Egypt on the Brink of the Abyss

Egypt may slide into civil conflict as tribal rhetoric and violent clashes heap up

Egyptian General and Deputy Prime Minister El-Sisi has called for anti-Morsi protests in support of the military and their fight against “terrorism”.

EGYPT Protests 7Interestingly, it’s the very same military that has brutally beaten up anti-Mubarak protesters in 2011 and it’s the same General El-Sisi who defended virginity tests on female activists. The military’s ‘call to the arms’ ended in large rival rallies and street fights on Friday night. The police killed more than 75 people and wounded 1.000, mostly Morsi supporters. In total, over 200 people have been killed since the military’s take-over on July, 3

Whether the military’s intervention was a coup or not – It certainly was an undemocratic transgression into civilian affairs as the Generals empowered one political faction and ousted another through mere muscle. It’s impossible to overlook the severe consequences for Egypt’s nation. Indeed, Egypt is on the brink of becoming a deeply divided and illiberal society as violent clashes and tribal rhetoric rise. Last week, the military and public figures have called for the imprisonment, deportation and killing of Syrian refugees and foreigners because they are suspected of being Morsi sympathizers.

The same protesters, who took to the streets to demand democracy in 2011, ended up cheering for a military junta that ousted a freely elected President, incarcerated political opponents, shutdown government-friendly TV stations and campaigned for a brutal backlash against refugees and foreigners. This paradox seems to arise from a trivial understanding of democracy as dictatorship of the masses. In fact, democracy isn’t the rule of the group that shouts loudest or hits hardest on the streets of Cairo. On the contrary: Democracy means that the elected government is entrusted with the responsibility to provide for the security and freedom of everyone, even political opponents.

Now, it’s a Hercules-worthy challenge for the interim government to re-establish law and order and respect for the process of elections since democracy is seen by many Egyptians as hollow rhetoric at best or as oppressive tool by Western forces at worst. And who could blame them? Many Western politicians and commentators have welcomed the military’s glib action and ignored the damage to Egypt’s young democratic institutions.

Some people claim that it was right to oust the government in an undemocratic fashion, because Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been illiberal themselves. While the latter may be true, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood been brought into office legitimately; there is no sign of fraud as in the Mubarak era. So it’s reasonable to ask: Where have the liberal protesters been on Election Day and how deep can their commitment to democracy be, if only 40% bothered to go to the ballot box? What’s more, the liberal protesters went into the fight against the military dictatorship, equipped with nothing but their values of freedom and democracy and values are only worth as much as one is willing to live up to them.

Egyptians may be rid of the Muslim Brotherhood for now. But the price for this is high as they’ve taken one step away from democracy and two steps towards the Syrian abyss.

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2 comments

  1. ibnyahyaabeckham · · Reply

    I think that Tolkien got it right
    “out of the frying pan and onto the fire”

  2. Jennifer · · Reply

    I watched a debate on the BBC’s ‘Hard Talk’ on the ‘military coup’ recently. The liberal activist was saying that Morsi had reneged on so many of his pre-election promises that he no longer had a mandate. I guess the same could be said of most Govts, including our own coalition (tuition fees anyone?). I’m not sure how much Morsi’s attempts to impose a stricter Islamic regime would have impacted lives on the ground but it was clear that there was enough opposition to bring him down and that speaks volumes.

    Difficult, I think, for any fledgling democracy to get it right immediately. Everyone is on a steep learning curve, including the electorate. Perhaps whoever is next ‘democratically elected’ will learn from Morsi’s mistakes, and not completely disregard his pre election manifesto pledges as soon as he’s in power and will serve a full term in office. We live in hope.

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