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

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“Innocence of Muslims” – Taking the Bait and Having a Field Day

14 09 2012

Writing on flags say: “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”

No one has learned anything from past lessons.  The senseless violence snowballing throughout the Muslim world, supposedly in reaction to an amateurish 14-minute YouTube trailer for a film that no one can find in full length, is a stain on the 21st century.  The news media are presenting the cause of the violence as solely stemming from the anti-Islamic film, entitled “Innocence of Muslims,” which ridicules the Prophet Muhammad.  However, there is much more behind the causal factors of this epidemic violence than the simplistic headlines convey.  Here are some variables, based on my assessment, pertaining to this outbreak of violence, and all of them are interrelated:

  • Genuine emotions
  • Extremists Pulling Strings and Having a Field Day
  • 9/11 Timing
  • Grievances against People’s Governments
  • Taking the Bait

No doubt, many Muslims are expressing genuine hurt feelings and passionate emotions in reaction to insults and offenses targeting Muhammad, the last prophet of Islam, in the film trailer.  If we look back at the Salman Rushdie affair in the 1980s, we see that such sensitivities have not changed, and on the part of more orthodox and conservative Muslims, they have only intensified.  In addition, this film comes in a long series of anti-Islam expressions, like the Danish cartoons, the threat of Quran burning by Terry Jones, the accidental Qurans burned in Afghanistan, etc.  These recent incidents have only reinforced the narrative among many Muslims that the West is against Islam and permits such offenses with impunity.  That’s the perception fueling the anger and hatred.  Yet, there is no condemnation of killings in response to these perceived offenses, like the murder of Theo Van Gogh, for example.  Objective parity is not part of the narrative in this case.

Such hurt feelings and anger never justify the violence and vandalism that the recent protests have generated.  In the big picture, so many films, TV shows, art exhibits, and popular culture programs and performances have insulted Christianity and other religions.  Consider “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “South Park,” and “Monty Python,” to name a few, which are film producers and programs that have repeatedly ridiculed Christianity and other faiths with the sharpest irreverence and mockery, yet we never see violent reactions to them.

Among Islam’s ultra-orthodox and extremist elements, resorting to violence and calling for the death of the offenders are all too quick to the draw.  No one seems to pause and consider the consequences and damage to Islam’s image as a whole, as they become so consumed by their emotions and hatred.  There have been calls for peaceful protests by some, but mob mentality is hard to control especially once it gets out of hand.

This brings me to extremists pulling strings behind the scenes and having a field day.  Undoubtedly, extremist leaders at local levels see an opportunity in manipulating and exploiting the emotions and passions of the masses, especially those who embrace common extremist ideologies.  It is no coincidence that the attacks on the US consulate in Libya and the US embassy in Egypt fell on September 11th, which reinforces the theory that there is more to this violent fervor than just emotive reactions to the offensive film, which most protesters have not even seen (and for the record, the trailer is not worth one’s precious time).  Some analysts are also pointing to the revenge factor, especially in the case of the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and his security detail.  In June Al Qaeda’s number two leader in Yemen was killed, and he happened to be Libyan.

Furthermore, the extremist Islamists are dismayed at being sidelined and even delegitimized upon the 2011 uprisings and revolutions that toppled decades-long secular dictatorships.  For just as long, these extremist groups spread throughout the region, although small in numbers, were forced to operate underground.  Once the revolutions took place last year through mostly nonviolent protests and civil disobedience, the extremists had the rug pulled from under them.  Even the Islamist parties that have come to power following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have to balance their respective Islamism with moderate secular and liberal ideals and policies.  This also angers the extremists, who feel that these Islamist governments are “too soft” in their Islamism.  Particularly in the case of Egypt and Sudan, Islamist hardliners are pressuring the governments to capitulate on some of their demands to implement stricter Shariah rules and policies.  These Islamists constitute major political constituents in some cases, and so the governments cannot be seen as leaning too much toward secularism and liberalism.

Similarly, the protesters, especially the young men, continue to hold grievances against their own governments for failing to meet their needs, especially providing jobs and a better future for the next generation.  Thus, woven into this discontent about the anti-Islam film are the underlying grievances against respective governments, especially for socioeconomic reasons.  Change is not occurring fast enough for many, and this has been an opportunity to express their multi-layered anger.

Anti-Western and especially anti-American sentiments are also being exploited by various elements.  Many people in the region, but certainly not all, see Western values, especially freedom of expression, as “boundary-less,” meaning that these freedoms and rights have no limits.  This is not exactly true, because we have laws against “hate speech” and of course the exception to the First Amendment right to free speech and expression exists for the sake of public order and safety, prohibiting incitement of violence.  The “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” phrase aptly describes this exception.

