I’m surprising myself by writing this. And I’m sure I’ll surprise — and maybe severely disappoint — many of you who read this blog. But then Egypt has been surprising us all for the past two years, and I suspect will keep surprising us for some time to come.
The point being: even though I share the extreme wariness — indeed, the loathing — of the idea of the military intervening in politics (any military, anywhere), I’m glad that the Egyptian military has ousted the Morsi regime.
Is it really a coup d’état, as many (non-Egyptian) liberals are saying, and as the Muslim Brotherhood insists?
Not exactly. The army forcibly removed a democratically elected government, but not a democratic one. An analysis of the Brotherhood’s dismal failure in The Huffington Post points to its “limited understanding of democracy, which is restricted to the mechanics of voting, elections and ballot boxes, while showing precious little appreciation for the values that make up the essence of a democracy, such as the rule of law, citizenship, equality and human rights… Morsi and the Brothers believe that winning an election gives them carte blanche to run the state as if it was their feudality.”
A constitution illegally rammed through is not democratic. Nor is a refusal to be held accountable. Or an iron grip on all offices. Or repeated attempts to ban freedom of speech and to undermine the judiciary. Or the demonization of all opposition as treason, and the summary arrest and torture of opponents. The Brotherhood won election by the slimmest of margins (with a percentage of the vote that would by all accounts be halved if elections were to be held again today), but instead of acknowledging this and reaching out to the public as a whole, it opted for authoritarianism.
Egyptians did not follow Western rules in response. They did it their way, taking to the streets, which is something Americans might have done in far greater numbers when George W. Bush won two elections under highly questionable circumstances in the United States. Much of what he accomplished was way beyond the bounds of legitimacy. And need I really say that the same goes for a certain government elected in Germany in 1933?
Not that the Egyptian military is any sense a neutral power-broker. It’s protecting its own interests — or as the New York Times headline has it, acting in allegiance to its privileges. And those privileges are vast. The Egyptian army is a huge corporation, essentially a state within the state. And like most big corporations, it’s a law unto itself. Which is precisely why the opposition called on it to act, which it did with what many outside Egypt (and of course within the Muslim Brotherhood) see as alarming alacrity.
Will the generals do what they promise and restore a real democracy? Nobody can be certain. But I suspect that in essence, when push comes to shove, they will be shoved.
The era of political quietism and subjugation of public opinion is over. Egyptians are no longer afraid to speak out. They’ve found their voices. And I seriously doubt if, having found them, they’ll let themselves be silenced again. Or be flummoxed by heady electoral promises.
The generals know this as well as anyone else. And whatever else they may be, they’re no fools. Successful businessmen never are. They have to be fully aware that if they do not organize new elections as promised, the ensuing public outcry will dwarf that of the past several days.
What’s happening in Egypt is a continuation of what began two years ago with the overthrow of Mubarak. It gives the lie to the dumb journalistic meme of “the Arab spring,” as though revolution were a a seasonal matter, limited to a two-month timespan, and as though change could be achieved overnight. Real change is a long process, and a difficult one. But what strikes me more than anything about Egypt right now is that despite the military, it promises to be an irreversible one.
Unlike Egyptians themselves, I can only hope that this promise is fulfilled.
Thank you. This rings true. On Indian reservations the rule “winner takes all” overpowers “the minority must be protected if you want to stay in power.” The Repubs are thinking that over.
British rebel MP George Galloway said yesterday on Australian Broadcasting Corporation that “revolution is a process, not an event” which may summarise your last paragraph.
Reblogged this on Al-Must'arib (the vocational Mossarab) and commented:
Right on the spot.
But… my fear (because there’s fear in my ideas) is that islamists and salafis won’t accept graciously to be set down and moved away so simply.
Also I feel that the army will have the temptation to keep power for themselves, and rule as many egyptians request smiling from Tahrir. Why?
Just this morning I heard on spanish public TV news that there’s already been night fights and combats in the Libyan border, which increases the suspect of transfers of weaponry and radical fighters from that hell into explosive Egypt. That could create inestability, attacks on churches, on politicians, on women, on foreign tourists, on seculars, in the same way that happened in Algeria for decades.
The objective would be simply to provoke the failure of the new government, the retake of control by army, based on emergency situations that can last for years, … and the failure of the whole project, in the same way as happened in Syria.
