Hats off to Egypt
The Egyptian people made the call loud and clear
Egypt is making history again. The events taking place in that country are of extra ordinary significance. The events, which are big in themselves, got even bigger because they are happening in Egypt, which is the heart of the Middle East. With 84 millions, Egypt is by far the largest Arab country. It is also the cultural centre of the Arab world. In the last century, Egypt contributed more to the Arab culture than all the other Arab countries combined. In addition, Egypt has always been a leading Islamic country because it is the home of Al Azhar which is the most prestigious Islamic institute. Also, it is the birth place, and the power base, of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the mother of all Islamic terrorist organizations.
After the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011, the MB, with obvious political and financial support from the US, won last year’s elections. Their nominated candidate, Mohammed Morsi, became a president. Soon, it became obvious to the Egyptians that the new president was more interested in consolidating power in his hands than solving the countries’ domestic problems. Egyptians realized that Morsi and his supporters were not fit to run the country and regretted their mistake by voting them in. One year under the MB rule was too bad and the prospect of them clinching to power indefinitely made it a nightmare. Egyptians knew that waiting for Morsi to finish his term would be far too late.
On the 30th of June 2013, and in an unprecedented show of unity, the Egyptian people asked Morsi to step down. To make their case clear, to Morsi and to the world, an estimated 18 millions (1) took to the streets demanding that he must step down. No other nation has ever managed to put such a large number of people on the streets. The Muslim brotherhood responded by counter demonstrations of tens of thousands of their members. A confrontation between the two groups becamea real nightmare. Extensive consultations took place nationwide between various groups including the Coptic Church and Al Azhar. It was agreed that the Army had to intervene to avoid a bloodbath. General Sissy, the chief of the army, gave Morsi two days to reach a settlement. When it became obvious that Morsi had no intentions to listen to the people’s demands, he was removed and an interim government was formed. General Sissy, the army chief, made it clear that the army acted on behalf of the people and had no intentions to be involved in politics or running the country.
When the news came that Morsi was no longer a president, Egyptians celebrated on the streets like never before. Even the broadcasters of the various Egyptian TV channels couldn’t control their emotions.
Why is it important
In the past, Arab sympathizers with the Muslim Brotherhood used to argue that we should not prejudge the Islamic organization before giving them a chance. The MB is already in power in Sudan and the Gazza strip and both countries are corrupt. However, to be in charge in Egypt is a real test. Now, they had their chance to rule Egypt and it was a nightmare to the majority of the people.
This is the first time that a Muslim nation rejects the MB rule with such determination. Egyptians are religious by nature, but now they feel that the MB use Islam to seize power and use democracy to enforce dictatorship. They also became suspicious of the strange, but strong, alliance with America. In the past, the MB was banned by the relatively secular governments which helped its members to play the role of the oppressed victim since its inception in 1928. Now it is the people who are demanding that the MB should be listed as a terrorist organization and should be banned.
After the removal of Morsi and the celebrations that followed, Egyptians went to their homes to get on with life as normal. However, the MB members refused to leave the streets and the mosques, which they occupied, until Morsi is reinstated. The sit-in lasted for weeks and caused disruption to normal life. Slowly, they were joined by women and children and more members coming from far away places. They secured food supplies and drinks. Some of their tents became makeshift kitchens that catered for tens of thousands. They managed those camps like small Islamic khilafa. Some of the seized documents indicated that they legalized the so called ‘Nikah Al Jihad’ which are temporary marriage contracts to keep the jihadists happy. All negotiations to bring this to an end failed. Those supporters were prepared to die and many of them were armed. The interim government had to take action and it did. As a result, hundreds of people were killed. In response, the MB supporters set fires to government and public buildings in Cairo and other cities as well as to churches. It was clear that they did not mind burning the country as long it is not under their control.
Although many Egyptians say they are happy to forget and forgive, the reality is that the damage caused to the nation is far-reaching. The image and reputation of the MB is tarnished for a long time to come.
The Muslim Brotherhood has branches in other Arab countries like Jordan, Syria and the Gulf states. However, Egypt was their base and stronghold. What happened in Egypt is a devastating blow to this terrorist organization.
