saw as the solidarity of the army with the People:īd wāhid! (“one hand!”) was the slogan that met the soldiers as they entered Tahrir Square, but the army generals saw Mubarak’s resignation more clearly as a first step toward an orderly restoration of state power. They understood that it was not the uprising that undermined state authority but the erosion of state authority—of its credibility—that had allowed the popular uprising to explode and the military to move in. Click here.
The Guardian reports, 22nd April 2015: ‘Egypt’s former president Mohamed Morsi has been sentenced to 20 years in prison over the killing of demonstrators outside his palace in 2012 … Egypt’s deep state apparatus – the Interior Ministry, intelligence services and army – now appears to have a tighter grip than ever on the most populous Arab nation. Egypt’s allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which also see the Brotherhood as a threat, have been pouring billions of dollars into the Egyptian economy to supprot the new president Abdul Fattah el Sisi since Morsi’s fall’.
Jack Shenker in the Guardian, 16 March 2015: ‘… it is true that, under President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Egypt is very much open for business. New investment and bankruptcy laws will grant blanket immunity to investors and public officials when handling state funds, loosen restrictions on public assets being handed to the private sector free of charge, and enable foreign companies to abandon privatised projects virtually without penalty if they so choose. Entire infrastructure classes are being lined up for takeover by public-private partnerships; meanwhile corporate and top-end personal income taxes are being cut, and workers’ ability to strike restricted. The event was produced by Richard Attias & Associates (RAA), a strategic consulting firm run by the man who founded the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. RAA shares its London headquarters with Global Counsel, the lobbying firm run by former Labour minister Peter Mandelson – who publicly defendedGamal Mubarak, son of the president, when the revolution first began. Mandelson is also a chairman and international representative of Lazard, the financial consultancy outfit advising Sisi’s government on economic policy. RAA and Global Counsel are both affiliates of WPP, the world’s largest advertising company, Its CEO, Sir Martin Sorrell, was a keynote speaker at the conference. Blair, revealed by the Guardian last year to be advising President Sisi as part of an Emirates-funded consultancy programme, was another star turn on the stage….’ click here.
Egypt’s Mekameleen TV channel released a new leaked audio recording exposing how the UAE supported and funded the military regime in Egypt and helped them and other civilian movements to stop the Arab Spring there. The audio recording reveals an alleged telephone conversation between Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi’s office manager, General Abbas Kamil, and UAE Minister Sultan Al-Jaber in which Kamil asks Jaber to send new funds to support the army after the central bank refused to grant monies to the army….Kamil is also heard speaking with Defence Minister Sobhi Sudqi urging him to make sure nothing about the army’s plans is leaked and to transfer 200,000 Egyptian pounds ($26,200) from the fund sent by the UAE to support the Tamarod movement.” click here.
…Egypt engaged in its own soul-searching exercise in the autumn of 2013: to draft a constitution that would reflect its post-revolutionary identity. Supporters of the military takeover – many of whom had backed the 2011 revolution – called it a “reset”. By removing the undemocratic Brotherhood, they were putting the revolution back on track. The new constitution would replace the one a Brotherhood-dominated assembly had passed the year before.
The terms of the drafting were not conducive to radical reinvention… In other countries, the process has taken years. And members of the constitutional committee had been chosen less for their expertise than the special interests they represented. Seats had been handed out like party favours to the farmers’ syndicate, the doctors’ syndicate and the engineers’ syndicate. The assembly was short on specialists on the economy and governance and public policy, but it had a celebrity heart surgeon and a Nubian writer.
Egypt has had nine constitutions over the past century; most have promised freedoms, such as speech and association, that never existed in fact. What was needed this time, constitutional experts said, was a rethinking of how to formulate those rights and how to reform the judicial sector to enforce them. Instead, the constitution grants more privileges to already-powerful institutions that are seen as a bulwark against the Brotherhood. The judiciary can now appoint its own top officials and shield its budget from public oversight; the military has veto power over the naming of the defence minister for eight years. The president enjoys expanded powers to appoint ministers, declare a state of emergency, and dissolve parliament. It was, a critic said, “a constitution of bribes”. click here
‘At least 18 people were killed in political violence on Sunday, the fourth anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising, a reminder of the ruthless crackdown the military-backed government has used to silence any echoes of that revolt…The deaths on the anniversary of the revolt were predictable, rights activists say, because the swift use of firearms has become de facto police policy toward any unauthorized public assembly, especially in downtown Cairo. On the anniversary last year, more than 50 people died in clashes with the police.’ David Kirkpatrick in the International New York Times, 25th January 2015.
…In Egypt, the government showed its gratitude for [late King] Abdullah’s staunch support for the current Egyptian regime by declaring seven days of mourning, four days longer than the mourning periods in the aftermath of other recent deaths.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s office said in a statement: “History will never forget his numerous achievements in the defence of Arabism and Islam; acts, which he performed with honour, honesty and sincerity, guided by truth, justice, chivalry and courage.
“The Egyptian people will never forget the historic positions of late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz toward Egypt and its people.”
Under Abdullah, Saudi Arabia sent billions of dollars in aid to Egypt after Sisi toppled the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in 2013, in an attempt to ensure the long-term erosion of the Brotherhood’s regional influence. The Saudi royal family view the Brotherhood as a threat to their own authority in Riyadh.
Aware that Abdullah’s death could raise questions about Saudi Arabia’s continued commitment to Egypt, Sisi’s statement asserted “full confidence” that Abdullah’s successor King Salman “will continue the late king’s legacy to serve the causes of the Arab and Islamic nations”. click here.
“There was something symbolic about the warmth of the reception afforded to Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It felt like the moment when the west abandoned its on-off flirtation with the democratisation of the Middle East and retreated to the old formula: the embrace of an “Arab strongman” who offers short-term stability and the repression of militant Islamism. Awkward questions about the military coup that helped propel Mr Sisi to power in 2013 — and the subsequent bloodshed and repression — were not asked on stage at the forum. Instead Philipp Rösler, the former German politician given the job of interviewing the Egyptian leader, ended the session by telling Mr Sisi: “The Davos community counts on your leadership.” [Source: Gideaon Rachman, Financial Times, 23rd January 2015]
“Everyone cheered Mubarak’s downfall including, it turned out, many of the generals who were eventually to profit from this moment of apparent casting off of military rule. But the pattern of what was to follow was already being set. Amid the euphoria, former Eastern Bloc countries put together a working group to offer advice to the generals who had promised to manage a transition to democracy. It was led by their ambassadors, who had been young diplomats during their own velvet revolutions of 1989, and who had personal experience of the challenges that lay ahead. They were rebuffed by the Army Council, which said that Egypt had 5,000 years of history, and needed no help from anyone, thank you very much.
Then the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, and the generals decided they had need of outside help after all: billions of dollars poured in from the Gulf, to oust the country’s first democratically elected president, from the very same countries that were supporting the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad in the name of democracy.” Richard Spencer, 23rd January 2015.
Rumman Ahmed:…The key issue challenging contemporary Muslims is to come out of the false dichotomy between religion and politics. Spiritual and religious values can and should shape and influence the overall national ethos and the values of a country’s politics. This is not to say that religious leaders should become politicians, actually the overwhelming majority of them would not want to. The religious leaders and the faith based organisations can and should positively and peacefully articulate the religious and societal necessity for equity, equality and justice which is sine qua non for peace, progress and development. The Muslims need to conceptualise, develop and frame a new ethical narrative for their nation states and peoples.….” an extract from ‘Reflections on healing the Ummah’s ills’, Rumman Ahmed’s Blog, ‘A Call for a Global Conversation’, 25 December 2014
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari:…Politics is about organised control over a people, particularly a state; it evidently deals with power. The nobility of politics lies in bringing positive changes in people’s life through serving them. Those who have nation’s interest in mind will behave differently from those who use political power for their self-interest and egos or to benefit their own family, tribe, group or party.
