Elections Killing Democracy in the Middle East

5 05 2014

Bouteflika A supporter of Egypt's army chief Field Iraq Elections

 

 

This is an important election year for a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Egypt will hold elections on May 26-27, with the military dictator General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi likely to run. He has already gripped Egypt in an iron fist, while the courts do his dirty work sentencing hundreds to death without due process. In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to run for president in August, while journalists are arrested and the government promotes increasingly authoritarian policies that include tight controls over the judiciary. Rubbing salt into the wounds of millions of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and families of more than 150,000 dead in the Syrian civil war, the vicious dictator Bashar al-Assad plans to run for re-election in June.

Iraq just witnessed crucial parliamentary elections amid fierce violence flaring in Fallujah, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s track record has not exactly fostered a healthy democracy. He has long antagonized Iraq’s Sunni minority, and managed to provoke violent backlash in Anbar. According to a Washington Post article, entitled “Iraq’s Elections May Accelerate its Descent” (May 1st) –

Mr. Maliki built support among Shiites before the election by launching a military campaign against Sunni tribes in Anbar province; the result was the takeover of Fallujah by al-Qaeda and waves of bombings against Shiites in Baghdad. Without U.S. support, the army appears to lack the means to recapture Fallujah and other Sunni-populated areas, though Mr. Maliki, like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, has resorted to using Iranian-backed Shiite militias. The prosperous, autonomous Kurdistan region, with its own oil reserves, has become a de facto independent state.”

In late April, Algeria has exhibited one of the most embarrassing and shameful sights when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, already in power for fifteen years, ran for a fourth term following a stroke and was sworn in while sitting in a wheelchair. This comes after the 2011 Arab Awakening revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, but Algeria has successfully suppressed similar uprisings and protests within its borders. However, the results are a gross blemish, analogous to the worst warts and boils on the ragged old face of Arab status quo, which convey only the Arab leaders’ obsessions with self-empowerment, stagnation, oppression, and authoritarianism. The delusion of these autocrats is boundless.

The only light in this dark tunnel is Tunisia, which has succeeded in nonviolently removing the Islamist Ennahda Party from power and preparing for new elections this year, while having revised the constitution once again. Democratization processes are not easy. They require not only smooth transitions in political leadership, but also substantive reforms of institutions and structures, with a lot of patience and determination. Clearly, Egypt and Libya, within their own respective contexts, have been impatient with the democratization processes. Leaders can be corrupt failures anywhere in the world, even in established democracies. But, the true test of democracy is the citizenry’s commitment to the values and principles of democracy. We have not seen this in the MENA region. In fact, egotistical self-promoting autocrats like General Sisi and Bouteflika and Bashar al-Assad eagerly want democracies to fail and collapse and be snuffed in the dust under the soles of their shoes. They also have powerful people supporting them, and in most cases that includes the military. They have been the circles of democracy assassins who rally around brutal dictators.

With all that Mohamed Bouazizi, the April 6th Movement, and hundreds, if not thousands, of others have sacrificed to change the face and stench of autocratic stagnation and status quo in the region, it is a tremendous tragedy that their revolutions, symbolism, and efforts have been undermined by the most diabolical people. The latter only possess self-interests, and are not concerned with the public’s welfare. The greatest irony is that so many of these self-interested autocrats and their supporters are using the tool of democracy, elections, to empower themselves. The counter-revolutions have been a slap in the face of the victims who died or were injured while trying to bring democracy, freedoms, and rights to their countries. When strokes and wheelchairs don’t deter a dictator, what can be said, but “what a shame.” But remember that it’s the circle of stakeholders around the dictator that is just as selfish, greedy, and ruthless. The proponents of real democracy in the MENA region face formidable challenges ahead. Their greatest test will be their commitment to democracy. The dictators and autocrats have shown their deep commitments to their brutality and authoritarianism. Stagnation and status quo will be the region’s future in politics, economics, and many other aspects of life if the “counters to the counter-revolutions” are not successful. And, those who are blindly supporting the likes of Sisi, Assad, Bouteflika, and a host of other oppressive and tyrannical dictators are dooming the entire region to a dark and wretched fate. Dictators deserve to be tossed into the dustbin of history, and the citizenry must commit to “never again!” Instead, we see countless people prepared to vote for new and old dictators. Has nothing been learned from the past several decades of tyranny?