Obama not feeling well
The Egyptians’ understanding of democracy is simple: The people rule themselves. It is up to the people to elect their rulers, or remove them. Egyptians took to the streets in millions to show the MB and the world that it is the majority of the people who are making demands. The only people who stayed at home were the too old, the too young or the too ill. That was a popular revolution by all standards. This explains why the Egyptians feel badly offended by those westerners who call the removal of Morsi a military coup. It was those tens of millions in the streets who gave the army a mandate to act.
Obama and his administration were shocked by the events in Egypt. Without any respect to the majority of the Egyptians, they demanded that Morsi be reinstated and to safeguard the members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition the Americans did not refer to the events as a revolution, which caused a severe offense to the Egyptians who took to the streets in numbers that no other nation has ever matched. Egyptians realized that the American concept of democracy is that it is America’s wish which is to be respected, not the wish of the people. They also became suspicious of that strong alliance between America and the MB. They no longer believe any of those claims about the war on terror. They now increasingly believe America is not fighting terror but supporting it through funding the Muslim Brotherhood.
It may look strange to non-Arabs but America’s endorsement of an Arab regime is automatically considered as a death certificate of the integrity of that regime. It is considered as a sign that the regime is there to serve America’s interests, not the nation’s interests. In the Middle East, the examples of such regimes are everywhere. When General Sissy visited Morsi and showed him some videos taken from the air, of those millions in the streets, he asked him to respect the wish of the people and step down for the sake of Egypt. Morsi refused and said America will not allow his removal. This part of the dialogue between General Sissy and Morsi was leaked and confirmed the Egyptians’ fears that Morsi was only an American stooge.
An Egyptian Nostalgia
In the 19th century, Khedewi Ismael of Egypt said that his country belongs to Europe even though it is located in Africa. He was correct. Cairo was more than a match to many European cities. It enjoyed a state of the art transport system, modern theaters, a well-developed postal service, even a European style opera house. That was in the 1860s when the rest of the Arab world was truly in the dark ages, thanks to the Ottomans rule. The development of Egypt continued through the twentieth century. In the 1960s, there were more students in the Egyptian universities than in all the other universities in the Arab world combined. Egypt produced the best writers and scientists in the Arab world. Their film industry was world class and they produced more films than all the Arab world put together. As one Egyptian put it to me: “by the turn of the 20th century, Egypt and Japan were about equal on the scale of development. Japan was completely destroyed in WWII and was hit by two nuclear bombs. On the other hand Egypt was hit by Islamic radicalism, and look at where the two countries are now on the development scale”. A real proof that Islam can do more damage than a nuclear war.
Of course, the MB do not believe that Egypt’s well developed past was a good idea. They believe that the opera house, theaters, films and music are all signs of ‘Jahilyia’ (ignorance) and the Egyptians should be ashamed that they had all that. Indeed, that was the purpose of the creation of the MB; to stop all that decadence and put the country, and the world, on the right track to the ‘Islamic enlightenment’ where only Islamic rituals are allowed!
However, most Egyptians are nostalgic to their glorious past. They want their country to rival the European countries once again and to be in the lead in the Arab world. They believe that Egypt, not the Gulf states, is the natural leader of the Arab world. Egypt lost its leadership in the Arab World after the death of its iconic and charismatic leader Gamal Abdul Nasser. Nasser’s hardline policy may have not been very popular at the time, but he knew how to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood. it is interesting that many Egyptians were carrying Nasser’s pictures in Cairo’s streets implying they demand a hardline policy against the MB.
Is a Syrian style civil war likely?
Unlikely. Egyptians are more united than Syrians in their rejection of the MB. Besides the Syrian rebels, in theory, are against a tyrant regime. In Egypt, there is no regime and no dictatorship. However, the MB members already threatened that there will be no peace in Egypt. They already started terrorist activities in Sinai and many Egyptian cities. Their leaders threatened more violence in the form of car bombing or suicide bombing, which is something to be expected from that terrorist organization. However, it is unlikely to go on for long time as it will turn the people against them even more. We must remember that Egypt has a powerful army which is strongly behind the people.
1. Expert estimates of the number of people who took to the streets on 30 June and 26 of July range between 18 to 30 millions.