Political leadership is a big trust (amanah) in Islam; those who do their job with honesty and competency deserve support and supplication from their people.
The best of your leaders are those that you love and they love you, you supplicate for them and they supplicate for you. The worst of your leaders are those that you hate and they hate you, you curse them and they curse you. (Muslim)
Whatever driving forces political leaders may have – nationalistic, secular or Islamic fervour – they can be the ‘force for good’ if they have competence, integrity and a sense of justice for all. Politicians of a Muslim background should not go into enmity with one another just because someone may not appear to be practicing or probably too practicing. People should judge political leaders on what they say, whether they keep their promises or what they deliver to people.
In many Muslim countries politics has become dysfunctional in recent decades, not just because politicians come from nationalist, secularist or Islamist backgrounds but for many practical reasons - such as the dearth of people-oriented political training, a lack of accountability, an inability to stand up for principled politics, the absence of fair media and the weaknesses of the civil society to vigorously take politicians to task, etc. Politics has been an Achilles’ heel for many people in developing countries.
Due to the lack of a sound political culture, with colossal ignorance and fear between secularist and Islamist political camps, some Muslim countries are now torn apart and sliding further backward. The worst example is the Arab world’s historic and most populous country, Egypt, that recently rose from the ashes of tyranny but has quickly fallen flat again. On the other hand, the Tunisian model of moderate Islamist and secular groups working together appears to be bearing some fruits…”
From his blogging site www.head2heart.org.uk, 23 December 2014, posting ‘Healing the ills of the Muslim Ummah’s Public Life’
Dr Azzam Tamimi:…My sincere advice to those who are unhappy about the performance of the Brotherhood, and especially to those who were once members of the group but no longer see eye to eye with its leadership, is to move on, for the arena is so spacious and expansive. May you be blessed! Endeavour to do what you think is right and seek to succeed where others have failed.
Many individuals opted to leave the organisation since it was founded in 1928. It is not a big deal. Those who departed went in different directions and pursued different routes. Some have done well and some have not done so well. Those who do well it is themselves they benefit and those who incur ill, it is upon themselves they incur it. The Muslim Brotherhood organisation is not Islam, nor is it an Islamic community, but a community within the broad Muslim Ummah. It endeavours and struggles on the basis of a certain consensus among its members. Those who choose to leave the Brotherhood do not commit a sin, for as they freely entered they have every right to freely leave.
However, the claim that the Brotherhood has expired and the demand that it disband is nothing short of futile….” writing in Middle East Monitor, 10 December 2014
Shaikh Rachid Ghanouchi:…In this time of great change in the Arab region, political struggles are often viewed exclusively through an ideological lens, creating the impression of a binary choice between Islamists and secularists. But the fundamental choice facing the citizens living through this tumultuous period in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Libya is not between Islamism and secularism, but between democracy and despotism.
The binary view also overlooks the considerable pluralism within the political trends in both Tunisia and other Arab countries. Islamists are not only diverse in type, but have also evolved over the last century. Whereas their primary focus was once on protecting religious freedom and defending an identity that had undergone repression, many Islamists have come to participate in political parties whose principal focus is economic and social programs aimed at protecting individual rights and achieving social justice.
For my own party, Ennahda (which means renaissance), the Oct. 26 legislative elections in Tunisia were not about the role of Islam in society. They were an opportunity to address issues of unemployment, more inclusive economic growth, security, regional development and income inequality — in other words, the bread-and-butter issues that matter to ordinary Tunisians…” writing in the New York Times, 19 November 2014
And in 2011 we called Tahrir Square in Cairo “Tahrir”, only occasionally reminding readers and viewers that it, too, meant “liberation”. None explained why the place was important: because this was the square mile of Cairo in which was based the largest British barracks and into which the Brits – during their much loved occupation of Egypt – refused to allow any Egyptian to walk without permission. That’s why it was called Tahrir – liberation – when the Brits left. That’s why Hosni Mubarak’s attempt to prevent the protesters entering the square in 2011 placed him firmly in the shadow of Egypt’s former colonial masters. Robert Fisk in the Independent on Sunday, 9th December 2014
‘Controversial audio recordings were leaked yesterday evening and aired on Egypt’s Mekameleen satellite network. The recordings feature several senior army officers talking amongst themselves and with other top officials to resolve what seemed to be an unanticipated problem. The recording, which experts believe to be authentic, were made sometime after the coup that toppled Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, but before the election that named coup leader General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi president of Egypt on May 30, 2014. The recordings begin with General Mamdouh Shahin, legal advisor to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in Egypt, speaking on the phone to General Abbas Kamil, Al-Sisi’s office manager, and telling him that he received a warning from the prosecutor general advising him that something needed to be done urgently to avert the collapse of the entire legal case against deposed President Morsi.’ Dr Azzam Tamimi writing in MiddleEast Monitor, 5th December 2014
Ahdaf Soueif writing in the Guardian: Since 30 June 2013, some 40,000 people have been arrested and 16,000 of them remain in prison. The majority probably belong to the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, of whom some will have committed acts of violence; most will not. The rest, maybe 8,000 or 9,000, are split between revolutionary activists and bystanders caught up in police dragnets and used to make up required figures. The state is commandeering every resource to establish control over the country. And even establishments that had their own intifadas during Mubarak’s time – for example, the judiciary, the universities, the media – have scampered into the fold. It’s not quite that they’re toeing the government line, but more that they have identified their own interests with “stability” and against “revolutionary change”.
A shocking manifestation of this confluence of interests is how judges and prosecutors work seamlessly with the ministry of the interior….” click here.
Egyptian security forces intentionally killed at least 817 protesters during last August’s Rabaa massacre, in a premeditated attack equal to or worse than China’s Tiananmen Square killings in 1989, Human RightsWatch (HRW) has argued in a report.
The 195-page investigation based on interviews with 122 survivors and witnesses has found Egypt’s police and army “systematically and deliberately killed largely unarmed protesters on political grounds” in actions that “likely amounted to crimes against humanity”. August 2014
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“The death sentence does not scare me and I am not terrified to spend the rest of my life in jail, because I aspire to reach the highest level of jihad by following Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) saying that the best of jihad is to say a word of truth in front of an unjust ruler.”
Statement by Dr Muhammad Badi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was made at the Minya Criminal Court which sentenced 183 defendents, including Badie, to death on charges of storming a police headquarters during the Rabaa and Nahda sit ins. His son was killed by live firing during these peaceful protests. Source: MEMO
The OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) has issued an incomprehensible statement on Egypt. The May 2014 issue of the OIC journal has published an article entitled ‘Egyptians overwhelmingly adopt the new constitution’. Echoing the stand taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the piece then lauds “the need to complete the transitional process in order for Egypt to embark on a new phase of its history”. It makes the obscure statement, “On 30 June, 2013, large-scale demonstrations took place against the rule of the former president Muhammad Morsi on the ground of which the roadmap have been embarked on”. What new phase of history – the descent from democracy to despotism? What “road map” – other than a future even worse than under Nasser in terms of political freedoms? Any balanced reporting ought to have mentioned the disruption of a democratic process, the mass killings and detentions, arrests of journalists and clampdown on an independent media. The appointment of Iyad Ameen Madani, formerly a Saudi minister, makes the OIC an extension of the Kingdom’s foreign ministry.
