The counter revolution in Egypt – or the ongoing revolution, depending upon how optimistic you are – has left the world, the West as well as the Muslims, in a dilemma. The coup d’état once again exposed the hypocrisy of the West, which claims to champion the cause of democracy the world over. But history is replete with examples where they instead sided with monarchical, authoritarian, dictatorial or military regimes, from Iran (as the recent CIA documents officially confirms) to now Egypt, where they provided lip service in condemning the crushing of pro-democracy and pro-Morsi supporters, but did not stop aid due to ‘strategic’ reasons.
However, the recent turmoil in Egypt, as well as in Syria and other Arab countries, has also exposed the Muslim world, including Indian Muslims, of a hypocrisy that they prefer pushing under the rug. The same people who are shedding tears for the deaths in Egypt, have largely justified and supported the rebels in Syria, and this includes the Turkish prime minister.
Moreover, while Muslim intellectuals, leaders, activists and organisations have been forthright in condemning the usurpation of power from a democratically elected government and the use of brute force to crush the demonstration, the unequivocal support to the military junta by rather authoritarian monarchs of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are noted only in passing, if at all.
When political anthropologist Dr Irfan Ahmed wrote about “El-Sisi’s reign of terror and the propaganda of ‘fascism,’” the West, Germany, UK, USA and France found mention and outright condemnation, however, KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and UAE came only in the last line of an otherwise well-argued article. Ahmed argues, and rightly so, about the military’s reign of terror and propaganda, and goes on to compare Mustafa Hegazy, advisor to the ‘President’ Adly Mansour with Goebbels, the infamous Propaganda Minister of Nazi Germany for “instituting lies and vilifying the Egyptians fighting for civil rights, freedom and democracy.” He even accuses the BBC (and by extension, the Western media) of painting the ongoing protest as “pro-Morsi” or Muslim Brotherhood, rather than “pro-democracy” for there certainly are some people who are not part of the Muslim Brotherhood, but want a democratic government.
Once the ‘Arab Spring’ began in Tunisia, Egypt soon followed with the popular uprising or ‘January Revolution’; eventually overthrowing Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President of three decades. The largely non-violent protest by the demonstrators, though started by middle class liberals, was soon joined by the Muslim Brotherhood cadre. But although the two sides were standing united against a ‘common enemy’, their agendas were quite different. The Muslim Brotherhood reaped the fruit when the Freedom and Justice Party won the Presidential elections. No doubt, being the only potent opposition from the time of Gamal Nasser, the Brotherhood enjoys considerable support on the street. However, they seemed to have forgotten that one of the main reasons why the army could not use the same brute force in 2011, was because middle class urban population in Cairo – many of whom enjoy considerable support in the West – were in Tahrir Square too.
As the economy showed no sign of improvement, the newly-elected President Mohammad Morsi appeared to be focusing more consolidating his and the party’s position. Thus ‘liberal and secular’ members of the Constituent Assembly walked out as they feared imposition of strict Islamic laws. Instead of negotiating with them, Morsi issued a declaration that would virtually immunize his decrees from challenge. This enraged the liberals, primarily urban citizens, who announced “Tamarod” protests that grew violent in December 2012 as they clashed with pro-Morsi supporters. They also led signature campaigns against Morsi and demanded his ouster. Although Morsi had offered “national dialogue,” he refused to take the decrees back.
As the protests continued for months and clashes became more frequent, including attacks on minority Coptic Christians and their churches, the military sniffed an opportunity to stage a comeback and eventually set deadlines. On 3 July 2013, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi staged a coup, once again imposing martial laws and installing a nominal government.
It is interesting to note here that although Egypt’s march to the path of democracy does not appear to be over yet; with the July coup, the revolution that began in January 2011 had come full circle. Liberals and the urban middle class, that had earlier stood with the Brotherhood against Mubarak, were now standing in the opposite camp, against what they saw as an increasingly “Islamist” regime. Thus in the nominal government, Chief Justice Adly Mansour became the interim president. Mohammed el-Baradei, who joined the government, had then said that the coup was to rectify the issues of the revolution. Left leaders joined the interim government as well.
Ofcourse, liberals, secular democrats and Left leaders made a blunder by bringing back to power a Frankenstein, to overthrow whom they had sacrificed so much. The Egyptian army, with full support from the Saudi and UAE monarchs, soon started using brute force to curb the pro-Morsi protests. The Egyptian population now finds itself in a mess over their choices, they are still reeling in shock as the protests, violence and death toll continues to rise. A shocked el-Baradei realized to his dismay that supporting al-Sisi was akin to riding on a proverbial lion, as he faces trial for “betrayal of trust” of the army. On their part, the KSA and UAE are afraid of the possible spillover effect if the Muslim Brotherhood becomes strong in Egypt and other Arab countries. They see it as a potent threat to their family rule and are hence naturally opposed to Morsi, not shying away from openly supporting al-Sisi and calling the protesters as “terrorists”.
However, the political turmoil does not absolve Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood from all responsibility. Their supporters (and purported pro-democratic activists) across the world are trying to garner support in the name of democracy, saying that he had won the majority votes and that a legitmate government has been removed by a coup. However, their supporters have conveniently ignored the grounds that flared up the tension and eventually led to the usurpation of power. These new democrats, perhaps intoxicated by power, had forgotten the cardinal principle of nurturing the democratic political culture of moderation, cooperation, bargaining and accommodation and to refrain from the “tyranny of the majority.” Of course, the Opposition too needs to share the blame. Even after the coup, the Muslim Brotherhood did not appear willing for negotiations, demanding that Morsi be first restored.
It is interesting that Muslims back home in India are getting so enraged about the events in Egypt and Palestine, although the same fervor and anger is often missing for issues that immediately affect them. Nonetheless, while talking of democracy, the parameters of these Muslim activists and leaders should remain the same for all countries and not change from Syria to Egypt, depending upon the sect of their respective rulers and the rebels. In a conflict, where the majority of “liberal and secular” Muslims wanted a democratically elected “Islamist” government overthrown, where rather conservative and largely “Salafi” monarchs are siding with the military junta against purported “political Islamists”, the least that activists and protesters could do the world over was not try to explain the situation in a simple binary of pro/anti-democracy, or simply accusing some foreign hands of meddling in internal issues. Meanwhile, although it appears that Mubarak may eventually walk free, the chaos in the land of Pharaohs seems far from over.