The following quote by John F. Kennedy has profound wisdom for us all: “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”

 

The views expressed are personal.





You Be the Judge: Does Morsi = Mandela/Gandhi?

10 08 2013

MOHAMED_MORSI-2 Mahatma-Gandhi Mandela

This is an analysis (done from a Political Science perspective) of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, & Mohamed Morsi.  The views are all personal.

An important aspect of each individuals’ vision, policies, and personal philosophies is INCLUSIVENESS, as opposed to exclusiveness, as well as the unwavering commitment to the holistic components of pluralist [secular] democracy (meaning, not just elections).

You be the judge …

Mandela & Gandhi – compared to Mohamed Morsi

Copyright Hayat Alvi 2013

 

Education

Environment of Activism

Jail Time & Symbolism

Political Leadership

Religious Leadership

Nelson Mandela Earned B.A.; aspired for law degree, tried three times, but failed due to intense political activism throughout his youth (to fight against Apartheid) Lived in Apartheid-era South Africa; joined political activists groups since his youth to fight against Apartheid;Apartheid-era South Africa (SA) was not a democracy: it was a brutally segregated rule of white minorities over an oppressed black majority, & a 3rd category of “coloreds” (mainly Indians);Mandela was a principal actor in facilitating SA’s post-Apartheid democratization

 

Brutally oppressive Apartheid regime imprisoned Mandela for 27 years; he became icon for the anti-Apartheid movement, central figure of the African National Congress (ANC), even while in prison Mandela was elected South Africa’s first ever black President AFTER he was released from prison in the early 1990s; he served one term then retired into private life;Mandela has always promoted ethnic/racial unity, coexistence, & cooperation in post-Apartheid SAThis could not have happened without the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (forgiving the brutal crimes of the Apartheid police state)

 

Mandela has universal appeal and respect, regardless of religious and ethnic/racial identity; his activism has not involved religion, & only focused on ending the Apartheid regime & structure in SA; he has fought for unity & harmonious coexistence of all religions and ethnic/racial groups in post-Apartheid SA;ANC activism has involved people of all colors, genders, ethnicities, occupations, & religions, including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus; in general, it’s a very inclusive framework 

 

Education

Environment of Activism

Jail Time & Symbolism

Political Leadership

Religious Leadership

Mahatma Gandhi UK educated lawyer, practicing attorney British colonial India:  Gandhi was educated in the UK, lived in India, & his first major assignment as an attorney was in South Africa; he began nonviolent activism against Apartheid (late 1800s) in South Africa; then he returned to India & fought against British colonial rule in India; Gandhi & Congress Party leaders aspired to create a pluralist secular democracy in post-British India;Gandhi was a principal actor in facilitating India’s post-colonial democratization  British colonial power imprisoned Gandhi numerous times; he was always in & out of jail in India; his wife & personal secretary died while in “house arrest” (Pune); Gandhi spent several years in Yerwada Central Jail (Pune); Gandhi even taught inmates the art of nonviolent civil disobedience & noncooperation;*Watch the Ben Kingsley film “Gandhi”  Gandhi was a spiritual leader of India’s Congress Party, which led the fight against British colonial rule in India, but he never accepted or desired a higher political leadership role;He was a very shrewd strategist in politics, esp. against the British in India; but, he never held political office Gandhi called himself every religious identity in India, & promoted human rights for Dalits (“Untouchables”), women, and minorities; he was a universalist, a peace activist, & embraced all religions; he studied all major Indian religions; & he promoted religious unity & harmony; his vision & policies were always inclusive;he was assassinated by a Hindu extremist after the Partition of Pakistan 

 

Education

Environment of Activism

Jail Time & Symbolism

Political Leadership

Religious Leadership

MohamedMorsi B.A. & Masters in Engineering from Cairo University;Ph.D. in Materials Science from University of Southern California  Morsi has been an active Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member in Egypt during Hosni Mubarak’s presidency; Egypt has never seen true democracy, but the 2011 revolution changed this trend;Morsi served as member of Egypt’s parliament (2000-2005) as an independent candidate (since MB was banned); he became president of the Freedom & Justice Party (MB-affiliated political party) in 2011;MB openly challenged Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic rule when the group joined secular protestors in Tahrir Square in Jan.-Feb. 2011;