” …Today his [Sheikh Khalef Massoud] Friday sermons at Al Montazah Mosque attract more than 3,000 people, filling both floors of the mosque and spilling out into the alleys. His penchant for talking about the importance of democratic freedoms has drawn listeners from all over Cairo and beyond…But in January the government decreed that all imams must follow state-sanctioned themes each week – typically social issues like street children or drug addiction that steer well clear of politics. Authorities monitor Sheikh Massoud’s sermons and keep tabs on his Facebook page and any political comments he posts on websites for imams and sheikhs. Since the military ousted an Islamist government last summer, he has twice been suspended from preaching, and ordered to stop making appearances on TV.” Christa Cris Bryant in the Christian Science Monitor, 28 April 2014
Yahia Hamed, minister in the overthrown Morsi government: “If only the country was maintaining some sense of social cohesion while it was being hurtled towards economic disaster, perhaps the Sisi regime could have claimed some victory. Instead, the country is hurtling towards economic disaster under the most repressive regime in the history of modern Egypt. Murder, torture, arbitrary detentions, and the confiscation of assets have all become routine. More than 23,000 are now illegally detained including hundreds of children and women; more than 4,000 have been killed while peacefully protesting. Many of those who supported the military coup are now themselves imprisoned, tortured and silenced. The latest change in the dummy government means there is now no one left that has any link to the 25 January revolution. Life support comes from the regional autocratic dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and the UAE…. We are now more determined than ever to win Egypt back from those who would turn our country into a wasteland, and finally realise the dreams of the 25 January revolution: social justice, dignity and freedom for all Egyptians.” The Guardian, 16 March 2014
“The condemnation of Saudi rulers is growing up for declaring Muslim Brotherhood a terror outfit. After Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, leading Muslim scholars and organizations have come down heavily on the Suadi government for its decision of declaring Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas as ‘terrorist organization’. They said on Friday that Saudi rulers, who claimed to be custodians of Holy Mosques, have hurt the sentiments of Muslim all over the world by this unjust and anti-Islamic decision. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), Markazi Jamiat-e-Ulama, All India Deeni Madarsi Board and many other Muslim organizations have strongly criticized Saudi Arabia’s move to declare Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and urged the Saudi monarchy to immediately review the decision.Muslim Mirror, 15 March 2014
Dr Fayez Abu Shamaleh: “…No sane person would deny the Brotherhood’s mistakes, but most were made because the leadership thought well of the military council; they relied only on their own skills; they were over-confident in their ability to gather the masses in the field; and they believed that the revolution would triumph sooner or later as long as the movement maintained its unity and was able to guide the people to their desired goals of freedom, dignity and social justice. The Muslim Brotherhood did not pay attention to Egypt’s distinctness, nor did it take into consideration its geographical and historical significance or its influential presence in most regional and international issues and conflicts. Furthermore, the movement overlooked the fact that its success in government would put to shame the experiences of former and current Arab regimes.
The leadership also failed to pay attention to the Yemeni revolution, which was aborted and distorted by those plotting against the Arab people, leading to the cloning of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime. Nor did they focus on the fate of the Syrian revolution and how the plotters attacked the people; and they ignored the counter-strike launched by the camp opposing the Arab revolutions, which relied on the Brotherhood making mistakes and then condemned them.
The movement’s fatal mistake was the failure to estimate the danger of the Renaissance project adopted by the political wing during the elections and the effect it had on its enemies. It underestimated the weight of the mission it faced and did not realise that the civilised, humanitarian and liberation values promoted by the Islamic movement went beyond Egypt’s borders and are timeless.
The extent of the plotting against the Egyptian revolution has been transnational. The Brotherhood’s mistakes have forced it to re-evaluate its considerations and update the list of its enemies in light of the bitter experience of the past few years. Once done, it will be able to determine its priorities, which must include the reinforcement of the revolutionary camp by creating local and regional alliances able to advance the aims of the revolution, as the social realities which prompted it to start in the first place are still in place….Dr Fayez Abu Shamaleh, from Media Monitor, 3 March 2014
Juan Cole in CommonDreams.org: “The announcement on Saturday by the Egyptian government that there was a 38% turnout for the referendum on the new constitution was unexceptional. It was more than the 33% that turned out to vote on the Muslim Brotherhood constitution of 2012, but not that much more.But the declaration that the constitution had passed by 98% turned the exercise into a farce. In 2013, the split was 63% for, 37% against….What 98% represents is insecurity and of arrogance, at the same time….But that arrogance had already been clear in the absurd declaration in December that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization and the passage of a law imposing 5 years in prison and heavy fines for so much as defending the Brotherhood. Abruptly declaring that the entire political basis for the previous elected government is now a thought crime is Orwellian 19 Jan 2014
Dr AbdelWahab Effendi writing in MEMO – What we are seeing is an alliance of minorities, remnants from the Nasser and Mubarak regimes, and fearful and stressed individuals who have nothing in common except for their hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their hearts do not hold any good will towards the movement at all.
These anti-Brotherhood minorities understood that their plan will only succeed if they spread hate and ignite a fire among the Egyptian people. It is a fire full of rage that burns day and night and its flames will devour friends before it reaches its intended victims. We are currently facing a republic full of hatred, as was the case in Serbia when it wreaked havoc on its own people and encouraged corruption, or in Rwanda when official and non-official news sources decided to encourage on-going massacres. Senior officials at the Mille Collines Radio Station and Kangura newspaper were tried between 2000 and 2009 for inciting the Rwandan genocide. Many of them were sentenced to life in prison while one of them was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment at the United Nations Rwanda Tribunal. The atmosphere in Egypt is reminiscent of the situation in Rwanda as publishers who are full of hatred sit on media thrones of power in much the same manner that Hutu extremists sat on their thrones of delusional lies. They took advantage of the grace that God bestowed upon them and used it to terrorise their people.
“Far too many – journalists, alas, among them – applauded Sisi for stamping out the Brotherhood; for ‘saving’ Egypt from Brotherhood ‘tyranny'; for crushing an Islamist ‘coup’ staged by an elected president; for gunning down, let’s face it, so many innocents. Now these authors and artists, too, are having second thoughts. Human rights groups are being harassed, their members arrested. It’s a replay of the country’s most humiliating recent history. Must Egypt re-infantilise itself back to the Nasser and Sadat and Mubarak eras?” Robert Fisk in the Independent, 30 December 2013
“The fall of the Brotherhood in Egypt has revealed the crisis that faces Islamists in the wake of the Arab Spring; the lack of a revolutionary mind-set and agenda. The majority of Islamist movements in the Arab world maintain a conservative and outdated vision that could not live up to the aspirations and dreams that fuelled the Arab Spring three years ago.
This conservatism, or lack of revolutionary ideology, continues to be incompatible with the new environment that ensued after the fall of the old regimes. The majority of Arab youth who took to the streets were driven mainly by a revolutionary and ambitious agenda that could change their lives and destiny. However, they were struck by the emergence of the traditional Islamists who sought to diffuse the revolution. Moreover, Islamist movements seem to be a reflection of a traditional and conservative social bloc that seems to have Arab societies in its grip.
The inability to create such a revolutionary platform is in fact the most important reason for the MB’s downfall.” Dr Khalil al-Anani, 24 Dec 2013
Arrest warrants were issued for two of Egypt‘s highest-profile activists on Wednesday [27 November], a day after 79 other secular campaigners were detained in Cairo in the largest crackdown on non-Islamist dissent since the fall of Mohamed Morsi. It was the first use of a draconian new protest law that was enacted on Sunday and has been condemned by the UN and human rights groups. Patrick Kingsley in the Guardian
A new law placing broad restrictions on protests in Egypt is a serious setback that poses a grave threat to freedom of assembly and gives security forces a free rein to use excessive force, including lethal force, against demonstrators, Amnesty International said today (25 November 2013). The law, signed yesterday by Egyptian President Adly Mansour, grants the Ministry of Interior wide discretionary powers over protests and lays out broad circumstances in which demonstrators can be found to violate the law.
ASSESSMENTS & JUSTIFICATIONS are presented below, documenting the external factors as well as frank criticisms..and the JUSTIFICATIONS FROM WESTERN COMMENTATORS AND FELLOW TRAVELLERS for the coup, with new terminology such as ‘illiberal democracy’ and ‘elections are a sham’ – when the results are not to their liking! The charges against the MB include not being ‘stylish’ enough! The victim is being made responsible for the crime!
