Tag Archives: Muslim Brotherhood

Who to believe in Egypt?

Cairo Skyline

Cairo Skyline

To the casual observer, Egypt appears in a mess these days.  It certainly is fair to say that Egypt is in crisis-mode since President Morsi was forcefully removed by the military.

Some people want to call it a coup  but others react vociferously to anyone questioning his overthrow.

From a former Facebook friend (an Egyptian-American living in the U.S.) who unfriended me for disagreeing with him:

33 million individuals went on the streets and squares all over Egypt major cities to get rid of the terrorist regime. MB is a terrorist regime known for their criminal acts and millions that did not come out but support. The Majority of peoples in Egypt request to step down and the Army support the majority….Got the message? IT IS A REVOLUTION WHETHER YOU AGREE OR NOT. THE LAST WORD FOR THE PEOPLE NOT FOR THE TERRORIST

Another Facebook friend, an Egyptian living in Cairo, did not support Morsi but believes the 2012 election was fair and he should be given the opportunity to complete his term in office.  She values the rule of law.

A third Facebook friend, an Egyptian studying in the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar with plans to return to his country next year, told me he supports Morsi and is upset that the military removed him.  What type of ‘democracy’ is this when a lawfully elected President can be forcefully removed?

As an American observing these events from afar, the ONLY thing I know for sure is that there is much disagreement about what happened last week in Egypt and what should happen moving forward.

Here’s what I suspect:

  • President Morsi made many mistakes during his short 12-months in office and was incapable of governing for all Egyptians.  He wanted to transform Egypt into an Islamist nation, and he thought that he was immune from the will of the people after election day.  He had opportunities to correct his course and save his presidency, but he was stubborn and refused.  
  • The military has always been in charge in Egypt.  They were in charge during Mubarak’s 30-year reign.  They were in charge after Morsi was elected.  They are in charge today.  I have heard that the Egyptian military accounts for 40% of the nation’s economy because they are so heavily involved in the private sector.  The 2011 “revolution” did not bring democracy to Egypt.  The 2013 coup will not bring democracy either.
  • Egyptians are suffering.  Their economy has nose-dived, unemployment has sky-rocketed, tourism has dried up, and the basics (food and fuel) are in short supply.  People who are hurting as much as Egyptians are hurting can’t be expected to sit at home quietly and “suck it up.” I suspect that many Egyptians on the streets this month who were demanding Morsi’s removal were desperately pleading for jobs and stability rather than fearing an Islamist nation.
  • Regional and international interests played a role in the Egyptian coup.  The U.S. doesn’t want to call it a coup because then it wouldn’t be allowed by law to send the F-16s and $$ to Egypt. Turkey denounced the coup and demanded that Morsi be returned to power. Syria’s Assad seemed pleased with the coup.  Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia promised to send LOTS of $$ to the new interim government in Egypt, signaling their approval of the coup.  Even Qatar’s new leader showed his support for the coup.  No doubt, Israel is happy that the Muslim Brotherhood has been ousted.
  • Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, congratulated Egyptians and urged Palestinians in Gaza to follow their example by ousting Hamas from the Gaza Strip.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood will be persecuted and worse in Egypt and in the Gulf States for the foreseeable future.
  • Many Palestinians inside and outside of Gaza are caught because of the Rafah border closing.  Medical patients can’t travel to get medical attention; students can’t travel to their universities; pilgrims can’t travel to Mecca; and many can’t return to their families in Gaza.

Who are the winners?  Losers?

I think the clear winner is the Egyptian military – no doubt about it.

The clear loser is the Muslim Brotherhood.   And I might add democracy.

Between those two extremes are the millions of Egyptians.  It’s too soon to tell but I fear the worse.

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Martyrdom is not democracy in action!

I’m growing alarmed as the hours tick down on the ultimatum issued by Egypt’s military.

President Morsi has been calling for meetings with the opposition for weeks, but the opposition has boycotted any meetings.  One of the opposition leaders (there are many and that’s what makes this so complicated), Mohamed ElBaradei, has refused to talk with Morsi and has been calling for his resignation.

Now that the military’s ultimatum has been issued, President Morsi is in a corner and the opposition has no incentive to negotiate with him. They just need to watch the clock tick down.

I have given President Morsi my two cents, for what it’s worth.  My advice is to minimize violence as much as possible.

Unfortunately, the Freedom and Justice Party — the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood — has issued press reports that are very troublesome.

The FJP is most determined to protect the homeland’s stability and security, to stop the shedding of Egyptian blood. It finds that cleansing Egypt of these thugs and effectively facing up to these vandals is the only way to protect the homeland and its security and stability. It assures that it will give all it can to achieve this.

The FJP exhorts all honorable, fair-minded members of all political parties and national groups and movements to face up to those criminal acts and stand as one in the face of this threat to the homeland and its stability.

I find this message alarming because “cleansing thugs” sounds like eliminating the opposition (by violent means?) rather than working with the opposition.

