The situation in Egypt is complex and rapidly evolving. Division is rife and the stakes for the region and beyond are extremely high. Opinion is also split on the rights and wrongs of the recent deposing of President Mursi and the methods taken. As such, IMES features two very interesting and yet two very different analyses of the events in Egypt of the past week.
In Part 1, we share with you Egyptian blogger and Director of the Egyptian Bible Society Ramez Atallah’s piece titled, “Light at the End of the Tunnel”. In his piece, Atallah explores the question: “What future is there for Political Islam in Egypt?” and is rather optimistic about the longer term implications for the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and what this might mean for similar movements elsewhere.
Part 2 features a piece by Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-chief of Arab-West Report, titled “Egypt is Deeply Divided” wherein Hulsman expresses his concerns about the Egyptian military’s role in the overthrow of a democratically elected president and what implications this might have on the future of democracy in Egypt and the wider region.
IMES recognizes the diversity of opinion about the unfolding events and wish to expose our readers to two authoritative voices from the church in Egypt.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
By Ramez Atallah
When I wrote last Wednesday July 3rd about the remarkably peaceful mass demonstrations against President Morsi, I could not have imagined that by that night he would be deposed and the next morning we would already have a new interim President!
On Thursday the majority of Egyptians partied on the streets all night celebrating the downfall of the man and his Muslim Brotherhood (MB) party.
Why did Egyptians vote for Morsi then demonstrate for his removal?
Last year Egyptians had to choose between a former Mubarak-regime army general and a Muslim Brotherhood leader for president. Many abstained from voting and among those who voted for Morsi were liberal Muslims and a small percentage of Christians who were really voting against a Mubarak candidate.
Within a year since being narrowly elected, Morsi had violated every one of his campaign promises.
Shortly after his election he began acting much more like a totalitarian dictator than as an elected official, and soon gave himself full executive, legislative and judicial powers. Instead of choosing the best and most capable people to lead the country with him, he replaced nearly all government Ministers and most of the 27 regional Governors by people from his party. Most of these were incompetent for the positions to which they had been elevated. In turn these leaders did the same with the people under them.
As a result, the performance of Morsi and his government was extremely poor in almost all areas – economically, financially, politically and from a security point of view. Moreover, he was leading Egypt rapidly towards the dark tunnel of political Islam, the ideology which he and the MB espoused. In doing so he and his party succeeded in rapidly alienating themselves from most Egyptians who realized he was really not interested in their welfare.
The greatest blow to Political Islam in recent history
Egyptians are deeply hurt by what they perceive as a complete lack of appreciation by many Western and other allies for the enormous liberation they have achieved. The BCC claimed that the peaceful demonstration against Morsi by more than 30 million Egyptians was probably the largest demonstration in the history of humanity!
Since it was founded in 1928, the MB has been striving to establish an Islamic state in Egypt which would eventually encompass the Arab world. Gaining power in Egypt was their first political breakthrough.
The complete failure of the first Muslim Brotherhood “political Islam”experiment is a terrible shock for them and “miraculous” (this word is often used in the media) for many Egyptians who were convinced the MB were here to stay!
The worldwide consequences of most Egyptians’ rejection of political Islam as a viable option are a serious set-back to the MB theocratic political dream. Islam is no longer “the political solution” as the Islamicists claimed. It has been tried in Egypt and has failed to win the approval of the 21st century Muslim masses. This will have dramatic implications for many of the countries the MB influence in the region (Syria, Jordan, Gaza, Libya, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Tunisia among others) and worldwide.
Most Egyptians believe the only way to have liberated themselves from the iron grip of the MB was with the army’s help. But they are also looking forward to returning to a civil State as soon as possible. So the sooner we can have new Parliamentary and Presidential elections the better.
To do so, there needs to be a political reconciliation with the MB followers, who have been protesting on the streets since the removal of their leader and are continuing to incite their followers to violence. Their anger at being ousted is understandable. But the violent and destructive way in which they are protesting is creating havoc in the country. Unlike the peaceful millions who were on the street to remove Morsi, the hundreds of thousands of MB protestors are terrorizing the areas in which they congregate. This aggressive protest, and retaliation to it, has very sadly resulted in more than 130 deaths to date and more than 4000 wounded!
Please pray for a breakthrough in this complex, dangerous and very sad deadlock.
Egypt is and continues to be a Muslim Nation
It is very important to emphasize, in no uncertain terms, that Egypt’s vote against “political” Islam was actually a vote for “moderate” Islam. The tens of millions of Muslims who protested on the streets last week will be celebrating Ramadan (which begins this week) with great fervor and deep religious commitment. What they protested against was the MB narrow understanding of Islam being forcefully imposed upon all Egyptians.
During and following the January 2011 revolution, Christians in Egypt regained close relationships with their Muslim friends and neighbors and felt very much at peace living among a Muslim majority. During Morsi’s presidency Christians feared that Egyptian Muslims as a whole were espousing a version of Islam which would not have been hospitable to Christians. We sighed a deep sigh of relief this week, realizing that the vast majority of Egyptian Muslims were moderates who wanted to share Egypt equally with us.
Back to Nation Building
Having been side-tracked by the MB takeover, we all now want to rebuild our Nation on the basis of true justice, freedom and equal opportunity for all. Please pray alongside us that this dream will be achieved without discrimination or recrimination.
Pray for us at the Bible Society as we again seek to promote these crucial values which come from God’s Word.
This article was first published on Ramez Atallah’s personal blog Ramez Atallah: Reflections of a Christian in Egypt.