Morsi surprised those who are close to him ideologically, as well as those who are distant, with his unique resoluteness to stand alone in the face of a vast state apparatus, including its army, judiciary and all its means of oppression. Furthermore, in light of recently leaked information regarding some of his opponents’ stances during his reign, it has become clear that the coup did not come out of thin air, but rather it came after the various arms of the deep state sensed that Morsi was adamant on his policies seeking to both reform and cleanse corruption, and thus that time will not be in their favour, threatening their existence and their interests. They needed to act quickly to rectify the matter by arranging the theatrical show which brought about the coup. Lama Khatar writing in Middle East Monitor, 6 November 2013
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
A year after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, the man responsible for rooting out government corruption, Gen. Mohamed Farid el-Tohamy, faced a very public barrage of allegations that he had deliberately covered up years of cronyism and self-dealing….President Mohamed Morsi promptly fired the general, prosecutors opened an investigation, the news filled the papers and his career appeared to end in disgrace…But now the general is back, and more powerful than ever. His protégé and friend, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, ousted Mr. Morsi about four months ago, and virtually the first move by the new government was to rehabilitate General Tohamy and place him in charge of the general intelligence service, one of the most powerful positions in Egypt. Source New York Times, 30 October 2013
Egyptian police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of students staging an anti-military protest at Cairo’s al-Azhar University, reports say.
Students had blocked the main road leading to the campus and threw rocks as security forces drew near.
Some Salafis have joined the Brotherhood’s protests but the al-Nour party, which represented them in the last election, still wavers between support for the coup and silence. A few secular liberals mutter behind a comforting intellectual stance of “neither the Brotherhood nor the army”, but unless this fence-sitting is abandoned in favour of open condemnation of today’s main threat to civil liberties – which comes from the army – it is politically vacuous. The business community hunkers down and hopes for a few crumbs, even though the economy is in tatters and cannot live for ever off loans from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Tourism is dead and Monday’s attacks near the Red Sea resorts, the first violence there for several years, will further delay its recovery.
Yet, far from contributing to stability, what General Sisi and his civilian followers are doing will only condemn Egypt to greater turmoil.
Leaked video of army officers’ meeting prior to coup
“A Parliament is still coming,” General Sisi says. “This Parliament may request hearings. What are we going to do about that, I wonder?”
He adds, “We have to be prepared to face these changes without being too negatively affected by them, but they will affect us.”
But at the same time, General Sisi also appears to share much of the officers’ frustration. The officer named Omar argues that in any state, “there are red lines to protect the armed forces from the media, and the truth is we have enjoyed this protection for 50 years.” But because of the “lack of discipline” after the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, he says, “these lines were lost, and people and the media rode roughshod over us in a way that isn’t normal.”
“Correct,” General Sisi replies.
Abdelwahab El-Affendi in the Special Issue of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 30/4, 2013
What is certain is that the (successful) appeal to religious authority has become the only real threat to entrench despotic regimes and their allied status quo elites. We may not know why certain groups succeed in cornering the ‘spiritual capital’ and translating it into political capital, but when they do the elites are so alarmed that they resort to despotic measures…the post-Arab spring chaotic politics, which thrust the Islamists into the centre, have also revived the fortunes of the secular elites, mainly through an alliance with elements of the old order (remnants of the former ruling parties, the military and the mukhabarat, corrupt business and other vested interests). This was an alliance born out of fear and a desperate attempt to reverse the revolutions’ course and establish ‘liberal dictatorships’, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one…the problem with the wilayat al-librali is that it is destined to become less and less liberal, just as wilayat al-faqih has tended to become less and less Islamic…Thus the first thing the Egyptian ‘liberals’ did was to put an end to freedom of speech and muzzle the media. It is Animal Farm all over again, but without the humour.
British Foreign & Commonwealth Office Statement, 26th Sept 2013
The British Government is watching closely the outcome of Tuesday’s court ruling in Cairo which banned the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, and reports that the Freedom and Justice newspaper has been closed down. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-watching-court-ruling-on-muslim-brotherhood-closely
Hugh Roberts in the London Review of Books, 12th Sept 2013
The numbers question was investigated by Jack Brown, an American writer who has lived in Cairo for several years and who on 11 July published a detailed article in Maghreb émergent, an indispensable source of serious coverage of North African developments, republished in English on the website International Boulevard. Brown worked out from the actual area of Tahrir Square and the streets leading to it that on the most generous estimate the demonstration can’t have exceeded 265,000 people. If we assume for the sake of argument that the other big demonstration in Cairo, in Heliopolis, added a further 211,000, that gives at most 476,000. So where did the other 12.8 million needed to exceed Morsi’s election tally come from? Cairo is home to nearly a quarter of Egypt’s total population. Vague Western media references to ‘hundreds of thousands’ marching in other cities may authorise us to push up the overall tally, but we’re still looking at maybe a million, or at the very most two million across the country as a whole, less than the 2.85 million Morsi polled in Cairo and Giza. The phantasmagorical figures quoted to the Western media may, as Brown observes, have exploited a confusion between attendance at the demonstrations and Tamarrod’s claim for the number of petition signatories. But however many millions really signed the petition, none of them signed a petition calling for the army to depose the president.
The Revolution That Wasn’t
Peter Beaumont & Patrick Kingsley of the Guardian, quoting Mohammed Habib and Kotb al-Araby, 3rd Sept 2013
…a more pertinent question is whether it [MB] is capable of adapting and responding to what many members see as a failed experiment in power. The Brotherhood’s inability to reach out and build a wider coalition in its brief time in office alienated the revolutionaries who brought down the former president Hosni Mubarak by being too cosy with the generals in the post-revolutionary period. As Mohamed Habib, the former deputy general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood – and now fierce critic of it – wrote last month: “They lost everything due to their failure to understand what was happening around them. The Brotherhood’s mistakes were their downfall. They failed to achieve political stability and security. They failed to find solutions to the dire economic crisis and their fateful Constitutional Declaration led to division, fragmentation, civil strife, and violence, as well as the collapse of the rule of law.”…Some believe the Brotherhood’s autocratic ideology renders it inherently incapable of the kind of self-criticism necessary to reinvent itself and expand its appeal again to a wider circle of Egyptians. Kotb al-Araby disputes this. “Of course what happened will be reviewed and revised. There were mistakes. A lot of mistakes, but good things too. We will build on the good things. In my personal opinion one of the biggest mistakes that we made was running for the presidency [which nearly half of the Brotherhood’s leadership council advised against]. We should have fought our battles more gradually.”
Egyptian judges call for Muslim Brotherhood to be dissolved
Wadah Khanfar, 2nd Sept 2013
Already, many Arabs question the credibility of any US role in building a stable democratic Syria. The military coup in Egypt was a major cause for concern, calling into question America’s position towards political Islam, and democracy itself. The US has refused to describe the enforced removal and detention of President Morsi as a coup, despite the killing and wounding of thousands of civilian protesters by Egyptian security forces. Given the continuing revolutionary fervour in the region, in which the Islamists play a leading role, America has shown complicity in Egypt’s coup by continuing to fund its army. Hence a wide section of Islamic-linked Syrian revolutionaries will never welcome any major role for the US in the country’s future.
Syrians want rid of President Assad, but without US bombs
Osama Abu Irshaid, 31st August 2013
The Muslim Brotherhood participated in the democratic process in Egypt but were then deposed by an alliance of the ancién regime and other vested interests. Does this mean that movements with a vision of establishing an Islamic society should now abandon the political arena of ‘liberal democracy’? Will the forces for whom Islam is an anathema prefer violence and dictatorship rather than an elected Islamic government? What are the lessons for Muslim socio-political activists?