Mubarak was overthrown, SCAF held power until elections in June 2012

 

Mubarak regime jailed Morsi & other MB members on 28 January 2011, & then released 2 days later (30 Jan.), w/ varying accounts of a jailbreak from the Wadi el-Natroun Prison; after run-off election in June 2012, Morsi won presidency in Egypt’s first democratic elections;On June 30, 2013, a counter-Morsi gov’t protest movement took to Tahrir Square (after grievances against Morsi’s leadership);July 3, 2013 Gen. Abdel Fatah el-Sisi announced that Morsi has been removed as President (& detained in an undisclosed location), & installed an interim president;

Egypt is divided into a “pro-Morsi” (mainly MB) camp & pro-Sisi camp;

The pro-Morsi protestors remain steadfast in opposing his ouster & detention & demand his return as President; violence has been reported in clashes between the pro- & anti-Morsi camps

 

Morsi served as Egypt’s first post-2011 revolution President; Morsi’s domestic policies & political leadership have been characterized by: A revised constitution that promotes Islamic law & penalizes “insults” (i.e., stifles expression); Morsi sought to free 1990s WTC bombing mastermind blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman; Morsi filled bureaucracies & the legislature w/ Islamists & purged secularists; he promised to appoint a woman & Christian as Vice Presidents, but never did; he annulled amendments that would’ve restricted presidential powers; he didn’t attend the new Coptic Pope’s enthronement;His policies increasingly resembled the Mubarak regime; his policies derailed democracy in Egypt; he marginalized many groups, & under his watch Shias were killed in Giza, & numerous violent attacks against Copts took place;Morsi’s policies have been politically exclusive President of Freedom & Justice Party (MB-affiliated); Sunni Islamist;Morsi allegedly made comments that were anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli;  attended rally where Salafi clerics called Asad supporters “infidels” & Morsi endorsed the sentiments; Morsi is drowning in scandals including the “Descendants of Apes & Pigs” controversy, allegedly calling Israelis “apes & pigs” – online video of this is available (later he qualified the statement by saying he was criticizing Israeli policy, not Jewish people);

He tried to reach out to Iran, but Salafist constituents in Egypt pressured against it, & fierce anti-Shia sentiments surfaced, w/ Giza massacre;

Morsi has been exclusive in terms of gender, religious & sectarian identities in Egyptian politics & religious discourse

 

Final Note: 

The Sisi regime is a dangerous direction (in my view) for Egypt’s future.  If a pluralist (INCLUSIVE) secular democracy is not reinstated in Egypt ASAP, the Egyptian protestors who ushered in the unprecedented changes in 2011 will be back to square one.  The struggle will have to start all over again.

Copyright Hayat Alvi 2013





Turmoil in Egypt: Morsi Doesn’t Know How to Play Chess

11 12 2012

Morsi pic

egypt_protests_presidential_palace_tear_gas_december_4_2012

The current crisis in Egypt is disheartening, to say the least.  The euphoria of the 2011 revolution now seemingly feels like a deflated balloon, and the violence and ongoing protests illustrate a highly polarized society with inflamed passions, emotions, and fears.  The fears are warranted.

Amid the passions and emotions is tremendous confusion about the way ahead for Egypt.  This is while the masses of educated youth remain jobless, President Morsi is about to raise commodity prices, labor disputes and law and order issues have yet to be resolved, the military waits in the wings to assess the next move, political developments are arrested and left in limbo, Coptic Christians, secularists and women are terrified with the prospects of increased implementation of Islamic laws in social policies, the environment continues to be neglected and degraded, water sources and sanitation systems are in disrepair, the education system’s deficiencies and illiteracy rates are abominable, women continue to suffer sexual assaults, and national and regional security remains fragile and threatened by diverse unsavory elements.

