Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Baradei and the secular opposition need to make common cause with Morsi's supporters before they become the military's next targets themselves

El Baradei and much of the secular opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi in Egypt either don’t understand the meaning of democracy or else don’t believe in it. El Baradei rejected every offer of negotiations and compromise with Morsi, the elected President, blocking talks when other opposition leaders and groups like liberal Ayman Nour agreed to them. The demands of the opposition were ludicrous; including that Morsi, the elected President, resign before negotiations even begin (1) – (2).

Democracy doesn’t mean one faction getting everything their own way. In a democracy that’s impossible. It’s the opposite of democracy. Real democracy is a compromise between every single person in a country in which each has an equal say in the negotiated compromise reached.

By refusing any compromise or negotiations; and by welcoming a military coup that placed Mubarak’s people and the military back in power, El Baradei and much of the secular opposition have also made themselves powerless dupes (3).

There is only one way for them to redeem themselves and restore a chance of preventing a counter-revolution in which General Sisi will be the new Mubarak in all but name; they need to call for the military to release the elected President and the hundreds of other members of the Brotherhood arrested since the coup and then begin immediate negotiations with them.

When both Morsi protesters and their opponents were killing each other in ones and twos at a time El Baradei was claiming that Morsi had given up any right to remain in power.

Now the army and their hired thugs with swords and knives have killed hundreds of protesters against the military coup, the vast majority of whom were peaceful and unarmed.

They are likely the same thugs working for Mubarak’s people and the military who attacked anti-government protesters under Morsi . The opposition believed what they wanted to believe and have been taken for fools by the dictatorship and the military (4).

The military has introduced censorship, closing down every Muslim party’s media outlets as well as Al Jazeera Egypt and arresting their staff. This allows state TV to prevent Egyptians seeing that the protests against the coup are just as big as the pro-military and pro-coup protests (5).

 They’ve even taken cameras from CNN reporters to prevent them filming. If there’s nothing to hide why would they do this?

They’ve used live ammunition to massacre protesters twice – and showed their continued dishonesty by claiming they hadn’t (6) – (7).

Yet somehow this is all supposed to be acceptable because the elected President who was overthrown came from a Muslim party and the protesters are mostly from religious Muslim parties.

Everything is supposedly forgivable because those doing it are secular. Mubarak was secular. The military are secular and have killed, tortured, sexually abused and raped more protesters than any other group in Egypt. Stalin was secular. Pinochet was secular. Saddam was secular. Assad is secular. Hitler was secular.

I’m an agnostic and would never, ever vote for a religious party, but many Egyptians voted for Morsi and Muslim parties and their votes should count. Being secular does not make you automatically right and being religious does not make you automatically wrong.

Some point out that many voters in the Presidential elections in Egypt were voting against Shafiq, Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, rather than for Morsi. That’s true, but unexceptional. In pretty much every democracy with a first-past-the-post system a large proportion of voters are voting against the other party or candidate as much or more than for the person or party they vote for.

This winner-takes-all version of democracy is far from ideal in my opinion and not full democracy, which should involve every vote counting equally, for instance by a multi-member executive to give everyone equal say.

However it does not make a military coup, the jailing of the elected President and the massacre of protesters against this coup legitimate.

Protesters in Egypt who claim it wasn’t a coup are frankly full of shit. They are basically saying democracy is them getting their own way, by whatever method. They’re also fooling themselves if they believe they have any real power now.

The military and Mansour (Mubarak’s man) and the Chief Prosecutor (ditto) and General Sissi have the real power as long as they can play the secular opposition to the military and Mubarak off against the Muslim parties’ opposition.

Mansour (the interim President) has given the Prime Minister the power to call a state of emergency and the secret police units disbanded after the revolution are back (8). General Sissi, who lead the coup, has made himself not only Commander In Chief of the armed forces, a position only held by elected heads of government in a democracy, but also Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (9).

So if the Prime Minister refuses to call a state of emergency, Sissi just gets Mansour to sack him – and Sissi, as Deputy Prime Minister, becomes Prime Minister and calls a state of emergency.

I hate the current Conservative government in the UK and didn’t vote for them. I’m completely against most of what they’re doing and so is most of the country. I was equally opposed to about 60 or 70% of the last Labour government’s more right wing policies. I don’t believe elections should be a blank cheque that let governments do whatever they want till the next election comes either. Does that mean a military coup and massacring those parties’ supporters would make it all better?

Only an idiot would think so. The same is true in Egypt. Negotiations, power sharing and referenda on major issues are the way to real democracy – not backing military coups and massacres by the old guard of the dictatorship.

Those who claim that Islam and democracy are incompatible are wrong, because there are multiple interpretations of Islam, many of them progressive enough to be entirely reconcilable with democracy.
For instance El Tayeb, the head of the Islamic University in Cairo, which was given the power to rule on the meaning of sharia and Islam by the constitution passed by referendum under Morsi,
is a moderate who has said women should not wear hijabs or head coverings as there’s nothing in the Quran about them (10) – (11).

Tayeb has also condemned the killing of Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-coup protesters by the army.

Not only are those saying Islam and democracy are irreconcilable wrong though, they are helping out Al Qa’ida and similar extreme Jihadist groups who also condemn any involvement in elections and democratic politics as un-Islamic (12).

Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the head of Al Qa’ida has claimed that elections “did not follow Sharia” (i.e Al Qa’ida’s extreme version of Islamic Sharia law) (13).

True, in the month or so before the coup Morsi did begin to appoint and ally with some extreme Sunni Islamist groups and clerics. This was foolish but likely an act of desperation after over a year of trying to get the opposition to agree to negotiate had failed and when these groups seemed like his only allies against a military coup.

The opposition to Morsi claim that if Morsi had been allowed to remain in office Egypt would no longer have been a democracy. Obama’s opponents in the US make the same claims about him with as little evidence.

If this coup is allowed to stand and the current line among the media and governments that the Muslim Brotherhood must “be reasonable” and “make concessions” which are to include accepting the overthrow of the first democratically elected President in Egyptian history, the jailing of members of his party and the massacre of peaceful protesters, then it makes Al Qa’ida’s propaganda about how we don’t really mean it when we say we support democracy, about how secularism is corrupt and hypocritical, about how Islam and democracy are irreconcilable seem true.

Then there will be a lot more radicalisation of Muslims in Egypt and worldwide, more terrorist attacks like the one that killed the police recruits and civilians recently. General Sisi and the Egyptian military like to pretend the coup and the killing of protesters is a response to this terrorism. In fact they’re the cause of it (14).

It’s just like Tony Blair and George Bush’s ludicrous nonsense about how it was necessary to invade Iraq to stop Al Qa’ida, who weren’t even in the country until after the invasion.

Compulsive liars, dishonest rulers and those who can’t tell the difference between reality and what they want to believe will all try to pretend that the relationship of cause and effect can just be reversed wherever they feel like it. As the White Stripes pointed out, they can’t.

El Baradei and the rest of Morsi’s opponents need to wake up, see their own faults and stupidities which are as severe as any of those of Morsi or the Brotherhood. They need to call for his release and sit down to negotiate before the revolution is over and Sisi place as a new version of Mubarak, this time the puppet master controlling the President rather than the President himself, is so firmly entrenched in power he can turn his guns on the secular opposition, having crushed the Muslim opposition.

The US government meanwhile can shut up about how it promotes democracy and human rights as long as it keeps funding the coup regime and refuses to even call the coup a coup.

(1) = AP / Independent 11 Dec 2012 ‘Masked gunmen attack opposition protesters as crowds gather for rallies in Egypt’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/masked-gunmen-attack-opposition-protesters-as-crowds-gather-for-rallies-in-egypt-8405979.html , 12th paragraph, ‘Cracks in the opposition's unity first appeared last weekend when one of its leading figures, veteran opposition politician Ayman Nour, accepted an invitation by Morsi to attend a "national dialogue" meeting. On Monday, another key opposition figure, El-Sayed Badawi of the Wafd party, met Morsi at the presidential palace.’

(2) = LA Times 08 Dec 2012 ‘Egypt protesters demand that Mohamed Morsi step down’, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/08/world/la-fg-egypt-rallies-20121208

(3) = CNN 08 Jul 2013 ‘ElBaradei: Morsy's ouster was needed so Egypt cannot 'fail'’, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/04/world/meast/egypt-elbaradei

(4) = LA Times 28 Jan 2013 ‘Egypt protests continue; opposition rejects talks with Morsi’, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/28/world/la-fg-wn-egypt-protests-opposition-rejects-talks-morsi-20130128

(5) = Al Jazeera 04 Jul 2013 ‘Egypt's military shuts down news channels’, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/07/2013740531685326.html

(6) = Guardian 18 Jul 2013 ‘At the second kneel of the prayers, the attack began’,

(7) = NYT 27 Ju 2013 ‘Hundreds Shot in Cairo Attack on Morsi Rally’, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/world/middleeast/egypt.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

(8) = Guardian 29 Jul 2013 ‘Egypt restores feared secret police units’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/29/egypt-restores-secret-police-units ; 5th paragraph ; ‘Ibrahim's announcement came hours before Egypt's interim prime minister was given the power to place the country in a state of emergency – a hallmark of Egypt under Mubarak.

(9) = Independent 24 Jul 2013 ‘Showdown in Cairo: Egyptian general demands permission to take on the ‘terrorists’’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/showdown-in-cairo-egyptian-general-demands-permission-to-take-on-the-terrorists-8729903.html

(10) = The National Review 06 Jul 2013 ‘Elections Are Not Democracy’, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/352778/elections-are-not-democracy-andrew-c-mccarthy

(11) = The National (UAE) 21 Mar 2010 ‘Mubarak appoints a new chief of Al Azhar’, http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/africa/mubarak-appoints-a-new-chief-of-al-azhar#page1

(12) = CRS Report for Congress May 2005 ‘Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology’, http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RL32759.pdf ; see pages 10 to 11

(13) = Egypt Independent 29 Jul 2013 ‘’, http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/07/06/al-zawahiri-calls-for-victims-and-sacrifices/

(14) = guardian.co.uk 24 Jul 2013 ‘Egyptian general calls for millions to protest against 'terrorism'’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/24/egypt-general-sisi-protest-terrorism

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