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 shared 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.
Egypt is Deeply Divided: Not Everyone is Rejoicing about the Fall of Mursi
By Cornelis Hulsman
Many people expressed great joy about the military deposing President Mursi. I received emails in support of the disposal of Mursi, including from prominent Egyptians I know, and heard people in Giza Street loudly rejoicing the military intervention.
I am not rejoicing!
President Mursi was Egypt’s first elected president in the freest presidential elections ever. Freest however, does not mean that the elections were not contested. A high-ranking Egyptian diplomat I know well told me that in the official press statement declaring the electoral results of June 2012, the president of the presidential election committee stated that there had been irregularities regarding the process (pre-arranged electoral sheets, three Christian villages that had zero voters, which is unlikely).
The Presidential election committee asked for police investigations into these irregularities, but it did not receive proper answers. The issue of the electoral results is still pending in court. It is true President Mursi received only 51% of the votes in the second round and that many people voted for him because they refused Ahmed Shafiq an army general.
Nevertheless, the results of the contested election were accepted by the Egyptian military. The reason was that they wanted to avoid the risk of violent clashes, or even a civil war. This fear was well founded because there had been threats of members of the Brotherhood that the streets of Cairo would see blood if their candidate, Mursi, would not become president. Regardless of this background, his election had largely been accepted until July 3, 2013.
There is a lot to be said about President Mursi. He made serious mistakes, which reduced his popularity tremendously. His biggest mistake was his presidential decree of November 22, 2012 in which he placed himself above the rule of law. The decree was to avoid the pending court ruling which could declare the Shura Council (Senate) and the formation of the Constitutional Assembly invalid. There is a pending court case regarding a serious allegation that the Muslim Brothers rigged the database of Egyptian IDs. The court is still looking into the matter, but the Mursi regime strongly denied the allegations.
There are several other court cases against the Brothers, including Mursi’s the escape from prison on January 28, 2011. In June 2012, Parliament was dissolved by a court order. Dr. Amr Darrag, then secretary-general of the Constitutional Assembly, told me in October 2012 that new elections were to take place after the referendum for the new constitution in December. In February 2013, he expected that an announcement could be made at any time for new elections.
Elections however, were continuously delayed. President Mursi decided for a cabinet reshuffle and on May 7, 2013, Dr. Darrag became Minister of International Cooperation. Why were there no parliamentary elections? Who has been trying to delay or even block this? The FJP blamed the opposition for the delay. My Egyptian diplomat friend stated that it was the FJP that proposed “handicapped parliamentary election laws to the Constitutional Court in order to win time and keep postponing the elections.” Either way, public opinion of the Freedom and Justice Party diminished significantly.
President Mursi repeatedly made decisions that infuriated non-Islamist segments of the population. One of these was his decision to nominate new Muslim Brotherhood governors. The latest cause of anger was his defiant speech before June 30, in which he clearly indicated that his group is the true defender of Islam. Mursi hereby portrayed other Muslims as untrue Muslims.
Some Islamist sheikhs had preached against Shi’ites in Egypt, while others brutally slaughtered an Egyptian Shi’ite leader. President Mursi did not speak out against this atrocity. Instead of being a president for all Egyptians he contributed to dividing Egypt in two strongly opposing parties.
Following repeated clashes with Egypt’s judiciary his popularity went downhill. It would be wrong to only blame President Mursi, the Freedom and Justice Party and the Muslim Brotherhood for all things that went wrong. The opposition showed little intention to cooperate with the president and FJP, which has made it extremely difficult to govern Egypt.
On June 30 the demonstrations spread to 18 governorates. I wrote Minister Darrag who responded to me at 3.13 pm in the afternoon: “It will pass,” he wrote. “Egyptians will never let violence prevail.” It did not pass.
According to my diplomat friend, referring to Google statistics, between 33 and 35 million people demonstrated. The army, he argued, was thus forced to respond. They gave Mursi time to consider a quiet way out, and when he failed to do so, they appointed a civilian and not a military commander. The alternative would have been ongoing unrest and would have given “Mursi the chance to continue the Brotherhoodisation process, so that in every institution one would find them in control, to pass the laws that would serve their aim, that they would continue the process of revenge, to keep the Egyptian people under more artificial daily troubles like the car petrol problem (which is over now), bread trouble, electricity trouble…and they found out that Muslim Brothers were arranging for house gas problems too. Is this logical to wait for all that?”
On July 1, the Military gave President Mursi a 48-hour ultimatum to respond to the will of the people. It was clear this meant that the president was to call for new elections. In a televised speech President Mursi made it clear that he refused to do so. The consequence was the military ousting President Mursi and imposing an interim regime headed by Judge Adli Mahmoud Mansour (67), vice president of the Higher Constitutional Court, and nominated by President Mursi to be the president of this court starting July 1, two days before the army made him interim president.