Morsi’s moves within the last few weeks have illustrated two attributes of his leadership and agendas:  first, he seems to lack the skills to out-maneuver the judges (who are carry-overs from the previous regime), hence his political chess skills are lax.  Second, Morsi got carried away with his newfound powers, and his over-confidence betrayed him and the country.  Perhaps it was part of his plan or agenda to bulldoze himself over all the branches of government, as pronounced in his decree, which later he was forced to retract.  Perhaps, in the shadows, this has been the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) agenda all along.  The greatest error was believing that he could get away with it.  Egypt is no longer the decades-long repressed and abused poor masses with a metaphoric pharaoh’s foot on their necks.  Today’s Egypt is a liberated, tech-savvy, and obstinately freedom loving youth, and a host of countless activists who have embraced the mantra “never again.”  Morsi and company need to acknowledge that the freedom-and-rights-Genie is out of the bottle.  Failure to do so only spells their own demise and delegitimized status.

What will unfold in the coming days, weeks, and months in Egypt is yet to be determined.  But one thing is for sure, if the Morsi government fails to tackle the real bread-and-butter issues in Egypt, and fast, his term in office will be extremely brief.  Why religion is presented as a public policy priority, when the people’s main priorities consist of putting food on the table and supporting their families, is beyond comprehension.  If Morsi has paid any attention to the causal factors behind the Tunisian Revolution, as well as Egypt’s revolution, he would know that the main variables and grievances were socioeconomic, not religious.  It seems he was more focused on his hunger for power, rather than the people’s hunger for food.

I close with a compelling quote by James Madison:

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny” – James Madison, Federalist No. 47.

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views





JPost Oped – Obama’s Dilemma: Egypt is Looking More Like Pakistan

12 11 2012

Here’s my latest Jerusalem Post opinion piece, “Obama’s Dilemma:  Egypt is Looking More Like Pakistan” (Nov. 12, 2012) –

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=291539





Salafist / Wahhabi Hooligans’ Agendas for Destruction and Violence

2 09 2012

The last couple of weeks have been filled with bad news across the Middle East, South Asia, and even the Caucasus.  The sheer destructiveness, outrageous, deplorable behavior, and intolerance manifested in the events are extremely disheartening, to say the least.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has a real challenge on his hands.  Militants have attacked a number of moderate Muslim clerics in the Caucasus, and some have died.  The clerics were known to be voices of moderation and criticism against the fanatical militants, who are proliferating in Russia’s southern edges.  Reuters reports that in Dagestan, “more than a dozen young men from the village have ‘gone to the forest’ – the local euphemism for joining insurgents in their hideouts, says village administrator Aliaskhab Magomedov.”  The reports indicate that these men are hardened Islamists as a result of working in the Gulf Arab states, returning home and spreading their Wahhabi ideology with violence.

Similarly, in two African countries we see Salafist and Al Qaeda-affiliated militants destroying Sufi mosques and shrines.  In parts of Libya, they are literally bulldozing heritage sites, not unlike the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues.  In Mali, militants have literally chipped away at UNESCO heritage sites with hammers and chisels.  These militants also want to target libraries and museums in order to destroy precious archeological icons and manuscripts that they deem “un-Islamic.”  When you read Ahmed Rashid’s book on the Taliban, you learn that when the Taliban first came to power in the mid-1990s, and took over Kabul, one of the first institutions they attacked and destroyed were libraries.  Nothing has changed, except the geography.  Such mentalities still may be among minority fringe groups.  Nonetheless, their propensity for violence and destruction is not only horrendous, but also, alarmingly, proliferating in other regions.

Such is the venom of Wahhabi/Salafi ideology, and let’s not forget that the seat of Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia, has long upheld policies for destroying sacred and heritage sites, and carried them out within the kingdom.  The Saudis, after all, are one of the creators of the Taliban.  That is very telling indeed.  In fact, the “League of Libyan Ulema, a group of more than 200 Muslim scholars, on Tuesday evening blamed the attacks on a son of the late dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Saadi, and his Libyan Salafi allies it said were inspired by radical Saudi preachers.  Sufi theologian Aref Ali Nayed said Libya had not seen such attacks for centuries.  ‘Even Mussolini’s fascists did not treat our spiritual heritage with such contempt,’ he said” (Reuters).  Italy under Mussolini occupied Libya until WWII.

