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Recommended: Why the Anti-Mursi Protesters are Right

1:49 pm in Uncategorized by szielinski

Mohamed Morsi Isa El-Ayyat

In a recent article author Ahmad Shokr persuasively argued that the noisy opponents of the Morsi dictatorship are right to contest his elected government, his dictatorship and the constitution he and his allies wish to impose on Egypt. Shokr develops his critique by rejecting three common claims made by defenders of and reporters on the Morsi coup d’état. They are:

  • “The rival camps in Egypt embody a divide between Islamism and secularism.”
  • “Islamists are authentic representatives of the majority of Egyptians.”
  • “Mursi has made great strides toward civilian democracy and his downfall would mean a return to military rule.”

The first two claims are internally related. Shokr considers false the claim that most of Morsi’s opponents are secularists bent on thwarting the creation of an Egyptian state which legally expresses Islamic Law (or shari‘a). Morsi’s opponents are, according to Shokr, opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, not political Islam as such. The differences between the sides are political, not religious. (Parenthetically, it cannot be stated as a matter of settled fact that political Islam is a kind of anti-democracy or that Islamists necessarily oppose democracy and liberalism. This belief is rapidly becoming a self-serving canard for Islam-haters, and should be rejected as a reality obscuring prejudgment). In other words, the conflict roiling Egypt is not confessional in nature; Morsi’s opponents are, in fact, Muslims.

It follows from the above that the Muslim Brotherhood is not the authentic representative of the majority of Egyptians. Its politics does not exhaust the possible forms political Islam could have in Egypt. It has never won an election with a supermajority.

That said, the origin of the current crisis ought to be obvious:

By granting himself sweeping powers and rushing to call for a December 15 referendum on the new constitution, Mursi has given Egyptians a stark choice between being ruled by an unrepresentative constitution or by a dictator. Many have refused this kind of political blackmail. Leading opposition figures, many of who were dissidents under Mubarak, have called on Mursi to revoke the decree and open the constitution drafting process to broader input. Egyptian human rights groups have almost unanimously echoed these demands. Tens of thousands who joined the protests that brought down Mubarak are back on the streets. Their fight is not for an ill-defined secularism so much as it is for political inclusion and democracy.

As Shokr points out later on, Egypt is diversely composed, and many components therein have refused to accept the dilemma Morsi wants to impose on them: Dictatorship or constitutional imposition. Egypt’s constitution ought to reflect the existence of this diversity if it wishes to avoid generating illegitimate government and another revolutionary spring.

Finally, it cannot be said that Morsi’s actions were meant to secure Egyptian democracy against a military apparatus wishing to directly rule the country. Nor can it be said that the Morsi government gained an electoral mandate to impose its will on the country. What can be said, according to Shokr’s analysis, is that the Muslim Brotherhood has already collaborated with the military to secure the military’s prerogatives under the constitution and to protect the military by providing a political buffer zone between the military and Egyptian civil society. To put the matter in different terms, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi government have collaborated with institutions which pose intrinsic threats to Egyptian democracy and the rule of law.

The stakes are high, and can be encapsulated in this predicament: Will Egypt complete the transition from Mubarak’s authoritarian regime to a consolidated democracy or will it eventually — soon — produce another authoritarian regime, this one dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, its allies and the military?

As of this moment, Egypt’s military has already suggested that “disastrous consequences” (read: martial law) may result if the conflict continues. To be sure, this tacit threat benefits Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

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Birth of dictator

12:53 pm in Uncategorized by szielinski

It has been widely reported that Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president of Egypt and a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has claimed new and extensive powers, doing so, it has been stated, in response to impasse of Egypt’s Second Constituent Assembly and to persistent street violence. An English language version of Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration can be found here. His subsequent explanation for his deed: “He told… [his followers] he was leading Egypt on a path to ‘freedom and democracy’ and was the guardian of stability.” We should interpret his actions while remembering that coups affirm neither democracy nor stability. They do, however, affirm the coercive power of the state.