There are no easy decisions. President Mursi’s response to the Supreme Court with his decree in November was not democratic, but the current military intervention is also far from democratic. There is thus no reason to rejoice.
I wrote several friends and told them that I did not rejoice. On July 4, at 3:31 am, Dr. Osama Farid, deputy chairman of the Egyptian Businessman Development Association (EBDA), responded, “we are all disappointed that the army with the intelligence agency and Ministry of Interior acted against democracy and the elected President. Islamists defending democracy and civil state, but liberals defunding the Military rule!! However, we shall work for Egypt and what is right.” At 8.30 am, Dr. Amr Darrag wrote me “we are back to the old ages; killing of demonstrators, arrests after midnight taking them to unknown places, closing of TV channels… The whole world must know.”
A large number of Muslim Brothers have been arrested, which indeed resembles the situation as it was during president Mubarak. In the time of Mubarak, there were large numbers of Muslim Brotherhood leaders in prison as well as young militant members suspected of committing terrorist attacks. People with strong ideological motivation who feel wronged, and who are physically able to fight, might indeed do so. The consequence is that Egypt may pay an even higher price than it already has.
My diplomat friend informed me “that no random arrests are taking place. The main reason for arresting many Brotherhood leaders was a court rule one month ago, which accused Mursi and 34 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood of high treason as it is proven that they conspired with Hamas and Hizbullah to attack jails and prisons to free their own leaders along with 22,000 criminals. They were also involved in the killings of many police officers. There are also some court rulings regarding irregularities like refusing the court rule of returning some figures to their posts, asking their followers to kill liberal Egyptians, forcing businessmen to sell their business at a low price, threatening, insulting, etc., etc.”
Since their clashes with the judiciary in November, the Freedom and Justice Party has continuously hammered on judges being ‘feloul’, linked to the old regime. For them, completing the revolution would mean cleaning out the judiciary; forcing judges to retire and nominating others. When General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, following the end of the 48-hour ultimatum, made his statement, he was flanked by head of the Azhar Shaykh Ahmed al-Tayeb and Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Some saw this as a symbol of national unity, but for Muslim Brothers al-Tayeb and Pope Tawadros were there to support the army’s decision. It is important to note that Shaykh Ahmed al-Tayeb, certainly a man one should respect for many things he has done, was very late in supporting the revolution against President Mubarak. In fact, he remained loyal to Mubarak until the end. Similarly, Pope Tawadros succeeded pope Shenouda III, who was equally supportive of President Mubarak until the end. Their decision to publicly support the army’s deposal of President Mursi pits Christians and the Azhar against Muslim Brothers.
Whatever one thinks of the Muslim Brothers, they do represent a substantial part of the population (albeit not the majority). An already deeply polarized Egyptian society does not need even more cracks between Muslim Brothers and Christians, the latter of who are much more vulnerable than the Azhar. Muslim Brothers witnessed a large majority of Christians voting for presidential candidate General Ahmed Shafiq during the 2012 presidential elections. Muslim Brothers have also seen that there was a large percentage of Christians among the demonstrators in front of the presidential palace. Additionally, Christians massively voted in favor of the Tamarod campaign demanding President Mursi’s resignation.
It is the good right of Christians to reject a Muslim Brotherhood president, but Pope Tawadros’s public support for the army’s decision needlessly risks pitting Christians against Muslim Brothers. The Pope’s decision was unwise. Was he ill advised? Did the army pressure him? The loose coalition of opposition parties in the National Salvation Front has been supporting the army’s decision as well. Demonstrators were carrying police officers in joy. How strangely that contrasts to the earlier widespread anger against the police and the army.
All these developments show a nation greatly divided. Muslim Brothers, Salafis, ‘feloul’ and liberals are all Egyptians and ways need to be sought to develop the country together. Now they are pitted against each other. Although Mursi’s policies contributed to this division, the army’s decision to oust Mursi deepened it. There are violent clashes between proponents and opponents of Mursi. People are dying. There is fear for civil war. It might not come to this, but there are militia groups who could create great havoc.
There is no doubt that Egyptian security, which has never supported President Mursi, and army intelligence, are well prepared and know where the violent groups are. Nevertheless, they may not know of those committing sporadic and individual acts of violence. I remain strongly opposed to any violence.Dialogue is needed more than ever, but is also more difficult than ever.
This article originally appeared at Arab West Report: A Weekly Digest of Transcriptions from the Egyptian Press.