What are the alternatives? Was the failure because of President Morsi and the MB, or does it point to some more fundamental problematic within Islamic movements and the need for a major rethink of strategy? With regards of the Salafi Al-Nour Party, many sources suggest that it is a creation of Gulf intelligence services. They are major sponsors of the “Wahabi-Salafi” tendency across the region. Nevertheless, Al-Nour won 24 per cent of the votes in the 2012 parliamentary election in Egypt; it has been a thorn in the Brotherhood’s side ever since. Al-Nour’s efforts to undermine the Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi included pushing for a detailed explanation of the article of the Constitution which makes it clear that Islam is the state religion of Egypt and support for the coup on the basis that, as Yasser Borhami said, “Morsi did not implement Islamic Law”. All of these groups have shown that they are prepared to dance with the devil himself to get rid of the Islamists, even if it means the imposition of a regime more repressive than Mubarak’s. The example of Al-Nour Party is interesting as it fits the stereotypical images of a hard-line fundamentalist group but it is also capable of being controlled by state intelligence agencies. Furthermore, it does not have an integrated vision of Islam of the kind promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood.
A coup against the revolution… What happened?
Kamal Helbawi, 29th August 2013
“What I really think it would take is for Islamist to first agree amongst themselves about what they really mean by the ‘Islamist project’ that has meant so many things for so many people so far. If this could be done, and I doubt it because there are so many different and at this time conflicting views within the Islamist camp, then maybe there could be a cohesive and realistic project that could be offered to the people,” El-Helbawi said. He added that post-Morsi, the public would be scrupulously critical of any Islamist-made proposal, and would be no more willing to follow a catchy slogan, because it was tried and proven to be a failure.
Former MB figure El-Helbawi says group should apologies to nation
Abdel Bari Atwan, 23rd August 2013
We are asking the liberal leaders and the heads of National Salvation Front (NS), who consider themselves “protectors of democracy” and supporters of the civil state, for their opinion on this step. They supported the military coup and provided it with the “revolutionary legitimacy” – but what is their opinion of the coup and this release at the same time? What are their views on the country returning to a state of emergency and their perspectives on the deaths of thousands of peaceful protesters at Rabaa al-Adawiya and El-Nahda squares? Personally I feel very disheartened when I see such a blasé response from these figures on the release of Hosni Mubarak; a man who used Egypt like private property for him and his sons; a man who associated himself with a group of corrupted businessmen, whilst more than forty million Egyptians lived below the poverty line. This is a sad period for Egypt – its history, its people and its revolution; the very revolution that restored hope to poor people in Arab and Islamic regions, with anticipation for a new beginning, one with dignity.
Mubarak’s Release – An End To All Hope?
Muhammad al-Baltaji in the Guardian, 21st August 2013
The worst terrorism that exists in Egypt today is that perpetrated against the people by the coup alliance, which conspired with the aid of Arab monarchies in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Jordan, fully supported and lobbied for by Israel and with complicity of the United States of America and its western allies, in order to kill the Egyptian dream and undermine the Arab spring. State institutions in Egypt, including the army, the police and the judiciary, have been hijacked and turned into tools of oppression. Those who willingly or knowingly participate in this project are hereby warned that they will one day, sooner or later, be brought to justice. I appeal to army and police officers and soldiers to rid themselves of the military uniform and go home.
The Muslim Brotherhood will not turn to violence to fight the coup in Egypt
David Hearst in the Guardian, 20th August 2013
“It is one thing to upset the middle class and the intelligentsia, but quite another to have the country’s (Saudi Arabia’s) religious scholars denounce you. A group of 56 of them did so, by issuing a statement describing the events of 3 July as “unquestionably a military coup and an unlawful and illicit criminal act”. The king has also been attacked in a sermon by a sheikh at the al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Islam’s second holiest site.
Bernard Henri-Levy in the Daily Beast, 20th August 2013
No matter how you look at this, no matter what semantic contortions you use to describe this coup that is not a coup, this slaughter that dare not speak its name, the atrocious, unacceptable reality is this: Egypt’s generals, pulling on the boots of Saddam Hussein, of the Assads (father and son), and of Gaddafi (who threatened to unleash in Benghazi the same rivers of blood that are now flowing Cairo and other cities of Egypt), are acting like butchers, plain and simple.
The Criminal Folly of the Egyptian Armed Forces
David Hearst in the Guardian, 19th August 2013
…Why has the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], famed for its caution on the diplomatic stage, put all its eggs in one basket, which, considering the volatility in Egypt, remains fragile and unpredictable. Who knows which side in Egypt will prevail, and if that is so, why back the coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi so publicly? Sisi thanked the kingdom in fulsome terms. He said that the Saudi intervention was unprecedented since the Yom Kippur 1973 war with Israel. Praise indeed. For Dr Maha Azzam, associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, the kingdom’s fire-breathing support for the coup comes as little surprise. Not only had they been astonished by Washington’s abandonment of the kingdom’s closest regional ally in Hosni Mubarak, a point they made very clear during his trial. They had seen him replaced, at the polls, by the Brotherhood, which challenged the kingdom’s claim to be the protector of Islam. Azzam said: “What they had was a lethal equation, democracy plus Islamism, albeit under the Muslim Brotherhood. That was a lethal concoction in undermining the kingdom’s own legitimacy in the long run. They know full well they do not want democracy, but to have another group representing Islam was intolerable.”
Why Saudi Arabia is taking a risk by backing the Egyptian coup
New York Times, 16th August 2013
For the first time since the president’s removal six weeks ago, some non-Islamists stood with the Morsi supporters, sometimes risking their own lives as well…By 3 a.m. Saturday, hundreds of protesters had taken refuge in a nearby mosque that for most of the day had served as a field hospital and morgue, refusing to leave for fear of arrests. Swarms of riot police officers and their supporters in civilian clothes began breaking down the doors, throwing rocks through the windows, and filling the mosque with tear gas. Among the Islamists killed in Ramses Square was Dr. Khaled el-Banna, 30, a grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan el-Banna, who was gunned down near the same square in 1949.
Blood and Chaos Prevail in Egypt, Testing Control
Maha Azzam, 16th August 2013
Those calling for a return to the days that preceded the 25 January revolution in 2011, which brought about the fall of Hosni Mubarak, were not only the military high command, the interior ministry, the security services and the police, but critically the judiciary and the state media. These coteries of power actively worked together to block the smooth functioning of the state. This went hand-in-hand with a vicious campaign to vilify and demonise the party in power, namely the Muslim Brotherhood. Propaganda campaigns against them had been a feature of Egypt’s dictatorships from Nasser to Mubarak in an attempt to weaken the main challenge to the regime. But the secular and liberal opposition, having failed to win enough votes themselves, played spoilers rather than engage in the political process, accept the results and campaign for the next elections.
There is still time to side with those committed to democracy in Egypt
Amr Darrag, 15th August 2013
What the United States ultimately decides to do with its diplomatic relations or foreign aid is President Obama’s decision. But Americans need to recognize that every passing day solidifies the perception among Egyptians that American rhetoric on democracy is empty; that American politicians won’t hesitate to flout their own laws or subvert their declared values for short-term political gains; and that when it comes to freedom, justice and human dignity, Muslims need not apply. The regime we are facing in Egypt is not new. It is one with which we are intimately familiar. Its leaders are selling torture, repression and stagnation. We are not buying. And America shouldn’t either. Egypt’s Blood, America’s Complicity
The Guardian Editorial, 15th August 2013
…Spurred on by voices in the liberal and secular camp that the opportunity had finally arrived to deal the Muslim Brotherhood a mortal blow – the running banner on Egypt’s private television coverage on the demonstrators was “War on Terrorists” – …Spurred on by voices in the liberal and secular camp that the opportunity had finally arrived to deal the Muslim Brotherhood a mortal blow – the running banner on Egypt’s private television coverage on the demonstrators was “War on Terrorists” – John Kerry, the US secretary of state, called last night for all sides to take a step back. He stated his strong opposition to emergency law, and repeated that the only solution will be a political one. These are all rhetorical statements, unless and until the US is prepared to cut its $1.3bn aid to Egypt’s military. Military crackdown: Egypt’s Tiananmen Square
Michael Mansfield & Tayab Ali, 14th August 2013
Egypt has for too long been treated as a client state in the cause of geopolitical struggle. Its military has been central to this and has consistently done so with impunity. It is time for the British government to lead the way in bringing this to an end. The situation in Egypt must be referred to the ICC by the security council. Failing that, human rights lawyers will be waiting in courts across the world for Egypt’s military, with evidence that they have committed heinous international crimes.
