AS EGYPT SUCCESSFULLY FIGHTS ISLAMISTS, MOROCCANS PROTEST AGAINST CORRUPTION

Five Years After the Revolution: Is Egyptian President El-Sisi Winning the Battle?: Zvi Mazel, JNS, July 15, 2018 —Recent weeks have brought welcome news to Egypt.

Egypt’s Islamist Televangelists Lose Clout: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, July 9, 2018— They once captured the hearts and minds of millions of Egyptians, but Islamist televangelists are losing popularity.

The Moroccan Boycotts: A New Model for Protest?: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, June 22, 2018— In Jordan recently, fury at tax hikes followed the classic pattern of sustained public protest.

How Qatar’s Jewish Strategy Backfired: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2018— Six months ago, in January 2018, the world looked hopeful for Qatar.

On Topic Links

4 Years On, Egypt’s President Urges Patience Over Reforms: National Post, June 30, 2018

Egypt Tries To Reconcile ‘Coptic’ Churches To Non-Existence: Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Forum, June 16, 2018

Coal’s Coming Renaissance in the Middle East: Dmitriy Frolovskiy, Real Clear World, July 02, 2018

Many Egyptian Christians Feel Left Out of World Cup: Hamza Hendawi, National Post, June 22, 2018

 

FIVE YEARS AFTER THE REVOLUTION:

IS EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT EL-SISI WINNING THE BATTLE?

Zvi Mazel

JNS, July 15, 2018

Recent weeks have brought welcome news to Egypt. The fight against Islamic terror appears to be going well, and social and economic reforms are beginning to get results, though the president’s high-handed rule has drawn critics. In a televised speech on June 30 to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2013 events that led to the downfall of the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi stated that it had been the “right revolution,” as opposed to the January-February 2011 demonstrations that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak as part of the so-called Arab Spring.

Those demonstrations endangered political stability and personal safety, and led to the rise of terrorism and the collapse of the economy, he said, but he was successfully working at correcting those ills with the help of the security forces and the support of the people. The president claims he saved his country from the establishment of an Islamic dictatorship and restored stability, but it came at a steep price. Hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed during violent protests. Nevertheless, he never lost sight of his goal of developing the economy and did not hesitate to tackle painful but necessary reforms.

Islamic terror in the Sinai Peninsula is still the main stumbling block after four years of fierce fighting against militants of the “Sinai district of the Islamic State.” Last February, the president launched Operation “Sinai 2018” to eradicate the organization and sent reinforcements to the detachments of his second and third army already there. Hundreds of terrorists were killed, communication and command posts destroyed, caches of explosives discovered, and hundreds of vehicles and motorcycles seized. This led to a drastic drop in terror activities, but did not eradicate the Islamic State.

El-Sisi cannot afford to dial down his troops whose continuous presence in the peninsula is a severe drain on the defense budget while preventing a return to normal life in the area. A five kilometer wide buffer zone has been established along the border to isolate Sinai from the Gaza Strip, and hundreds of families had to leave. A night curfew is in force in parts of northern Sinai, hampering the delivery of necessary goods and medicine to civilians. Schools and institutes of higher education were shut down to prevent terror attacks. Still, there has been a shift in the attitude of the mostly Bedouin population, traditionally suspicious of the central government, who are now joining the fight against jihadi militants following the deadly attack on the Rawda mosque last November that killed 311 men and women at prayer. Bedouin tribes are now cooperating with the army. Early this month, two high-ranking leaders of the Sinai district surrendered after a lengthy battle in the town of Rafah. This was apparently brokered by the Union of Sinai Tribes, which had called on the jihadis to surrender following their failures. Some of the strict security measures are now being lifted and some normalcy is returning to the region.

The Muslim Brotherhood remains a low-level threat. Five years after their ouster from power and the violent repression of their demonstrations, Muslim Brothers still refuse to accept their defeat and demand the release of ousted president Mohammed Morsi as a precondition to talks with the new regime. The events of 2011 propelled them to power after 80 long years during which they had twice been outlawed, their leaders executed, and their militants arrested by the thousands. In 2012, their first political party Freedom and Justice won the parliamentary elections and Morsi was elected president. Barely a year later the parliament was dissolved for technical reasons and Morsi was ousted and arrested following massive popular protests with millions of Egyptians taking to the streets with the support of the army led by el-Sisi, who was minister of defense at the time.