Israel’s MK Avigdor Liberman recently made the same claim about “cleansing Gaza” of Hamas.

The Bangkok Post reported that a “senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood called on its supporters to be ready to sacrifice their lives to prevent an army takeover.”

“Seeking martyrdom to prevent this coup is what we can offer to the previous martyrs of the revolution,” Mohamed al-Beltagui said in a statement on Tuesday.

He was referring to the more than 800 people killed during the 2011 uprising that ousted veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.

An Egyptian interviewed on NPR yesterday, a Morsi supporter, said he wants an Islamist nation, not a secular nation as the opposition proposes, and so there can’t be any compromise.  It’s either one or the other he said, and he was willing to fight to see his vision fulfilled.

NO – NO – NO!  This is NOT democracy in action, these are extremists calling for violence, cloaking their demands as a defense of electoral politics.

The situation in Egypt today reminds me of Al Gore’s defeat in 2000 when he saw his election “win” snatched from him by the shenanigans in Florida and then the US Supreme Court.  I was angry; really, really pissed.  I voted for Al Gore.  I wanted Al Gore to be President, and so did the majority of Americans, I’m sure of it.  When he conceded the election to Bush, I was pissed at Gore!!   But no one called for violence or martyrdom.

Mohamed Morsi’s supporters are pissed.  They say he was fairly elected, and he should be allowed to fulfill his term of office.  In a functioning democracy, the people don’t sweep out one president and replace him with another every time they aren’t happy with his performance.

True!

But Egypt doesn’t have a functioning democracy … yet.

And Egypt doesn’t have a constitution that establishes a process for impeachment … yet.

And Egypt doesn’t have a history of political parties working together … yet.

Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters have to respond to the reality that exists today, not to the democracy that they might wish existed in Egypt.

Calling for martyrdom is NOT democracy, it is extreme fanaticism.  If Morsi believes that suicide or murder is the path towards electoral legitimacy, then he’s a very dangerous man and all Egyptians should be very, very worried.

I hope he will renounce these calls for martyrdom soon and very clearly, but apparently he is ready to give his life too.

Martyrdom is not democracy in action!

President Mohamed Morsi

President Mohamed Morsi

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President Morsi under fire

I’m thinking about all of the Egyptians today who are caught between two worlds — the one they successfully overthrew in January 2011 and the one they dream of but haven’t found yet.

Egyptians in the Cairo underground Metro.

Egyptians in the Cairo underground Metro.

In total, I’ve spent 15 weeks in Egypt since President Mubarak was dethroned. That’s just enough time to make some very good friends, but not enough time to really understand why the revolution has led so many people to call for President Morsi to step down after his first year in office.

Mubarak on the the front page.

Mubarak on the front page.

In July-August 2011, I felt the excitement and anticipation in the air.  The Egyptians I talked with were both hopeful and eager for change.  Things would be better now that Mubarak’s thirty year reign (1981-2011) had come to an end.

Protesters in Tahrir Square

Protesters in Tahrir Square

Young people in the summer of 2011 were talking about their future, believing the future would be better than the past.  Older people were talking cautiously about the transition, hoping the violent revolution was behind them and that tourists would return.  Nearly everyone wore smiles.  There was patriotism in the air!

Young Egyptian selling flags near Tahrir Square.

Young Egyptian selling flags near Tahrir Square.

What went wrong?   How could the Egypt of 2011 be the Egypt of 2013 with the economy nose-diving, sectarian murders, and calls for another revolution if President Morsi refuses to step aside?  Tamarod (‘Rebel’ in English), a signature drive claims to have gathered now over 22 million signatures asking Morsi to step down.

Family waiting at rest stop near Al-Arish

Family waiting at rest stop near Al-Arish

Young Egyptians at a public water dispenser in Cairo.

Young Egyptians at a public water dispenser in Cairo.

Egyptian couple at sunset in Cairo.

Egyptian couple at sunset in Cairo.

Egyptian policeman holding his prayer book answers a boy's question.

Egyptian policeman holding his prayer book answers a boy’s question.

President Morsi has certainly made many mistakes in his first year in office, there’s no doubt, and he has acknowledged many of them.  I wonder if anyone could have navigated through these turbulent months without making mistakes.  I don’t think former President Mubarak ran any democracy schools to prepare future leaders for elective office.  His son, Gamal, was supposed to take over after his retirement, continuing the Mubarak dynasty.

So everyone is pointing fingers now.  Morsi claims the opposition is threatening the fragile democracy; the opposition faults Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood; all making good fodder for the cartoonists.

Reasonable Egyptians have told me that they think Morsi should step down, and several mentioned that the military should take control until new elections are held.  That really surprised me.  They actually have greater confidence in the military than in President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood!

