Friday, July 5, 2013

Egypt: Now What?

by Robert Spencer

Egyptian protesters 

Few analysts expected that the demonstrations in Egypt over the past few days would result in such a swift toppling of Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood regime, and no one can be sure of what is going to happen next in Egypt, but there are some things we do know:

First is that the forces standing for equality of rights for all and a free society in Egypt are overjoyed at what happened Wednesday. Secularists and Coptic Christians are celebrating, and insisting to a Western press that has been as indefatigably pro-Muslim Brotherhood as Barack Obama that this is not a military coup, but a revolution, a true people’s revolution as the “Arab Spring” that toppled Mubarak was supposed to be.

For this group, Egyptian Army Chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi sounded all the right notes as he announced the removal of Morsi and the suspension of the Sharia constitution that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues had forced upon the Egyptian people. “We’ll build an Egyptian society,” Al-Sisi declared, “that is strong and stable, that will not exclude anyone.” Morsi, of course, had insisted that the Egyptian society he had in mind wouldn’t exclude anyone, either, but the nation’s Christians and Western-oriented women knew that their inclusion would be ensured only if they knew their place. They hope that Al-Sisi’s statement represents a genuine affirmation of a society that will not impose Islamic law and will guarantee equality of rights for all.

What’s more, Egypt’s new rulers moved swiftly late Wednesday night to shut down three Islamic supremacist TV channels, including one run by the Muslim Brotherhood, and also raided Al Jazeera’s Egyptian offices – clear indications that they want to set Egypt on a course away from Sharia and Islamic absolutism.

I’m a free speech advocate. I don’t believe people whose views one dislikes should be shut down. That’s the road to tyranny. That’s the weapon of the desperately insecure and authoritarian Left. These Islamic supremacist channels should have been allowed to operate, as long as they weren’t the only voices speaking to Egyptians. Still, this is a good indication of the current leadership’s determination not to allow Sharia in Egypt.

Also ecstatic at Wednesday’s events, however, are the Salafists and other Islamic supremacist factions that despised Morsi for not imposing Islamic law quickly enough. Some protesters over the last few days even superimposed an image of Morsi over a Star of David, much as the “Arab Spring” demonstrators defaced posters of Mubarak by drawing Stars of David on his forehead. The implication in both instances is that the protesters despised the rulers for being pawns of the hated Israelis, and specifically for not abrogating the Camp David Accords and going to war with Israel.

Especially now with its economy in tatters, Egypt has good reason not to go to war with Israel, for doing so would likely jeopardize the billions it receives in aid from the United States – even in this age of Obama. Morsi, as pragmatic as the Muslim Brotherhood has been for ages, and as willing as his organization has always been to work toward final victory in stages, showed little signs of risking that aid. But this pragmatism enraged Islamic supremacists, who castigated Morsi for his gradualism (tadarruj), a concept that Sharia hardliners frown upon.

Ironically, however, now that Morsi is gone (at least for now), that U.S. aid could be at risk anyway. Barack Obama issued a stern statement Wednesday, directing U.S. government agencies to “review” the aid they’re giving to Egypt:
The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
Obama made no similar statement when Hosni Mubarak was toppled. The Muslim Brotherhood could well use this statement as a knife to the throat of Egypt, demanding that they be restored to power as the only means to ensure that the American aid keeps flowing and that Egypt’s economy doesn’t collapse utterly.

And to be sure, the Brotherhood is still around, and still enjoys broad popular support, despite the black eye that Morsi’s disastrous regime has given it. The developments in Egypt Wednesday are surprising and welcome, but they do not presage a new birth of freedom in Egypt, any more than did the toppling of Mubarak and the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Nonetheless, it is hard not to take some joy in events that have Obama, whose support for the Muslim Brotherhood has been consistent and unstinting since he invited its leaders to attend his June 2009 speech in Cairo, “concerned,” and have Muslim Brotherhood groups in the U.S. such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issuing confused and angry statements questioning the protesters’ motives and reminding the world that Morsi was democratically elected.

Whether the demonstrators in Egypt who brought down Morsi can ultimately defeat the pro-Sharia forces in Egypt and establish a truly free society, and whether enough of them even really want to, remains to be seen. But if Obama and CAIR see them as foes, they can’t be all bad.

Robert Spencer


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