Today, the Brotherhood is in dire straits. It has been outlawed as a terror organization and thousands of its members arrested. Its political party and affiliate organizations were dissolved and all activity forbidden. Its offices and assets were seized, and a recent presidential decree allows the confiscation of the private assets of members who have been arrested and sentenced as soon as their sentence becomes final. Most of their leaders are in jail and face charges of treason and violence against citizens. Such is the case for former president Morsi, the supreme leader of the movement Mohamad mad Bad’ie and his deputies Khairat el Shater and Rashid el Bayomi, as well as other prominent personalities well-known in the Arab world. Morsi and Badi’e have already been sentenced to several life terms and even to death, but their appeals are still pending. Some low-ranking members try to generate a minimum of activities but are under close watch and their temporary offices are often shut down while they are arrested.

The few leaders who have managed to flee are seeking refuge in Turkey and Qatar, countries that support the Brotherhood. At this stage the organization has collapsed to all intents and purposes. Mahmoud Ezzat, one of the deputies of the supreme leader, avoided arrest and is reputedly hiding in Egypt, where he is attempting to assume the mantle of leader and keep the Brotherhood alive until better times without notable success because the chaotic situation has led to a de facto split in the movement. The younger generations looking for revenge found their leader in the person of Mohammad Kamal, one of the veterans who tried to reorganize Brotherhood institutions but failed and instead formed two violent groups: Liwa al Thawra (“Banner of the Revolution”) and Hism (“Decision”), which targeted security forces and public figures and carried out terrorist operations in Cairo and elsewhere on the Egyptian mainland. Kamal was killed in October 2016 in a police raid in Cairo, but the Hism group is still active.

The organization has trouble recruiting new members and is no longer able to launch protests as it did in 2015-2016. Attempts at reconciliation have failed because, though President el-Sisi is ready to talk, probably because he no longer sees the Brotherhood as an immediate threat, he refuses all preconditions such as releasing Morsi from jail. It would, however, be a mistake to dismiss a movement that has shown in the past remarkable recovery powers. Its ultimate goal, a return to the sources of Islam and the reestablishment of the caliphate, still exerts a powerful appeal in Egypt and other Arab countries where political parties affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood are having significant success.

The president is well aware that he will be judged on his economic and social achievements. There are already 100 million Egyptians, with one million being added every six months. At 3.3%, the birth rate remains high. A majority of the people earn less than $2 a day, which puts them below the poverty line as defined by the United Nations. Economic growth of 7% to 8% per year over several years would be needed to make up for the high birth rate and the damage caused to the economy by previous governments…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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EGYPT’S ISLAMIST TELEVANGELISTS LOSE CLOUT

Hany Ghoraba

IPT News, July 9, 2018

 

They once captured the hearts and minds of millions of Egyptians, but Islamist televangelists are losing popularity. They started to lose credibility during the June 2013 revolution that drove the Muslim Brotherhood from power and in the subsequent terrorist attacks after Islamist President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.

“The state of abandonment of the Salafi preachers and the Muslim Brotherhood … is very good and serves the interests of the Egyptian, Arab and Islamic societies,” said former Muslim Brotherhood member Sameh Eid. “The exposure of the ideas of these preachers and their great dependence on a heritage that is no longer suitable for the present time and place make them a rare and ridiculous material on the pages of the media.”

Fewer people are watching the Islamist televangelists shows, Islamist groups researcher and former Brotherhood member Tarek Abou Saad, so they now resort to using historical tales of Islam’s grandeur to try to draw an audience. Despite those efforts, televangelist ratings during Ramadan were the lowest since 2011.

Egyptian media traditionally offered two main types of televangelists – Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated and Salafist (Wahhabi). Brotherhood clerics in modern clothes advocate a gradual Islamization of society while infiltrating Egypt’s more affluent society. Salafists successfully appealed to working class and more impoverished sectors of society.

The televangelist movement in Egypt was initiated by Omar Abdel Kafi who became extremely famous among the affluent. The radical preacher issued fatwas prohibiting greeting Christians and urging boycotting Jews. Egyptian authorities took him off the air in 1994, forcing him to work in exile from the United Arab Emirates. He follows the path of both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. Recently, his anti-Semitic statements, describing Jews as “aiming to control all the world’s money and lands then controlling all international politics,” got him banned from delivering a speech in Canada in April.

