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Euphoria Eclipses Nightmare in Egypt

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Today, Egypt is a dangerously polarized nation that is on the brink of a civil war. And, that worst case scenario could have broad implications far beyond that country and the Middle East. Since the military coup d’etat, the situation in Egypt has been rapidly escalating into a dangerous political dichotomy- all against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its political party Freedom and Justice.

Initial reaction in certain circles may be “So what?” Especially, in the United States where media — delicately or belligerently — project the MB in a negative light; where some right wing lawmakers consider them as a sinister Islamic cabal sworn to destroy America by infiltrating its government.

In spite of that, what happened in Egypt on July 3, 2013 should concern any and all people who care about democracy or rule of law, and peace and stability in a volatile nation, region and world.

It was only a year ago when people of Egypt have elected Mohammad Morsi as its first ever democratically elected president. With the ousting of Hosni Mubarak whom Egyptians saw as a corrupt and brutal autocrat, ratifying a new constitution, setting up a sound democratic system and conducting an exemplary non-violent election, Egypt looked like a successful model that all pro-democracy revolutions could emulate.

It did not take long for broad-based public frustration to boil over. Mainly for three reasons: First, due to the dire economic situation that the country was in, there was high public expectation that all matters would be solved the minute former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

Second, as a previously banned group and a newly emerging political powerhouse who carried the agony and psychological scars of suffering from decades long of institutional persecution, MB’s steps was overly scrutinized. In that context, their impressive show in the provisional and parliamentary elections, and subsequent winning of the presidency and successfully changing and democratically ratifying the constitution has projected them as the giant that must be restrained. Granted, as a novice and non-charismatic politician, President Morsi’s leadership skills did not help. With his stiff rhetoric, occasional rants, and some ill-advices political decisions that he himself has recently confessed to, it did not take long to project him as the poster child of a non-compromising Islamist.

Third, the euphoria of political victory has turned away the overthrown president and his party from setting the right priorities and effectively navigating the road ahead and accurately gauging the mounting oppositions. Thus, building and nurturing a broad-based political coalition force that included all key groups that spearheaded the 2011 democratic revolution was not a priority, at least in the first year. All efforts seem to have been impatiently focused on the deconstruction of the Mubarak system, thus creating more enemies.

Against that back drop, a disillusioned and mostly unemployed segment of the Egyptian youth has organized a grassroots movement called Tamarud or Rebelion demanding the ousting of President Morsi. They have taken their highly coordinated effort to the economically and politically frustrated masses and galvanized millions of signatories willing to take their frustrations to Tahrir Square and demand the resignation of President Morsi. Naturally all opposition groups have joined them in solidarity.

Between June 30 and July 3, massive anti-Morsi demonstrators have gathered in Tahrir Square and massive pro-Morsi demonstrators have been gathering in Nasr city and Cairo University. Within those days, 17 (some reports say 18) of the pro-Morsi demonstrators were killed and hundreds more were wounded by unknown assailants that some say were hooligans hired by the remnants of the Mubarak regime. Also, the entire building of the Freedom and Justice political part was ransacked and torched. Had it not been for the disciplined restraint exercised by the MB, any retaliation would’ve set the stage for deadlier violence as a massive number of polarized demonstrators were camping on Cairo streets.

Coup of a Kind

Euphoria should never eclipse our good judgment; though that is easier said than done. Many Egyptians and non-Egyptians around the world are very happy with the outcome of what might be history’s most spectacular grassroots political confrontation. As such they are willing to downplay the detrimental finale that profoundly undermined democracy in Egypt and far beyond- the military tipping the scale in favor of the opposition and removing a legitimately elected president.This was the last tweet out of the presidency before the military overthrow:

 

Despite the U.S. warning to arrest the democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi was taken into custody by the Egyptian Army and the high ranking officials of the Freedom and Justice political party and MB are in house arrest, completely cut off from any communication. Like in all military coups, the Egyptian military has shut down several TV channels, including al-Jazeera (Arabic) and have taken some producers and reporters into custody.

With all due respect to the patriotic military professional who put their lives on the line, here is a sobering reality for all of us: The military is an institution designed to neutralize or destroy a foreign or a domestic enemy. All other endeavors that such institution may engage are situational improvisation, at best!

Obama’s Political Dilemma

The U.S. as the global champion of democracy faces a credibility challenge. Under federal law, U.S. non-humanitarian aid must be cut off to “the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état or decree or, after the date of enactment of this Act, a coup d’etat or decree in which the military plays a decisive role.” The Egyptian military receives $1.3 billion annually from the U.S. This should come to an immediate halt if and when the Obama administration overcomes the pressure from various interest groups who are happy to see MB out of the picture and decides to accept the irrefutable fact that a “duly elected head of government” was indeed “deposed by military coup”.

Forecasting Rain on a Cloudy Day

The celebrated coup in Egypt is a below-the-belt punch to the world-wide Muslim leaders, clerics, activists, and intellectuals who have been challenging extremism and promoting democracy as the best form of political empowerment. To these people, there is a clear pattern: Democracy was violently robbed in Algeria (1991) suffocated to its knees in Gaza (2006) and was publicly hanged in Egypt (2013)! They certainly would not have an argument against those who always contended that Western promoted democracy is nothing but a “dog and pony show.” Thus, cementing the very real fear that “democracy” is only validated and supported when a candidate that the West deems “worthy” wins.

Ever since becoming the political party to reckon with, the Freedom and Justice has been suspicious that “…its opponents are out to destroy it, using any tools at their disposal to reverse the group’s electoral victories.”

If popular antipathy, ineptitude, and being a polarizing figure are valid reasons to abort the term of a democratically elected president, the United States would’ve used the rising anti-Americanism of the first decade of the twenty-first century and the dangerous trend of radicalization as a pretext to suspend its constitution. Such options are utterly unfathomable even if a civilian institution is used to carry such gross violation against democratic principles founded on constitutional law.

If the outcome of the coup is accepted as the order of the day, we may expect an avalanche of discontent and broad-based cynicism toward the democratic option as the best means to political reform or empowerment. And this, I am afraid, would very much narrow the options!

 

Author

Abukar Arman

Abukar Arman is a former diplomat, serving as Somalia's Special Envoy to the US. As a widely published analyst, he focuses on foreign policy, Islam, the Horn of Africa, extremism, and other topics.
Twitter: @Abukar_Arman
or reach him via e-mail: [email protected]

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