Return to Dictatorship in Egypt

Today Egypt returned to the previous 50 years of dictatorship with the declaration of the state of emergency by the military and the killing of dozens of protesters. The Egyptian army liberated Egypt from imperfect democratic rule and replaced it with dictatorship, reversing the gains of the 2011 revolution with the consent of the cheering Tahrir masses who welcomed the army takeover in July. So much for those who complained of the Islamofascism of the Muslim Brotherhood! What is the name of this fascism? What about unalloyed fascism?

The tragedies of July and August and the loss of life were all avoidable.

Still wishful thinking in Western political circles claim it is not a coup. Heard of an ostrich? Western governments expressed “regret” at the killing of non-violent protesters and called for “restraint.” Really? What restraint if there are no consequences for the military junta in Cairo with dollars and euros flowing into their already lush coffers.

Don’t expect any condemnation from the White House for the catastrophe in Egypt. A President and a White House that prefer extra judicial killings of people around the world via drone attacks can hardly be torchbearers for the rule of law and human rights!

Yes, the situation in Egypt is complex. The Muslim Brotherhood are no angels. They have to take their share of blame for the tragic state of affairs. But undermining the democratic process created an alternative that is infinitely worse.

It might be apt to take a leaf from the pages of history.

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

It does not require rocket science to configure what will happen in Egypt in months and years to come, following Niemöller’s reasoning. Based on Egypt’s record of dictatorship and authoritarianism one can anticipate a scenario, heaven forbid, that goes like this.

“Today they came for the Muslim Brotherhood, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, for they were not from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Then they came for the liberals, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, because they were not liberals.
Then they came for the democrats, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, because they were not democrats.
Then they came for the workers, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, because they were not the workers.
Then they came for the people, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, because they were not the people.
Then they came for the right thinking people of Egypt, and there was no one left to speak for what is “right,” for “thinking,” and for the “people.”

Darkness descends on Egypt!

Seeing their folly of at first blessing the military junta, Egypt’s religious leaders, Shaykh al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb and Coptic Pope Tawadros II are only now condemning the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Seeing the writing on the wall honorable sirs? One way of showing remorse is for these religious leaders to ask General Abdelfattah el-Sisi to step down and be held accountable for his deeds. Then they should each resign for their massive errors of judgment that have irreparably harmed Egypt.

Morsi blundered horribly, if not criminally. But the coup by the military junta has created a worse situation. More distressing is, of course, the failure of Egyptian intellectuals, the majority of whom have swung in favor of the military junta, following the logic of being “Sultan’s Jurists” –Fuqaha al-Sultan. Long live the courageous intellectuals who have offered balanced criticism and not succumbing to beguiling rhetoric and flawed logic.

About ebrahimmoosa

Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
This entry was posted in Africa, Foreign Policy, Islam & Democracy, Middle East, middle east, Muslim Ethics, US Politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Return to Dictatorship in Egypt

  1. Sohaib says:

    Thank you Dr. Moosa. Blunt and daring!


  2. jonolan says:

    If it removes the Muslim Brotherhood and as many of their supporters as can be rounded up and exterminated, it’s a good and worthy thing and something that all good people would favor. The only ones that would oppose it are the other Islamists who need to be exterminated as well…in Egypt, in the US, in any land or territory of the planet.


    • ebrahimmoosa says:

      Really? I approved the publication of the comment of x but I doubt the Egyptian people will not see through the ruse. The same people who saw Mubarak’s back will hopefully also see Gen Sisi’s back. The question is how long will it take?


      • jonolan says:

        Given that Egypt was stable under Mubarak and will likely return to stability under whoever the military appoints to govern the nation, I really don’t think there’ll be much of a problem.

        The only ruse ever perpetrated was done by the protestors during the Arab Spring and the did it to themselves since no change of leadership was ever going to solve their underlying issues which were economic in nature.

        Democracy is not a suitable form of government for all peoples and Egyptians certainly aren’t ready for it yet. They may never be and that’s not an insult to them since democracy is only one of many forms of government and I can’t really see where one form is better than another objectively.


      • ebrahimmoosa says:

        Really? You are on your own on this one!!


    • melmakko says:

      Where the government decides who “all good people” are, then justifies its actions by saying that it is supported “by all good people.” Why is this logic so familiar? If the government decided that you were an Islamist, how would you defend yourself?


  3. Usman says:

    Although I agree with the main thrust of your piece, I must say, I have become disillusioned by all the disclaimers about Morsi and the Brotherhood, that go something like this: “The Muslim Brotherhood are no angels. They have to take their share of blame for the tragic state of affairs”. I am still unsure of Morsi’s wrongdoings. Why can’t we stand with the oppressed (and historically oppressed Brotherhood) and stand against the current regime, without any ‘disclaimers’.