Egypt’s military will not get away with human rights abuses
Seamus Milne, 14th August 2013
There’s no doubt the coup had large-scale support (even if polling suggests it has been exaggerated) from an opposition that united right and left, along with supporters of the former Mubarak dictatorship and many who opposed it and want to see more far-reaching change in Egypt.
The latter had plenty of grievances against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government: its indulgence of army and police brutality, failure to break with Mubarak’s failed neoliberal economic policies, social conservatism, institutional power grabs, inability to build alliances with secular forces and appeasement of US and Israeli power. But there can be no doubting what has taken place. A leader and movement who won a string of elections and referendums have been removed by force in favour of military placemen. The president has been imprisoned while surreal charges are cooked up – of plotting with the Palestinian group Hamas to escape from one of Mubarak’s jails.
A 21st-century Nasser could give the Arab world its voice
Sheri Berman, 10th August 2013
In 1848, workers joined with liberals in a democratic revolt to overthrow the French monarchy. However, almost as soon as the old order collapsed, the opposition fell apart, as liberals grew increasingly alarmed by what they saw as “radical” working class demands. Conservatives were able to co-opt fearful liberals and reinstall new forms of dictatorship. Those same patterns are playing out in Egypt today — with liberals and authoritarians playing themselves, and Islamists playing the role of socialists….
The mistake that liberals made in 19th-century Europe was to see all socialists as fanatics. But while some socialists were extremists, others were opposed to violence and dedicated to democracy. Those socialists — who later became Europe’s social democrats rather than communists — wanted social and economic reforms, but not ones that were mortal threats to capitalism or democracy. Yet, for too long, European liberals were unwilling to recognize those differences; they opposed full democratization and worked actively to repress the entire movement. The results were disastrous.
Marx’s Lesson for the Muslim Brothers
MEMO, 9th August 2013
In a statement sent on Thursday to Anadolu News Agency, a group of 56 Saudi Arabian religious scholars have condemned the military overthrow of Egypt’s elected president Mohammad Morsi. The scholars described what occurred in Egypt as “unquestionably a military coup and an unlawful and illicit criminal act”.
…Among those who signed the manifesto are: Mohammad Naser Al Suhaibani, Ali Bin Saeid AlGhamdi, Abdul Aziz bin AbdelMohsen AlTurki, Hasan Bin Saleh AlHameed, Mohammad Bin AbdelAziz AlKhodari, Mohammad Bin Sulaiman AlBarak and AbdelAziz Mohammad AlFouzan. egypt.
Tawwakol Karman, 8th August 2013
Clearly, the leaders of the military takeover have something to conceal from the watchful eyes of the world. That explains why I was recently refused entry into Egypt. I now feel I have a responsibility to warn the world of the fact that a fully fledged despotic regime is seeking to reinforce its foundations in the country. The 25 January revolution guaranteed freedom of expression, of assembly and organisation. All these freedoms have been crushed in the aftermath of the coup.
…Perhaps one of the few positive aspects of the coup is that it has discredited the claim thatthat that the state had been taken over by the Brotherhood under Morsi. The ministers in charge of defence, the interior and foreign affairs, and many other ministers and holders of senior government posts, are among the supporters of the coup. They were appointed by Morsi but are all opponents of the president, of his party and of his community. Egypt is moving on from the lie of Brotherhood takeover to the reality of state militarisation.
Egypt’s coup has crushed all the freedoms won in the revolution
Robert Fisk, 8th August 2013
And the Egyptian army rather loves itself. Its vast and obscenely bloated investments in real estate, banking and industry make this one of the richest Arab armies in one of the poorest Arab countries. It’s hardly in their interest to start a mini-war in the streets of Cairo. But the Brotherhood itself is bloated with arrogance, its record in power – with Morsi as their cypher – hardly worthy of the support of the ‘people’…”
Crispin Blunt, 6th August 2013
Two different narratives infuse Egyptian discourse and alarmingly there is precious little overlap between the two…The Islamist camp is infused with a righteous indignation, as the forces of old, corrupt and rotten Egypt unite to try and drive them underground once again…On the other side is a rich contempt for the dogma in their midst. There is a dose of the contempt of the rich for the dispossessed and their failure to be proper Egyptians, with more regard for their faith than their country. There is a lazy misappreciation of their fellow citizens and a total failure to acknowledge that, among the easily vilified extreme manifestations of an authoritarian ideology, are an awful lot of decent people motivated by high ideals and with an actual record of delivery of social justice in a land rife with extreme poverty….
Failure to find a way to incorporate political Islam in democracy, however uncomfortable its ideology is for secular liberals, will mean we have given them little alternative but to find other means of expression. Inevitably, some of this would be violent. These forces have their expression in Britain too and we need to be clear that they have their place here in our democracy and we will support them having their place in democracy elsewhere. Our national interests are absolutely engaged in Egypt, quite apart from the prospect of a horrifying humanitarian catastrophe in that country, which should concern us all.
Abdel Bari Atwan, 6th August 2013
Egypt’s former leader Mohammed Morsi committed a large number of mistakes during his tenure in office which lasted only one year. He and the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood will soon realise that their major mistake was the exclusion of Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi who was replaced by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Morsi believed that Sisi’s “Islamic feelings” would make him more loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Tariq Ramadan, 5th August 2013
The world has changed, and everything suggests that Islamist organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and other legalist and reformist groups, have not kept pace with world-historical developments, with shifts in international relations, and, most of all, with the new paradigm of globalization. In addition, state power, which in the beginning was understood as a means to social, political, economic and cultural reform, emerged as an end in itself, perverting both the intentions and the actions of a significant number of Islamist movements. These factors have combined to create, over time, a disconnect between the oft-repeated claims of the Islamist movements, which have maintained substantial popular support, and their inability to respond to the challenges of the new era. Having become nationalist Islamist movements, their obsession with the state eventually led to them neglecting fundamental economic issues, major cultural concerns, and even failing to address the basic questions of freedom, citizenship and individual autonomy. Driven into opposition, totally committed to (and imprisoned by) the desire to legitimize their participation in the democratic process as credible, open and dependable in the eyes of the West, the Islamists have become a reactionary force that, in the name of pragmatism, with one compromise after another, have preserved their religious references while voiding them of their potential for social, economic and cultural liberation.
Reuters, 1 August 2013
The violence since Mursi’s overthrow has fuelled concern in the West of a wider conflagration in Egypt, which straddles the Suez Canal and receives $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid to bolster its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
As Egypt turns up heat, Brothers struggle for strategy
Abdel Bari Atwan, 30 July 2013
The military’s error of judgement is clear. It is taking sides, favouring the liberals and secularists against the Islamists. The army is dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood an an enemy, not as a political group. It seeks to oust the Islamist movement, not just from power, but from Egypt’s political future.
Within weeks, the Egyptian army has created a state within the state. It has its own institutions and independent economic structures. We all thought that we had seen the last of the army in politics, we thought that the 2011 revolution was the start of a new era. It clearly wasn’t. President Morsi tried to keep the army on the borders, but he couldn’t do it for long. In the end, it cost him his job.
Over the weekend, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, expressed his concern about the political situation in Egypt. This concern was not just for the Egyptian people, their security or economy, but also for the safety and security of Israel and its settlements. Kerry claims to represent a country that supports democracy and freedom, yet he refuses to describe what happened in Egypt as a “military coup.” The African Union (AU), on the other hand, didn’t hold back, referring to Morsi’s ouster as a coup – and freezing Egypt’s membership of the Union.
This is the same American hypocrisy which we all know so well. The double standards which have seen the US destroy Iraq and kill a million people, yet hesitate to speak out against the military’s interference in Egypt.