While the West is preoccupied with vilifying Iran – and this is not to say that the Iranian regime is not a problem or a threat – we in the West are frighteningly myopic in terms of seeing the big picture:  i.e., Salafism / Wahhabism is proving to be even more destructive, violent, intolerant, and hate-mongering on a daily basis than what we see coming from Iran, and not just in words, but also in action.  The only thing is that the former is not on the radar, while the latter (Iran) is the object of obsession in the West.  That scenario will only lead to repeating costly past mistakes:  can we say “Mujahideen” in the Af-Pak region?

The Libyan Ulema and citizens are extremely frustrated with Tripoli’s seemingly inability to stop the Salafi assault on the country’s shrines, mosques, and heritage sites.

“The League of Libyan Ulema (Muslim scholars) urged Tripoli ‘to pressure the government of Saudi Arabia to restrain its clerics who meddle in our affairs’ by training young Libyans in Salafism and spreading the ideology through books and tapes.

It also urged Libyans to protect Sufi sites by force.

Nayed, who lectures at the old Uthman Pasha madrasa that was desecrated on Tuesday evening, said the attackers were ‘Wahhabi hooligans (and) all sorts of pseudo-Salafi elements’ while government security officials were ‘complacent and impotent.’

‘Libya has to make a clear choice – either a Taliban/Shabaab-style religious fanaticism or a true Muslim moral and spiritual civility,’ he told Reuters.”

The Salafists – or, as Nayed pointedly and correctly calls them “Wahhabi hooligans” – are an imminent threat to the stability and security of the regions and sub-regions in which they operate.  And, that is exactly their intent, to destabilize, coerce, bully, and terrorize.  Although their militant ideologies have been dealt a severe blow since the mostly peaceful 2011 Arab uprisings and revolutions successfully changed regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, the Wahhabi hooligans also see the same events and outcomes as an opportunity to fill any gaps that may appear in the nation building processes in respective countries.  Effective policies and law enforcement are needed to preclude them from gaining even an inch.  Think of them as hyenas lurking in the darkness, only now they are audaciously operating in broad daylight.

The other major recent incident is the disgustingly shameful “blasphemy” case in Pakistan, which has landed a young 14-year-old girl with mental disabilities, who happens to be a Christian, in prison.  Instead of protecting this child and her family, the Pakistani authorities, in all their hollow wisdom, have thrown her in jail, and might make her stand trial.  Blasphemy prosecutions can render death sentences.  This has stirred outrage worldwide, and especially among human rights organizations.  Perhaps in reaction to the outrage, police arrested the local imam who some claim is the culprit in framing the child.  But, this case is about more than just the tragic circumstances of this child, her family, and the Pakistani Christian community at large.  This ludicrous behavior by the authorities and even the government, which initially called for “an investigation,” rather than calling for her immediate release, only highlights the moral bankruptcy of Pakistan.  The expediency with which the so-called “blasphemy law” is used especially against religious minorities underscores the nakedly transparent bigotry that streams through Pakistan’s fabric.  Furthermore, it is not only an example of moral bankruptcy, but it also illustrates the most profound absence of intelligence and reason.  Regarding this case, there is no hole deep enough in the sand that would be sufficient for heads to bury themselves in, as far as I’m concerned.  I close with a quote by George Orwell:

“One defeats a fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary, by using one’s intelligence.”

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views





Bastion of Islamism: Egypt and the New Middle East

25 06 2012

I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime.  I lived in Egypt for four years, under Mubarak, and I never would have guessed that within a few years he would be overthrown, and the arch nemesis of the regime, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), would win an election.  Yet, it has happened, and after a very long, drawn out, meticulous reading of the election results on Sunday afternoon, which I presume has served as a torture tactic in Egyptian prisons, finally the commission announced MB candidate Mohamed Morsi as the winner of the run-off, beating the former Mubarak PM Ahmed Shafiq.  Of course, the real hard work begins now, in dealing with old and new political institutions, the religious establishment, and the demands of the revolutionaries.  Plus, external powers will have to be reassured of the preservation of their regional interests.  The status quo persistently lurks in the shadows.