I remember when the “Arab Spring” appeared, all annalists said that main damaged by it had not been the west, for loosing its political pawns, but Al-Qaeda, and all those armed resistance groups, as people revolted without violence, and achieved far more that way than following armed resistance practices.
Well…. Libya and Syria have been good examples of how hard and fast they could react to crush any hope for achievement of a real democratic system through peaceful popular uprising.
And they are facing a new chance with this 2nd Revolution and the return of military to power.
It’s not over, for them… and for the revolution. It will be hard and will last for years, if it’s not stopped PEACEFULLY AND DEMOCRATICALLY now. If not, we’ll face an “algerisation” of the Nile nation, with jihaddist gangs creating trouble and a military junta with extended emergency powers… while seculars and well-aimed individuals who promoted this necessary social and political change look at the painful global outcome in absolute astonishment.
That’s my fear.
And still… I want to have hope.
KEEP CALM AND MAKE IT WORK NOW, MISR!
Good last line!
ouch!…. just last line!?!?!? LOL
I think you should read a CNN op piece which goes against most of what you said. Yes Morsi and the brothers don’t have a true understanding of democracy but no one went to jail for expressing dissent , nor were any TV stations closed nor did we hear of any violation of human rights. The Op piece on CNN web site suggests that he was trying too much to be accommodating which helped to bring his downfall. The Prime minister , interior minister, defense minister and 5 other ministers were not from his party. The problem is that remnant of Mubarek era, a corrupt security apparatus , an army that refused transparency and Gulf money willing to help the opposition to assure no credible Islamic example of governance is established.
This coup, if not reveresed , will radicalize main stream Muslims that democracy has proved to be a moderating influence over their conduct and policies.
Salah — I think we might be reading this piece differently: http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/04/opinion/coleman-muslim-brotherhood/index.html?hpt=hp_t1
I was referring to this article , not the one you referred to.
In Egypt, get ready for extremist backlash – CNN.com
Yes, it’s started already, and only makes me more sure that they had to get out of power.
Funny to hear that Gulf money is fueling the secularist opposition, when it’s Gulf money what fuelled salafis all over, from Mali to Syria and beyond…
Here’s an interesting point of view, loosely translated (by me) from the French.
The title, for starters, is suggestive of what’s to come:
Egypt: Ramses II was not Muslim
In the mythology of the old empire of the Pharaohs, the god Ra travelled the universe each day in his sacred boat. At night, he sailed in the underground worlds of the dark forces. At dawn, he hunted the dark and shone in the firmament of the heavens in his dazzling sunlight. General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who just replaced Mohamed Morsi in the presidential palace doesn’t really have the look of the god Ra. This centurion entered politics sword in hand and has a more mundane vision of things. But much of Egyptian public opinion expresses it its appreciation of hunting power proponents of obscurantism.
The Muslim Brotherhood, who wants to reduce the Egyptian identity to a narrow and sectarian vision of Islam, should meditate on these ancient beliefs. They would have found the risk of awakening a very ancient people to the neurotic brutalization that it is trying to impose. Egypt existed as a state 3 500 years before the Prophet Muhammad arose in the deserts of Arabia and founded a new religion. Customs coming from ancient times coexist with Islamic and Coptic Christianity. For example having picnics on the graves of the deceased, a contemporary avatar of an ancient ritual of pharaonic Egypt.
The simplistic ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood
The Egypt is not only a piece of the Ummah, the community of believers, but a real nation, the most powerful of the Arab world, at the gates of the Mediterranean world and Europe. Egypt was Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Ottoman. It is also partly Christian: it is St. Mark, who founded the Church of Egypt and it is in Alexandria that the apostle of Christ was martyred.
Egypt is also Nasser who for 15 years was the lighthouse of secular Arab nationalism. It is also Anwar el-Sadat, who dared to defy the taboo of taboos in making peace with Israel. A peace which, chugging along, seems to last and the Egyptian army is its de facto guarantor.
The Muslim Brotherhood, with their simplistic slogan “Islam is the solution” and their charitable actions which are often supplemented by failing government agencies, managed to seduce many Egyptians. Especially in a time where they appeared as the only force to challenge a regimethat seemed fossilized. But it cannot govern a country of 85 million people with Surahs from the 7th century. A country that has the chance to dispose of major assets: competent executives, oil resources, the Suez canal and tourism which in itself is a gold mine.