Egypt Must Hang On To Its Ambitions For Change
Marwan Bishara, 30 July 2013
The earlier that Egyptians sober up from their disillusionment with the politics of power, and get down to the business of running their country, the more likely it will be for them to save it from total collapse. The $13bn pumped into the economy from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help the military maintain its control are quite substantial; but, such funds can only go so far in beginning to heal the structural challenges facing the economy.
…. Egypt’s total debt is already 87 percent of GDP and 74 percent of that is domestic. As instability and insecurity deepen, the debt is skyrocketing on top of 12 percent interest rates. Since three quarters of the debt is owed to local banks, any default on payment is bound to affect the entire economy. In 2012-2013, Egypt paid a quarter of all the government’s budget expenditures — or 147 out of 615 billion Egyptian Pounds (EGP) ($21bn USD) — to service its debt. That sum nearly equals the total of all government expenditures put toward public sector wages, or 149 billion EGP ($21.28bn), which by itself is also quite inflated by nepotism that creates unproductive jobs.
Add to all this, the Egyptian government’s subsidies for fuel and food has already reached a high 167 billion EGP ($24bn), or more than a quarter of the total government budget. Therefore, interest payments, wages, and subsidies represent 75 percent of the budget’s total expenditures, leaving any future government with less than a quarter of its budget to be put toward all other important business of the state.
Egypt’s Three Challenges: Time to Make (Not Score) Points
The Guardian, 29 July 2013
The Egyptian army’s overweening sense of entitlement is an aspect of the country’s political pathology. An army that has seen no combat for a generation and faces no serious challenge from external enemies nevertheless absorbs massive resources, enjoys marked privileges, and arrogates to itself special political rights. Egypt should be reducing the influence of its military, not reinforcing it. But, in the immediate future, the decisions of the army, and what are probably now its rather nervous civilian allies, are critical. They must release Brotherhood leaders, find a formula for the rehabilitation of Morsi and a framework for talks that the Brotherhood can accept. Otherwise there will soon be more blood on Cairo’s pavements.
Egypt: time to back down
Abdel Bari Atwan, July 2013
The call by Egypt’s Defence Minister General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi for Egyptians to demonstrate on Friday in order to “give the army and police a mandate” to confront violence and terrorism could be a declaration of war against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. …I have no doubt that the Egyptian army is facing a conspiracy, possibly hatched behind closed doors in a foreign country, just like the plot that was formed against the Iraqi army in Kuwait. I would not be surprised if some liberals were involved in this plot, perhaps with the best intentions, perhaps not…This is the first time we have ever seen an army leader calling for the people to mass on the streets to support him. Even the leaders of military coups in Turkey and Pakistan, or in South American banana republics, did not do so. I don’t know where General al-Sisi got this idea from, or even who inspired him. Was it Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the interim vice president?
Egyptian Army Provoking Catastrophic Stand-Off
Source: Debka.com, July 2013
In a dazzling display of monetary muscle, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates poured $8 billion in a single day into the coffers of Egypt’s army rulers in cash, grants, loans without interest and gifts of gas, a dizzying life-saving infusion into its tottering economy. Forking out sums on this scale in a single day – or even month – is beyond the capacity of almost every world power – even the US and Russia – in this age of economic distress. The Arab oil colossuses managed to dwarf Iran’s pretensions to the standing of regional power. Tuesday, July 9, just six days after the Egyptian army overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, a UAE delegation of foreign and energy ministers and national security adviser landed in Cairo. They came carrying the gifts of $1 billion as a grant and $2 billion in long-term credit.
In well-orchestrated moves, Saudi Arabia then stepped forward with a $5 billion package, of which a lump sum of $2 billion was drafted to Egypt’s state bank that day, followed by another $2 billion as a gift of Saudi gas, and a further $1 billion for propping up the sagging Egyptian currency. The delivery by two Arab governments to a third of financial assistance on this scale and on a single day is unheard of in the Middle East, or, indeed, anwhere else.
Egyptian army’s financial coup: 12 billion petrodollars from Saudi, UAE, Kuwaiti fans
Emad Makay in aljazeera.com, 10th July 2013
A main conduit for channeling the State Department’s democracy funds to Egypt has been the National Endowment for Democracy. Federal documents show NED, which in 2011 was authorised an annual budget of $118m by Congress, funneled at least $120,000 over several years to an exiled Egyptian police officer who has for years incited violence in his native country…
A longtime grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy and other US democracy groups is a 34-year old Egyptian woman, Esraa Abdel-Fatah, who sprang to notoriety during the country’s pitched battle over the new constitution in December 2012…
Exclusive: US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists
Talal Asad, July 2013
…I think perhaps that most of the young people in the Tamarod Movement were probably not aware–although it now turns out that some of the biggest millionaires, like Naguib Sawiris, for example, were bankrolling the movement and supporting it in other ways. So I think there was a ‘coordination’–if not a ‘conspiracy’ as many now allege–to make the opposition effective by fair means or foul. What worries me really is the intervention of the army, something that was not anticipated by everyone…
In my view, their [the MB’s] total incompetence, their total stupidity, lies in not anticipating, to begin with, that they would be demonized if they acquired governmental authority. And demonized they were, with a vengeance. Part of this can be related to the crude secularist ideas that dominate most Cairene intellectuals. They were also highly incompetent in their inability, or unwillingness, to reach out to parts of the opposition. In any case, in my view they should never have aspired to the presidency–first of all as a matter of principle, and secondly because the uprising had created colossal practical problems which would be extremely difficult to address by any government. Winning an election does not mean that you are strong, as the Muslim Brotherhood thought it was. It means you are responsible for failures of the state and economy. And, despite their electoral win, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party are and were always weak. One of the things of which they were often accused was that they wanted totalitarian control of society, that they were on the verge of getting what they wanted, which is absolute nonsense, of course. They did not have such control, they could not acquire such control, and there is no real evidence that they wanted such control. This is one part of their stupidity: To be seen to behave as though they had real control of the state.
Neither Heroes, Nor Villains: A Conversation with Talal Asad on Egypt After Morsi
Tariq Ramadan, July 2013
…Magically, chronic blackouts, gasoline and natural gas shortages came to an abrupt end after the fall of the president. It was as though people had been deprived of the basic necessities in order to drive them into the streets…What, after the fact, is surprising, is the simple-mindedness, the lack of experience and the nature of the mistakes made by Mohamed Morsi, by his allies, and by the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization….
The fact remains, however, that his management of the business of state, his failure to listen to the voice of the people and even to some of his trusted advisors, his exclusivist relationship with the highest echelons of the MB leadership, his hasty and ill-considered decisions (some of which he later acknowledged as errors) must be unsparingly criticized. But on a more fundamental level, his greatest fault has been the utter absence of a political vision and the lack of clearly established political and economic priorities, his failure to struggle against corruption and poverty, and his egregious mismanagement of social and educational affairs…The naivety of the president, of his government and of the Muslim Brotherhood has been stunning. After sixty years of opposition and military repression (with the direct and indirect benediction of the US Administration and the West), how could they possibly have imagined that their former adversaries would support their rise to power, invoking democracy all the while? Did they learn nothing from their own history, from Algeria in 1992, and, more recently, from Palestine?
Egypt: Coup d’État, Act II
The Economist, July 2013
… it has become increasingly clear that the appeal of the Islamists stems not so much from their religious standing or their promises to impose sharia law as from their superior ability to harness the resentments of Egypt’s poor. With problems proliferating, from surging unemployment to crippling power and fuel shortages, it was perhaps not surprising that a large section of this vast underclass took to the streets for a second time.
The power of religion
Imam Zaid Shakir, July 2013
Any Muslim party endeavoring to rule democratically over a particular country in the Muslim world has to understand that the eclectic ideological nature of the citizenry of most modern Muslim nation-states, combined in many instances with a similar degree of ethnic, tribal or religious diversity makes it nearly impossible for it to pursue a strict, party-line first agenda. Any group endeavouring to do so will alienate many parties whose support will be critical in any efforts to move the state in a new direction.