In my opinion, neither Shafiq nor Morsi were good candidates for a progressive future.  The former represents the Mubarak regime, and the latter’s religious platform generates apprehension especially among many women, religious minorities (i.e., the Coptic Christians), the revolutionary youth movement, and secularists and moderates.  Morsi inherits an unenviable task and circumstance, although anyone in his shoes would have faced similar daunting challenges.

Some of the pressing priorities and challenges awaiting him are worth reviewing:

Economic challenges:

This is by far the number one priority and challenge that Morsi faces.  Tourism has been hit hard since the 2011 revolution, and businesses and industries have suffered losses.  Labor disputes have erupted, and in fact a labor dispute is what started the whole revolutionary movement (April 6th youth movement).  Getting the economic engine going and in fact getting it to surpass previous growth levels will be analogous to climbing Everest ten times.  But, that is what’s needed.  Going back to pre-revolution economic status will not be sufficient.  For this to occur, the Egyptian economy will have to open up and diversify significantly, plus simultaneous advances in education and training (including technological training) must be implemented.  Given the meager literacy rates in Egypt (males 77%; females 62%), that alone will be a formidable challenge.

Political challenges:

There is already talk about SCAF setting a trap for Morsi, especially given that the constitution has yet to be written.  The political challenges are immense, and the uncertainties regarding SCAF’s agendas are great cause for concern.  Morsi will have to tread with extraordinary political savvy, and his lack of previous political experience already renders him politically handicapped.  He will need the most politically shrewd and skilled circle of advisers around him.  How likely that is remains to be seen.

Ideological challenges:

Internal ideological challenges within the MB, but also involving the religious establishment, will create factionalism and could engender indecision and/or poor social policies.  If Morsi gives in to pressures for instituting strict Islamist policies, many aspects of socioeconomic development and human rights can be seriously derailed and undermined.  Another ideological challenge is the impact of regional developments, mainly what’s happening in Syria, which in reality symbolizes the Sunni-Shi’ite rivalry (i.e., Asad’s alliance with Iran and Hezbollah).  Although Morsi has already expressed improving relations with Iran, the Syrian conflict, along with a possible US-Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, could escalate the sectarian tensions in the region.  In that scenario, Egypt will be compelled to side with the status quo.

Regional challenges:

Israel is the number one regional relations issue for Egypt, and Morsi’s position regarding the Camp David Accords will be greatly scrutinized especially by Western powers.  In addition, instability in Libya next door may have an impact on political and security issues in Egypt, not to mention the problems in Sudan.  Floods of refugees into Egypt have long caused pressures on the local economy, and with continuing conflicts in these neighboring states, it could worsen.  Morsi says he wants to improve relations with Iran.  Given Iran’s support for the Asad regime in Syria, this might not prove a popular stance domestically, but it is still a step in the right direction, since Egyptian-Iranian relations have remained strained for years.  Who knows, at some point maybe Egypt could play a significant role in diplomacy involving Iran and her adversaries in the region and also in the West.  If Egypt can rise once again as a major regional player, then that will truly be a huge feather in Morsi’s cap.

External foreign relations challenges:

Egypt’s relations with the US and other Western powers will be critical for her socioeconomic development.  The caveat in this is the gauntlet laid down by SCAF, much of which remains unknown, in terms of treading that path smoothly in the transition process.  So far, the US has congratulated Morsi upon his win.  But, that does not mean that he will not be viewed with skeptical eyes and heavy scrutiny.  Moreover, he risks undermining his own credibility if he starts to wave the Islamist flag a bit too fervently.  Morsi and his government will have to maintain a delicate balance between Islamism and democracy, and along those lines, the “Turkish model” of the AKP has been repeatedly cited.  Morsi and company will remain under the microscope for a long time.

Morsi will face many pressures and temptations to invoke and perhaps implement stricter Islamic rules and policies in post-Mubarak Egypt.  If he leans more towards such matters and issues, then it will be an indication of his lack of focus on the real priorities of the country, those that pertain to socioeconomic development and progress, alleviating poverty and illiteracy, and improving the quality of life for the masses.

