Last week, there was great disagreement among Egyptians and outside observers about whether the Egyptian army was a hero in fulfilling the people’s will by toppling President Morsi; or whether it was a coup designed to protect its interests and perquisites (the Egyptian army controls 40% of the country’s economy, which is in a shambles).
I came down on the side of the latter argument. I don’t believe that armies (except in a few rare instances) can be the guarantor of a democratic revolution. Democracy doesn’t come from the barrel of a gun. In Egypt, that’s certainly the case. While it’s true the army toppled Mubarak with a relative minimum of blood and mayhem, it never wanted to relinquish the power it assumed after the former dictator fell. It was forced to do so by the will of the people in the form of massive demonstrations which demanded the army go back to the barracks. That was what led to the democratic process which eventually brought Morsi to power.
If anyone did believe the army was a benign force in Egyptian politics, I think they’ve been disabused of that notion by today’s news that at least 40 Morsi supporters including five children and a six month-old baby were murdered [update: there are reports 51 people died] by gunfire from Revolutionary Guards protecting a complex thought to house Pres. Morsi. The army, whether it intended to or not, has bared its fangs and warned supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood that it considers them “terrorists” and enemies of the nation.
If this narrative is upheld, then it promises a civil war like the one that wracked Lebanon for fifteen years; or the bloody mess that has beset Iraq for a decade; or the massacres that befell Algeria after the army there overthrew a newly elected Islamist government. That is, a civil conflict between Islamists and secularists to determine the fate of the country. Will Egypt become an Islamist state or will it become a secular one?
That’s a false dichotomy. Egypt doesn’t have to become a hidebound, Sharia-ruled state. Nor does it need to become a version of secularized Beirut. The fact is that half of Egyptians support the Brotherhood. Attempting to extirpate Islamism from such a state will only lead to a bloodbath. Even if the secularists win it will be the sort of hollow victory the Algerian army achieved after their coup.
What Egypt really needs is a multi-party, power-sharing arrangement in which Islamists can maintain a share of power based on their electoral popularity, while secularists can realize their own political vision based on their share of the vote. If one side attempts to dominate (as Morsi did after he won the presidential election) it’s a recipe for disaster.
That’s why U.S. attempts to cajole the Brotherhood into returning to the negotiating table and rejoining the political process are bankrupt. You just took the top position in the government away from them by force. Just before the coup, you offered Morsi a fig leaf job in which he’d lose all his power. After such insults, you expect them to come back with their tail between their legs and beg to rejoin you? What would motivate them to do this?
All or nothing is no solution, but it seems to be the one Morsi offered Egypt and the one the army is offering now. That is the path of dictators and the road to ruin.
The army must return to the barracks. It must retreat from political life. Leaders must step up and find a way to broker a deal that respects all parties in proportion to their votes at the ballot box.
The interim government appointed by the military is proposing new parliamentary elections as a way to paper over the coup. But why would the Islamists participate? Egypt had such elections and they won a majority. Yet it still didn’t prevent a coup. Why would they stand in such elections again, only to have power stolen from them a second time? Egypt needs true reform of its political process, not half measures such as the ones being proposed.
I think you may be very close to the heart of the matter. There is, often, more than meets the eye.
Some, have an inkling what is unfolding, while others cannot or do not recognize the course of events, fully, until much later.
Rabaa El Adawia Mosque, El-Nasr Rd, Nasr City, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
This was to be the flashpoint where the MB protestors would make a stand against the military for the overthrow of Morsi. I have followed the news closely, due to all propaganda, I’m not able to verify what caused the gunfire. The clash started at 03:30 in the morning (children and even babies present?). The military have shown video where civilians fired handguns and they argue an attempt was made to free Morsi from his confinement. The MB leadership were actively looking for a confrontation with either the anti-Morsi demonstrators or the military authority. A lot of incitement and hatred were fomented by political parties and Al Jazeera, Qatar’s propaganda station for the MB.
The report from The Independent is not very clear about what actually happened. The first video shown is in daylight and the second video is located in El Arish (Sinai) where many Hamas and Izz al-Din al-Qassam operatives have infiltrated from Gaza. A number of terror attacks have killed up to six soldiers and a Coptic priest.
The news channel Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr saw 22 members of staff resign over what they alleged was coverage that was out of sync with real events in Egypt. Anchor Karem Mahmoud announced that the staff had resigned in protest against what he called “biased coverage” of the events in Egypt by the Qatari broadcaster. [source Gulf News]
In an earlier opinion piece by the same Al Jazeera:
“After the cheering subsided the Ultras joined hands and began chanting yasqut yasqut hukm al-murshid (down with the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide), thereby letting it be known that the candidate whose victory they had just celebrated would be on probation until he proved he could actually rule as the Revolution’s candidate. Morsi failed miserably. The Revolution continues.”
“In one of his weekly sermons, titled “How Islam Confronts the Oppression and Tyranny [against the Muslims], Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi’ accused the Arab and Muslim regimes of employing tyranny against their peoples, of avoiding confrontation with the Muslims’ real enemies – the Zionist entity and the U.S. – and of disregarding Allah’s commandment to wage jihad against the infidels. About the U.S., he said that it is immoral and therefore doomed to collapse, and that it is “experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading towards its demise.”
The Muslim Brotherhood had squandered its good will by a Morsi authoritarian leadership in his first year. At least Erdogan in Turkey was careful to build on his early political succes and moved slowly to a more dictatorial regime which jusr recently hit the first snags. Just as Saudi Arabia and Qatar couldn’t agree on a leadership within the Syrian National Council, so also in Egypt the Salafist party was ousted by Morsi in the political proces earlier this year.
After “regime-change” at the US State Department, it appears John Kerry is re-aligning policy with Saudi Arabia instead of Qatar. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, has handed over power to his son, Sheikh Tamim. Was this just coincidental or an illustration the mood has changed in the GCC states. Palestinian president Abbas has been blasting Hamas leaders, ever since the fall of their backer Morsi and indirectly influence of Qatar.
Nick Griffin says
You’re right on the mark, Richard, except for your insistence on a laboratory clean environment from which to extract truths. For the better part of three years, there have been millions in the street, uncertainty has become the norm, and yet the levels of violence and criminality have, all things considered, testified to the decency and commonsense and POTENTIAL of the Egyptian man and woman.
To your point, though, this chapter is indeed about whether it is reasonable to “…expect them (MB/Islamists) to come back with their tail between their legs and beg to rejoin.” I think yes is still a viable answer.
This is not Algeria 1991 or Palestine 2006. Morsi et al were given a relatively clean chance to try their hand at governing. The botched it completely; I don’t think Hollywood could have scripted a more brazen overreach. If nothing else, their experience is a call for Islamists in politics to retreat a little, to consider a small dose of contrition, to rethink some of their absolutes. The massacre is a tragedy, no question, and a horrible stain on SCAF. (That said, and given how prevalent arms have become in Egyptian protests, one would be hard-pressed to assume there was no provocation.) That Hizb-in-Nour has pulled out of the interim arrangement is less telling, to me, than SCAF’s willingness to invite in other Opposition figures.
I am still hopeful that the army knows its hand-in-the-till days are numbered, and astounded at the media’s reluctance to probe that issue more purposefully.