One new friend in Cairo told me she disagreed with many of President Morsi’s decisions since he took office in June 2012 but she doesn’t want to see him step down or to be violently overthrown.  “He was democratically elected and the process should be honored.  What message do we send to the world if we throw him out before his term is up?  We need to be working with him, not against him, to help get our economy moving in the right direction.”

On further reflection, I think what’s happening in Egypt is  happening everywhere on the planet.  There is a crisis in governance and people are rebelling in Turkey, Brazil, and even in Mora County, New Mexico, USA where county residents are fed up with the feeling of impotence in the face of corporate power and abuse.

I don’t know where all of this is headed, but I hope President Morsi is allowed to complete his 4-year term of office; that tourism and stability return to Egypt; that all sides learn from each other’s mistakes and admit that they have a common purpose which unites them.

Cairo Skyline

Cairo Skyline

The U.S. might learn a lesson or two from these recent events in Egypt.  We supported a dictatorship for 30 years without remorse or even a thought about how a real democracy might be nurtured in Egypt.  And some members of Congress spend a lot of time demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood, illustrating their own ignorance.

At the same time, I’m pleased to see that U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson has tried to convince the opposition to work with President Morsi.

Patterson has been clear on this issue. “Egypt needs stability… more violence in the streets will only add new names to the list of martyrs,” she said to the representatives of the opposition. In the same vein, she assured leaders of the Brotherhood that the United States opposed the opposition demand for early elections and supports the maintenance of the president until the end of his term.

US Embassy in Cairo

US Embassy in Cairo

 

 

 

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Filed under Egypt, People, US Policy

Boston Marathon Bombing

Acts of terrorism bring out the humanity of average citizens as well as the press releases from opportunistic politicians.

A number of Palestinians in Gaza have shared their feelings of sadness with me over the senseless acts of terrorism in Boston. I heard from an employee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an employee at the water utility authority, an employee at the university, an engineer, a student studying English and a taxi driver.   Each spontaneously offered their sympathy with me as an American visiting their community.

Among the world leaders who expressed their condolences to President Obama were Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israeli President Peres, and Egyptian President Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party:

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) categorically rejects as intolerable the bombings committed in the U.S. city of Boston. The FJP offers heartfelt sympathies and solemn condolences to the American people and the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured.

Islamic Sharia (law), accepted by the FJP as a framework of reference, strongly condemns attacks on civilians and terrorizing innocent people, regardless of their religion, race, color or sex.

The heinous attacks in Boston today highlight the need for the international community to unite in order to achieve justice and a decent life for all peoples and communities to ensure non-recurrence of such violent and tragic crimes.

I read and reread this nonsensical message from the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who offered his sympathy to the families of the victims, but I still can’t understand the connection he makes with the violence in Syria, Somalia and elsewhere.

The Israel News Agency published this piece “Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah Celebrate Boston Terror Attack” which is just as nonsensical as the tirade from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Jerusalem, Israel — April 15, 2013 … Shortly after terror bombs exploded and murdered over 12 people at the Boston Marathon, members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah were reported to be dancing in the streets of Gaza, handing out candies to passerbys.

Now that I have lived in Gaza for nearly five months among Palestinians of all political affiliations, I can confidently say that the Israel News Agency is spewing nonsense that is nothing more than pro-Israel propaganda (hasbara) designed to link terrorism and Palestinians in the minds of Americans and the western audience, and it’s pure crap. Unfortunately, I fear many Americans are gullible.

President Obama makes clear in this video that we don’t know who carried out this “heinous and cowardly act” — whether it was foreign or domestic, an act of a group or an individual.

Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes, every ethnic group, and all political persuasions.  But to use the suffering and grief of recent victims of terrorism to further a political agenda, as the Israel News Agency did, is reprehensible.

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Egypt’s Revolution 2 years later

Not sure what to expect this weekend in Cairo.

Saturday is the second anniversary of the Revolution that ousted Mubarak from his throne after three decades!

I recall sitting on my couch in the USA in January 2011 with my eyes glued to ALJAZEERA morning, noon and night.  I was mesmerized by the events unfolding in Tahrir Square.  I played and replayed YouTube songs from the revolution.

This is one of my favorites.

I look back at those days as a personal revolution in my own soul, having just lost a very dear friend and companion, my heart was breaking.  I wanted something to believe in again.  And the thousands of Egyptians who went to Tahrir Square gave that to me.  They gave me hope.

At least 846 people died (more than 6,000 were injured) in the revolution that began on January 25.  Their grievances focused on police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and freedom of speech, corruption, and economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation and low wages.

According to most people I talk with today in Cairo, they haven’t seen much progress and they’re unhappy.  Some want President Morsi to step aside.  They fear his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Others want to give him time, even though they don’t see progress yet.  None I’ve talked with have hinted at violence or another revolution.

I hope this weekend is both peaceful and strong.   Peaceful in spirit and action, but strong and unified in showing the world that Egypt still leads the world in reforming the human spirit.

My pictures of Tahrir Square are available here.

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