If other Islamist parties/organizations are any indication of the direction that they are inclined to take, for example Hamas and Hezbollah, then there is every reason to be skeptical about the MB in Egypt.  Islamist groups in the region have failed miserably to illustrate a keen capability to govern effectively and uphold fundamental human rights.  In the end, the successes of Islamist parties may render the region a bastion of Islamism, but with nothing substantive to show for it.  Let’s see if they can prove the skeptics wrong.

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views






The Conniving Judicial-Military Bedfellows in Egypt

3 06 2012

Ahmed Shafiq, the former Mubarak regime’s Prime Minister and one of the current presidential candidates, declared that “no one is above the law,” in reference to the recent verdict sentencing Hosni Mubarak to life in prison, and acquitting his two sons Gamal and Alaa and a number of senior officials and police officers responsible for killing numerous protestors.

Either Shafiq is delusional, or he is vying for an Oscar, all the while symbolically showing the revolutionaries his middle finger.  Well, the middle finger is representative of what the un-autonomous judiciary and current military regime (SCAF) in Egypt are engaging in with each other, for mutual benefits and advantages, in the combined effort to undermine the revolutionaries and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), as the presidential election approaches in a couple of weeks.

In a press conference, Ahmed Shafiq said this about the MB (Al Jazeera Egypt Live Blog):

“Shafiq also attacked the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Muhammad al-Morsi, saying that his party represented ‘backwardness.’

‘I represent all Egypt, they represent an isolated category.  I am national reconciliation, the Brotherhood is revenge. I represent tolerance, the Brotherhood is isolation and discrimination.  My history is known, theirs is dark,’ he said.”

As if that will win the hearts and minds of Egyptians!

The rumor on the street is that Shafiq and SCAF plan to shoe him in somehow as the presidential election winner, after which he will acquit Mubarak and establish rules and policies that will continue the regime’s status quo ante.  The rumors might not be too far off the reality.  Egyptians know their politicians and political games well, warts and all.  As Mona Eltahawy put it in a recent CNN interview:  “The people are not stupid.”

These developments are a travesty of justice.  Many are rightly pointing out, what else should we expect?  The judiciary consists of the same characters and judges that worked for the Mubarak regime, and there is no light between them and SCAF.  Why should we expect any impartiality and judicial ethics?  Someone correctly tweeted, this is not a trial at all, it’s “black comedy.”  The Washington Post quotes a Tahrir Square protester:  “All of this is a charade, and we don’t accept it,” said Amal Ramsis, 40, as she protested in the square.

The same article by Leila Fadel states the following:

“Dissatisfaction with the ruling could push revolutionaries who had planned to boycott the runoff election for president into grudging support of Morsi, an uncharismatic conservative Islamist, experts said.

‘The Brotherhood might be able to capitalize on this to push the line for revolutionary unity against the regime,’ said Michael Wahid Hanna, an Egypt analyst at the Century Foundation. ‘The anger could push those planning to sit it out to cast a vote for the Brotherhood against the old regime’.”

In the case of Egypt, I’m afraid the cart was placed before the horse, although given the SCAF’s control over everything, I understand how difficult it has been for the revolutionaries to chip away at that rock-solid boulder of the former regime.  Ideally, the constitution should have been revised first, the judiciary purged completely and personnel and judges replaced with more reputable and credible people, and then the presidential elections should be held.  However, the complexities of the situation are understandably formidable.

Clearly, SCAF and company have not heeded the lessons of Tunisia and Libya.  The public is not demanding cosmetic changes, as regimes have done in the past, but complete overhauls of their dictatorships and institutions.  It’s unfathomable that, given all the events of 2011, SCAF still does not get it.  Instead, they continue to play underhanded tricks to remain in power and perpetuate their influence over institutions and the elections.  Sad to say this, but they are proving to be as blind and zealously power-hungry as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Perhaps they should be reminded of some of these great quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“A lie cannot live.”

“A right delayed is a right denied.”

“In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?”

“The first duty of society is justice.”

And certainly the revolutionaries do not need reminders about their resolve, but nonetheless, I leave you with this MLK quote, which is very inspiring:

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.  And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.  A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.