Morsi’s auto-golpe will replace the rule of law with rule by decree and, to be sure, Egypt’s transition to democratic governance with a putatively limited dictatorship. Obviously, secularists and those groups who wish for or need social and political pluralism fear the instauration of a constituent dictatorship serving the interests of Egypt’s Islamists or the sectarian interests of the Freedom and Justice Party. Some have already taken their opposition to Morsi’s recent coup to the street. We should recall here that Egypt’s revolution originated in a divided society and that Morsi gained the Presidency with a thin victory margin in a runoff election. He has, at best, only weak popular support, although we might suspect that the recently purged Egyptian Armed Forces affirmed the November 22 coup. So far, the United States has only faintly criticized the coup.

Situations like this can end badly, as recent history has so often demonstrated.

Egyptians oppose their new dictator

 

The United States as it looks to a German writer

11:15 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

Writing for Der Spiegel, Jakob Augstein paints a dismal but accurate picture of the United States today:

The word “West” used to have a meaning. It described common goals and values, the dignity of democracy and justice over tyranny and despotism. Now it seems to be a thing of the past. There is no longer a West, and those who would like to use the word — along with Europe and the United States in the same sentence — should just hold their breath. By any definition, America is no longer a Western nation.

How so?

The US is a country where the system of government has fallen firmly into the hands of the elite. An unruly and aggressive militarism set in motion two costly wars in the past 10 years. Society is not only divided socially and politically — in its ideological blindness the nation is moving even farther away from the core of democracy. It is losing its ability to compromise.

America has changed. It has drifted away from the West.

America’s national disintegration sits aside the disintegration of the west.

The country’s social disintegration is breathtaking. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz recently described the phenomenon. The richest 1 percent of Americans claim one-quarter of the country’s total income for themselves — 25 years ago that figure was 12 percent. It also possesses 40 percent of total wealth, up from 33 percent 25 years ago. Stiglitz claims that in many countries in the so-called Third World, the income gap between the poor and rich has been reduced. In the United States, it has grown.

Economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, has written that America’s path is leading it down the road to “banana-republic status.” The social cynicism and societal indifference once associated primarily with the Third World has now become an American hallmark. This accelerates social decay because the greater the disparity grows, the less likely the rich will be willing to contribute to the common good. When a company like Apple, which with €76 billion in the bank has greater reserves at its disposal than the government in Washington, a European can only shake his head over the Republican resistance to tax increases. We see it as self-destructive.

Political disintegration sits aside social disintegration.

The same applies to America’s broken political culture. The name “United States” seems increasingly less appropriate. Something has become routine in American political culture that has been absent in Germany since Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik policies of rapprochement with East Germany and the Soviet Bloc (in the 1960s and ‘70s): hate. At the same time, reason has been replaced by delusion. The notion of tax cuts has taken on a cult-like status, and the limited role of the state a leading ideology. In this new American civil war, respect for the country’s highest office was sacrificed long ago. The fexact that Barack Obama is the country’s first African-American president may have played a role there, too.

Augstein concludes his article with a call for Germans and Europeans to avoid America’s fate, a sentiment that would shock many Americans were they to know of it but which is all too appropriate given the circumstances of the day. America, we need to remind ourselves, is now a low-growth, high-unemployment economy. Its economic and political elite prey on the “lesser people,” and the lessers have nary a jot of political clout within America’s rigid and unresponsive polity. This powerlessness exist by design. Indeed, the Constitution was written to secure this outcome. Moreover, every level of government in the United States today is committed to participating in a security-surveillance system that is utterly lacking in external and internal military threats. This system exists as a tool to be used by the government for political and social control. Because of these facts, that is, because of America’s elitism, militarism, economic decline, etc., one may rightly fear the direction in which the United States now travels. I would not find it surprising if the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” were to end with the creation of a novel form of authoritarian government. I believe this kind of government is the telos present within current political and economic trends. The many will be economically, socially and politically disenfranchised.

It is ironic that the “greater people” in the United States may have learned one lesson from the support they long gave to dictators like the Samozas, Pinochet and Shah, namely, they learned that they do not need the support of their subjects. The irony, I believe, issues from the fact that so many of these dictators were ruined by their unruly subjects. They just would not tolerate tyranny forever.