Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Egypt Erupting

Reuters/Suhaib Salem, Protestors hold Egyptian flag, 2 July 2013
"In one camp are the president and his Islamist allies, including the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line groups. They say street demonstrations cannot be allowed to remove a leader who won a legitimate election, and they accuse Mubarak loyalists of being behind the campaign in a bid to return to power. They have argued that for the past year remnants of the old regime have been sabotaging Morsi's attempts to deal with the nation's woes and bring reforms.
Hard-liners among them have also given the confrontation a sharply religious tone, denouncing Morsi's opponents as "enemies of God" and infidels.
On the other side is an array of secular and liberal Egyptians, moderate Muslims, Christians — and what the opposition says is a broad sector of the general public that has turned against the Islamists. They say the Islamists have negated their election mandate by trying to monopolize power, infusing government with their supporters, forcing through a constitution they largely wrote and giving religious extremists a free hand, all while failing to manage the country."  AP story on Yahoo, July 1, 2013

I'm stepping into another minefield here, but it's sad to see Egypt go from Arab Spring to Arab Winter, from hope to hopelessness, in this protest by millions of people against Islamist president Muhammed Mursi. The numbers alone are staggering, proof of the depth of the discontent.

This is how I see it now, not as any expert, but as a concerned citizen and lover of Egypt and its culture.  Mursi, of the Muslim Botherhood, won the presidency a year ago with a narrow 51% margin. It was the first free election in Egypt in decades. People cheered, but they were also cautious. I remember the interviews and stories at the time. Fear lurked just beneath the surface of the celebrations.

Why?  Because Mursi had one major agenda item: first and above all else build a secular multi-religious and multi-ethnic coalition government representative of Egypt's diversity.  Mursi himself recognized this, said so, and made promises to the people.

But Mursi not only failed to do this, he's done the opposite: consolidated Islamist rule. It's what everyone feared. In so doing, he lost the trust of the majority of Egyptians, and also that of the secular-leaning army, which continues to have enormous power.  The trust issue remains paramount.  "Egypt does not want a religious state," the army generals have said. It looks like they mean to enforce that position.

On top of Mursi's huge failure in governance, his broken promises, the Egyptian economy has gone downhill:  the value of its currency is sliding; wages remain at $2 a day when one can get work; prices for basic necessities, like bread and fuel, have gone up; access to communication, transportation, and electricity have nosedived; the misery index has skyrocketed.

But the real "tipping point"?  Mursi's open support of Syrian tyrant Assad at a recent rally, and his calls for jihad, a holy war.  (Reuters article on yahoo by Yasmine Saleh and Tom Perry, "Mursi Role at Syria rally is tipping point for Egyptian Army," June 2, 2013).

The army has kept the balance of power between hard-line Islamists and the majority of Egyptians, who long for a secular democracy with religious tolerance and separation of church and state. The army understands the will of the people.  It is more in tune with the protestors' unrest, distrust and demands than with Mursi, and it has made this known. Ongoing tyrany leads to ongoing unrest. The army may be, therefore, the only force for maintaining peace and establishing the secular state most Egyptians want.

This is how I see the situation in Egypt now.  Anything could happen.  Anything can change.   Hope springs eternal.
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