This makes the principal challenge for an aspiring Muslim ruling-party a constitutional one. In other words, a carefully crafted constitution has to adjudicate how the requisites of the Shari’ah, widely understood, and the historical approach to religious minorities living in Muslim lands, best articulated under the Ottoman Millet system, can best be reconciled with modern ideas of citizenship and individual rights.
The Egyptian coup and the fate of political Islam
Reuters, July 2013
In the immediate aftermath of Mubarak’s overthrow, the Brotherhood had no intention of ruling. It reassured secular Egyptians and the army by promising publicly not to seek the presidency or an outright parliamentary majority…
“I met Shater three times in 2011/2012 and each time it was clear that the political appetite was growing, but the first time he was extremely explicit that the Brotherhood would not seek political power right away,” said U.S. academic Nathan Brown, a leading expert on Egypt at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “He was very clear to the reasons: the world’s not ready for it, Egypt’s not ready for it, and – the phrase he kept using – the burdens of Egypt are too big for any one political actor. Those turned out to be very sound judgments but he abandoned them.”
The entire council of the Guidance Office of the Muslim Brotherhood was against the presidential nomination,” said Gehad El-Haddad, 31, one of the leading young Islamists….
The issue came to a head at a marathon closed-door meeting of the Brotherhood’s Shura Council at its four-storey headquarters in the hill-top Moqattam district that overlooks Cairo from the south. “We remained for three days, debating, each team giving the justifications of the opinion it had, whether accepting or rejecting. And when the vote happened, the decision was just by three or four votes,” said Essam Hashish, 63, a university engineering lecturer and Shura member….
“When we took the decision to nominate Mursi, after the withdrawal of Khairat El-Shater, he (Mursi) returned home weeping: he had been given a responsibility that he had not sought…”
SPECIAL REPORT: How the Muslim Brotherhood lost Egypt
Amr Sabet, Feb 2013
Now that Israel has laid its hands on Egypt’s gas, water in the future, and already oil was being supplied for a long time with preferential prices, was the regime in fact delivering the country’s resources to Egypt’s sworn enemy in the name of a largely suspect so called peace treaty and trade? Statements from two sources seemed to hint toward an answer. The first came from former chairman of the foreign relations committee in the now defunct Egyptian Parliament, Mustafa Al-Fiqi who stated that any president after Mubarak will have to be approved of by the US and not objected to by Israel. The second came from Israeli Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer who described Mubarak as a strategic bonanza for Israel; a language reminiscent of intelligence services references to treasured recruited agents. This gave the impression that the presumed ruler of Egypt was nothing but a figurehead, a front man, and a local enforcer. The real rulers were elsewhere. The myth that Sinai had been liberated as a result of the Sadat-Begin treaty was shattered, even among the most self-deluded, when the whole of Egypt was in fact delivered and colonized.
Amr Sabet on the Egyptian Condition
JUSTIFICATIONS FROM WESTERN COMMENTATORS & FELLOW TRAVELLERS
31st January 2014
“This is what I say to my colleagues in the west,” said Blair, visiting Egypt as a representative of the UN, the US, the EU and Russia in their attempts to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “The fact is, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take the country away from its basic values of hope and progress. The army have intervened, at the will of the people, but in order to take the country to the next stage of its development, which should be democratic. We should be supporting the new government in doing that.” 30 Jan 2014
30th October 2013, Alaa al-Aswany
“I cannot defend killing,” says Aswany, of a crackdown that has seen over 1,000 Morsi supporters killed and thousands more arrested and detained without trial. “But in the end, there is a very big difference between when you use excessive force during a war – and when you use excessive force during an ordinary, peaceful situation. “We are in a state of war,” he claims when we meet at his home outside Cairo. Morsi’s Muslim Brothers “are not the peaceful, democratic force that they said they were for 40 years,” he argues. “They are a group of terrorists and fascists.”…Aswany argues that the Islamists who unleashed such terror mistakenly blamed all state officials for the wrongdoing of a few individuals. “I won many literary awards in the west – all of them after 9/11,” he reasons. “I was not considered in common responsibility with the terrorists who did 9/11. I was considered as an individual, as myself. But I would accuse the Brothers of practising [the opposite] on the state.” Yet the same accusation could be made of the way Aswany justifies attacks on the Brotherhood.
23rd August 2013, Ahdaf Soueiif
How will we stop the killing? On 3 July this year, the military, in a very popular move, deposed Morsi. And so kicked off the ugly stage we’re in. But instead of deposing the president, they should have forced through a referendum on early presidential elections; that would still have protected the country from the unraveling, and it would have preserved the idea of democracy. Nobody I speak to knows why that was not the course taken. I hear dark hints about what Morsi “was about to do”, or surmises about the wild support for the army on the street tempting the general to the shorter path. It seems clear that the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters would have lost the referendum; and they would have had to engage in a profound examination of what it was about their vision and their practice that was so unsuited to Egypt. That would have been good for all of us, for the country. Instead we finally have our own “war on terror”.
August 2013, Ahdaf Soueiif
..Could we have waited for parliamentary elections? The many millions who came out on the streets on 30 June didn’t think so. They came out again four weeks later to respond to Sisi’s request for a mandate….But it has proved that its basic ideology and attitude is sectarian. This cannot be a matter for compromise; it [MB]needs to be defeated.
Now Egyptians are all paying the price
Failing to realise that winning an election does not give a leader authorisation to seize all state power and disregard minorities is a case in point: here lies, in fact, the gulf between formal and substantial democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood behaved democratically by winning elections through the support of a large component of Egyptian society. However, once in government, it did not abide by the separation of powers nor did it grant full rights to its opponents.
What if democratic change produces partial democracies – or “illiberal” ones (to use western political terminology)? Can it be that, on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, the only game in town is a stark choice between illiberal democracies run by Islamic parties and secular regimes propped up by armies?
The Arab spring label is over. The Arab struggle for a better future is not
This should be a familiar and predictable story. Remember, President George W. Bush and his advisers pushed the people of Gaza into quick elections in 2006 that were free and fair. Guess who won? Hamas, by far the best organized party, whose mottoes were filled with hatred of Israel and the United States. Guess what happened after Hamas won? Right again. They used their majority to set up a dictatorship. Forget democracy with rights and freedoms for all as long as Hamas is in control. And recall how badly Mr. Bush desired these elections and how little criticism was raised.
Free and fair elections honor and advance democracy only when they are built on democratic culture, society, and institutions—on solid laws, a free press, non-governmental organizations, sharp constitutional restraints on governmental power, and the firm rights of individuals. Without these underpinnings, elections are usually a sham. Americans were practicing democracy before the American Revolution. That’s why after the revolution, elections and democracy succeeded here…
Have no doubt about what Morsi was doing. He immunized his decisions from judicial review. He was squeezing and suppressing the rights of women and causing heartburn among non-Muslims. He strangled the free press and packed the organs of government with fellow Muslim Brothers.
It was hard to shed a tear for him when hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest once again, many of the same charmers as two years ago. It wasn’t pleasant to watch the military shoot and break heads and lock up Morsi and friends. The general sense was that it had to be done and done now. Otherwise, Morsi would have established unstoppable control. Egyptian democrats might have run out of chances to establish a real democracy.
Leslie H. Gelb on the Democracy-Elections Trap in Egypt
The Economist, July 2013
If Egyptians revolted a second time, it was partly because Mr Morsi’s government committed sins similar to Mr Mubarak’s. It tried to play the same bossy, patriarchal role but was even more inept. The Muslim Brothers turned out to be not something new but a relic from the past. They thought their Islamist dream would inspire the people, but it seems the ambitions of most Egyptians are for something looser-fitting, more individual and more stylish. Other would-be leaders, take note.
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