    • ebrahimmoosa says:

      It takes two to tango and Morsi went for a power grab instead of ruling Egypt. Even a passionate commentator like myself must be fair.


      • fugstar says:

        i think also, the us who aspire higher than secular liberalism need to reflect on out real problems doing politics in the real world. im with you both but im not a public figure with a right to audience.


  4. Samil Ocal says:

    But isint it mursi WHO appointed the sisi to share power ?


    • ebrahimmoosa says:

      Yes and it turned out to be a monumental error. Not to share power but to lead army and replace Gen Tantawi. Sissi is an unbearded closet salafi and Morsi miscalculated. He should have fired him on June 30. If the Egyptian people get their act together the day is not far when the likes of Sissi will be tried for treason.


  5. In my article on “post-Morsi Egypt” posted on the RIMA website, I thought perhaps the only way the Islamist MB, Morsi, and their cohorts could effectively be upstaged from the Egyptian political scene, was for the army to get involved, since it is seemingly the only entity that could have pulled it off.

    However, looking at the army’s lack of insight into liberal politics, by denying any entity the right to protest – provided it is done peacefully, and there are big question marks whether the MB backed pro-Morsi protests were indeed peaceful – the army is demonstrating that it is unable to pave the way towards a truly democratic future for Egypt. I read el-Beredei’s resignation in this light.

    All forms of violence need to be condemned, regardless of whichever quarter it emanates from, and upon whomever it is perpetuated.

    All formations: the army, the old-remnants of the Mubarak era power elites, the liberal secularists, and especially the MB (in the current context), need to respect human rights, and practice non-violence.


  6. Anand says:

    Very insightful piece Dr. Moosa! I enjoyed reading it.

    I’m curious about your take on the anti-Americanism that seems to be festering in Egypt across all ends of the political spectrum. The Brotherhood is understandably angry at the United States for not intervening to prevent the coup. Liberals fault the United States for “using” Morsi as a puppet throughout his first year in office and even claim that it rigged the election to place Morsi in power. Now that the army is cracking down on the protestors, the Muslim Brotherhood condemns the United States for not intervening. Others consider US attempts to spare the Brotherhood as active support of “terrorists.”

    It seems the United States is damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    You rightly cast blame on Egyptian intellectuals, religious leaders, and even Morsi for the situation that is unfolding in Egypt. Likewise, I agree that the United States deserves to be soundly criticized for not condemning the violence. However, shouldn’t the Egyptian “people”–if I may overgeneralize for a second–take the lion’s share of the blame for the way things have turned out?

    I mean, Egyptians elected Morsi in the first place. When things turned south, Egyptians deliberately undertook a course of action that threatened the democratic system. The Tamarrod movement often boasted that 30 million Egyptians took to the streets and later cheered when Morsi fell. I too went to a protest in Tahrir on the eve of June 30th. I now feel terrible for doing so. Shouldn’t the Egyptians who gathered there take some responsibility for both their naiveté and the ongoing bloodshed?

    From my vantage point it seems that all of the relevant parties that produced this outcome–the media, the Brotherhood, the army, the liberals, and even ordinary men and women–share one thing in common: they are all Egyptians. It frustrates me that very few Egyptian commentators are willing to acknowledge this and instead reflexively point to Israel and the United States as the ultimate source of their woes. The United States has had a troubled history with the Egyptian people and has done a lot wrong over the years. However, in this case, I think the proper sentiment that needs to emerge in Egypt is a squarely “anti-Egyptian” one. Egyptians must recognize that they collectively failed and squandered their promising attempt at democracy. If not, I fear that darkness will not just descned upon Egypt, but devour it altogether.


    • ebrahimmoosa says:

      Dear Anand,

      Thanks for your comments and clear rational thinking. I admire the people who understand what’s going on in Egypt. I would need therapeutic brain surgery before I dare to analyze further.

      It is common to scapegoat somebody the USA, the Brotherhood or conspiracy theories abound. The bottom line is that if you don’t respect process, then everything goes haywire. My Egyptian friends now say they had to abandon “formal” democracy for genuine democracy. I tell them you got a bloodbath and a military dictatorship but few can do the math. Check my Facebook page for a good article in the New York Times and look at my oped in the Washington Post last weekend.


  7. Pingback: Duke Prof's Recipe for Restoring Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood - Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS), Campus News & Climate - SPME Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

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