A little complicated to manage with the simplistic ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood…
Source: Le Point, written originally in French by Pierre Beylau
I agree with lady Hazelton write up on Egypt.
Thanks NHK, but I assure you there’s not a trace of aristocracy (“Lady”) in me!
Love the French sense of irony! Yes indeed, the simplistic worldview of fundamentalism v. the complex reality of government. A year ago, the hope was that the Brotherhood would be capable of making that leap. It all too clearly wasn’t.
I am surprised to read your piece on the coup in Egypt. On the one hand you say you loathe military intervention yet in the same breathe you say you are happy that army intervened in Egypt. I make this to be, in very polite terminology, selective application of your principles or ideas, application that suits you. Taking one point only, that brotherhood thought democracy to be the voting only and nothing else. we have seen political “rulers” doing what they wanted once in power, no matter their ratings fell to some 20% ( remember Bush and Blair). It is always the case : the politically elected “rulers” doing what their imagination deemed fit knowing that it would only be through an unexpected accident that they could be forced to leave office before the expiry of the term. So what wrong was committed by the brotherhood government? may one ask. Why don’t you be honest to yourself and tell your readers that no doubt democracy is desired but not the one by which brotherhood comes into power. Is it due to a latent fear that some day some where the myth of western democracy may be shattered?
No, M. Afzal, it’s not due to that. It’s due to the fact that fundamentalism is antithetical to any kind of democracy. Note: fundamentalism, not Islam (all fundamentalisms — including Christian and Jewish fundamentalism). The Brotherhood claim that Morsi’s ouster proves that Islam and democracy don’t mix is nonsense — a blatantly false rationalization of theocracy. In fact it’s fundamentalism and democracy that don’t mix.
Read this article titled The Racism of New York Times’
“Muslims are not ready for
Democracy” by omid safi
Do read. 🙂
I totally agree. Could hardly believe my eyes when I read that comment by David Brooks. What a dick.
Do also read Max Read’s analysis of it on Gawker and especially his comment at the end that “it’s worth noting that it took the United States thirteen years after rejecting monarchy to settle on a stable, constitutional form of monarchy” —
I’m a young, Pakistani, Electrical Engineering Student who’s in the process of revamping his ideas on life, religion, love, politics and what not. And I beg to differ from Lesley.
Maybe Morsi and the brotherhood didn’t understand democracy in its essence, maybe they just thought of it as counting and voting, but then if they’re not allowed a tenure in power, how will the Egyptian people mature? The West has had ample time to test and absorb Democratic Values; the Middle East (and Pakistan) has not. Shadows of the Caliphate and Pan Islamism still linger in our collective sub-concious.
But I doubt that the Brotherhood would have been more orthodox than the Taliban. According to Pakistani standards, Egyptian Fundamentalism is very soft, and as such not demanding of a coup. There are democratically elected dictators, thieves, corrupts and tyrrants in lots of countries, does this allow their armies to do the same as the Egyptian general? Just because Islamic Fundamentalism is on the stage of the Global theater doesn’t mean we should allow dictatorship.
Well said. But no matter what we say… They will make exceptions to the rules and defy logic blinded by a perception of what Islam inspires.
Yes. But I consdier Leslie among the few who is trying hard to rise above age-old prejudices against Islam they unconsciously hold.
I actually agree. It seems to me essential that the Brotherhood not be demonized, but included. This also means that the Brotherhood itself not demonize, but be inclusive. Will this happen? I can only hope so. As you say, the shadows of dictatorship, whether theocratic or military, loom large, dark, and very close. And I think Egyptians are very aware of this.
Your point about the West having had ample time to test and absorb democratic values is absolutely to the point. (Even with all that time, it’s still problematic, because no system of government is perfect, and people are resolutely imperfect.) Which is why I wish Western pundits would stop preaching about democracy and give Egypt time and space in which to try to work things out — their way, not necessarily ours.
Limited understanding of Democracy
We have witnessed this limited understanding in Algeria and Hammas.
I think Chuck also had limited understanding of terrorists.
Those who had unlimited wisdom they knew Hizbullah were terrorists when Israel attacked Lebanon killing scores of babies and innocents.