But, most people in the region are not aware of these provisions and exceptions.  They simply see that an American national has funded and produced this vile film, and that the US government should take action against such offenses, and place boundaries or “reasonable limits” on free speech and expression.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama have unequivocally condemned this film, as well as the violence in the Muslim world.  But, they have no authority to undo the constitutional laws that grant all Americans First Amendment rights and freedoms.  The First Amendment embodies the fabric of American values, and, by the way, it also grants everyone the freedom of religion.  We should never compromise on that.

The last few days have been extremely sad, tragic, and disheartening.  Too many breaches have occurred, including the murder of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues.  Also, the loss of life of protesters is, in my opinion, such a waste.

According to a Reuters article (9/14/2012), entitled “Anti-American fury sweeps Middle East over Film” –

“At least seven people were killed as local police struggled to repel assaults after weekly Muslim prayers in Tunisia and Sudan, while there was new violence in Egypt and Yemen and across the Muslim world, driven by emotions ranging from piety to anger at Western power to frustrations with local leaders and poverty.”

The article also explains the balancing act that Egypt’s President Mursi must play regarding the Cairo protests and US relations (Egypt is the second highest recipient of US foreign aid):

“Mursi must tread a line between appealing to an electorate receptive to the appeal of more hardline Islamists and maintaining ties with Washington, which long funded the ousted military dictatorship.”

The Salafists are involved in most if not all of these violent protests.  I have repeatedly written about the dangers of Salafists, even in Tunisia, as the Reuters article describes:

“Further west along the Mediterranean, a Reuters reporter saw police open fire to try to quell an assault in which protesters forced their way past police into the U.S. embassy in Tunis. Some smashed windows, others hurled petrol bombs and stones at police from inside the embassy and started fires. One threw a computer from a window, others looted computers and telephones.

A Tunisian security officer near the compound said the embassy had not been staffed on Friday, and calls to the embassy went unanswered. Two armed Americans in uniform stood on a roof.

The protesters, many of whom were followers of hardline Salafist Islamist leaders, also set fire to the nearby American School, which was closed at the time, and took away laptops. The protests began after Friday prayers and followed a rallying call on Facebook by Islamist activists and endorsed by militants.”

This is shameful, disgusting, and criminal behavior, not much different in measure than the film producer, and in fact is even worse because lives have been lost.

This behavior also exhibits extreme immaturity at so many levels.  Islam is the youngest of the Judeo-Christian faiths, and its internal ideologies and diverse compositions and manifestations are still evolving.  As one student put it, Christianity used to be very puritanical, with the Inquisition, the Crusades, witch-burnings, and the like.  Islam is going through its phases and evolutions as well, some aspects of which are still very medieval in their outlook.  It’s imperative for the world’s Muslims to reconcile the internal conflicts and facilitate enlightenment and stamp out the extremist ideologies that are so harmful.  Puritanism serves no purpose, especially in the modern era.  It is extremely counterproductive and threatens regional and global peace and security.

Another point for the Muslim world to ponder is this:  given all the anti-Americanism and knee-jerk emotional and violent reactions that we’ve been witnessing throughout the Muslim world, Western powers will think twice before helping Muslims again, and that might include the opposition in Syria.

Finally, why people continue to take the bait is beyond comprehension.  Clearly, this film was intended to provoke anger and emotions.  Yet, it seems that repeatedly Muslims fail to transcend the temptations to react, especially so destructively.  Consider that the Prophet Muhammad’s own reputation and character should speak for himself.  Does he really need people to defend his name violently?  Isn’t something wrong with this picture?  It only gives perpetual license to the world’s provocateurs, who are probably rolling on the ground laughing, at the expense of global peace.

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





Lessons for the Middle East from MLK

16 01 2012

On this Martin Luther King holiday, it is all the more fitting to shake our collective fingers at violent dictators like Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and remind them that, as MLK put it so eloquently, “unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Truth and justice do not hide behind guns, bombs, and torture devices.  And, history has shown that the former carry moral legitimacy that far outweighs the morally bankrupt expediency of violence and brutality.  The former also is more powerful in disarming the bully than the latter will ever be in oppressing the innocents.

Fear is never the best weapon.  It’s a temporary emotion, and tyrants will only have temporary effectiveness.  Noncooperation, noncompliance, and disobedience will always be stronger than tyranny, especially when they are infused with an infectious stubbornness that will not die.   This is Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy, and also MLK’s.

Today Al Jazeera is reporting that Imad Ghalioun, a member of the Syrian parliament, has defected and joined the opposition.  According to Al Jazeera –

“Imad Ghalioun, who represented the central city of Homs, told the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV on Sunday night that the city is “disaster stricken” and has been subjected to sweeping human rights violations. Ghalioun said he was able to leave Syria before a travel ban was imposed on officials.

He said there are many legislators who support the uprising but have not said so publicly.”

It’s just a matter of time, for fear is temporary.  Stay stubborn in the path of truth and justice.  I leave you with a quote by MLK:

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

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