The rise of Islamist televangelists was cancerous to the fiber of the Egyptian society and fueled radicalization during the past two decades. Views toward women, Christians, art and the West all grew more strident. The new wave of preachers was first introduced in 2002 through the Saudi-financed religious network “Iqra [Read] TV.” By 2007, Time magazine listed Amr Khaled as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, calling him a “rock star” and “a needed voice for moderation from within the Muslim world.”

Forbes Arabia also identified Amr Khaled as one of the richest Islamist preachers that year, estimating his income at $2.5 million. He introduced a new form of preaching – which he called “Visual Da’wa” – emphasizing appearance as a way to inspire more religious adherence. He urged girls to wear the hijab, which he called a “walking symbol of the faith.” “Wearing your hijab at the beach, even if surrounded by semi-naked girls,” he said, will lead to society becoming more religious. This is the way to fix society.”

Most of the new breed of televangelists didn’t study Islamic theology at Al Azhar University like traditional preachers. Instead, they present themselves as average people who found religion through personal experiences. For example, televangelist Moez Massoud said that he became closer to God after losing friends in an accident and then surviving a health scare. This approach has attracted a younger audience than traditional religious programs.

While many view the new televangelists as sincere God-fearing preachers, others see actors performing a role. Amr Khaled has been mocked for fake piety repeatedly on social media for actions like praying only for his followers while in Mecca, excluding other Muslims. “l believe they put on an act and use a special voice tone to convey their message to the audience,” said Egyptian actress Laila Ezz Al Arab…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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THE MOROCCAN BOYCOTTS: A NEW MODEL FOR PROTEST?

Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, June 22, 2018

In Jordan recently, fury at tax hikes followed the classic pattern of sustained public protest. Protesters, in contrast to the calls for regime change that dominated the 2011 revolts, targeted the government’s austerity measures and efforts to broaden its revenue base. The protesters forced the resignation of Prime Minister Hani Mulki and the repeal of proposals for tax hikes that were being imposed to comply with conditions of a $723 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to Jordan.

Austerity measures in Egypt linked to a $12 billion IMF loan also sparked protests in a country in which dissent is brutally repressed. Rare protests erupted last month after the government hiked Cairo’s metro fares by up to 250%. Now, with economists and analysts waiting to see how Egyptians respond to new austerity measures that include a 50% rise in gasoline prices (the third since Egypt floated its currency in 2016, with further hikes expected in July), Morocco may provide a more risk-free and effective model for future protest in one of the most repressive parts of the world.

An online boycott campaign fueled by anger at rising consumer prices that uses hashtags such as “let it curdle” and “let it rot” has spread like wildfire across Moroccan social media. A survey in late May by economic daily L’Economiste suggested that 57% of Moroccans were participating in the boycott of some of Morocco’s foremost oligopolies, which have close ties to the government.

The boycott of the likes of French dairy giant Danone, mineral water company Oulmes, and the country’s leading fuel distributor, Afriquia SMDC, is proving effective and difficult to counter. The boycott recently expanded to include the country’s fish markets. The boycott has already halved Danone’s sales. The company said it would post a 150 million Moroccan dirham ($15.9 million) loss for the first six months of this year, cut raw milk purchases by 30%, and reduce its number of short-term job contracts. Danone employees recently staged a sit-in that blamed both the boycott and the government for their predicament. Lahcen Daoudi, a Cabinet minister, resigned after participating in a sit-in organized by Danone workers.

The boycott has also affected the performance of energy companies. Shares of Total Maroc, the only listed fuel distributor, fell by almost 10% since the boycott began in April. The strength of the boycott, which was launched on Facebook pages that have since attracted some two million visitors, lies in the fact that it is difficult to identify who is driving it. No individual or group has publicly claimed ownership. The boycott’s effectiveness is enhanced by the selectiveness of its targets, which are described by angry consumers on social media as “thieves” and “bloodsuckers.”

Anonymity and the virtual character of the protest, in what could become a model elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, has made it difficult for the government to crack down on its organizers.Yet even if the government identified the boycott’s organizers, it would be unable to impose its will on choices that consumers make daily. The boycott also levels the playing field, with even the poorest able to affect the performance of economic giants. In doing so, the boycott strategy counters region-wide frustration with the fact that protests have either failed to produce results or, in countries like Syria, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya, have led to mayhem, increased repression, and civil war.

“While boycotts solve some of the problems of protest movements…they also create new challenges…. Diffuse structures … limit their ability to formulate clear demands, negotiate on the basis of these demands, respond to criticism of the movement and, eventually, end the boycott. Boycotts against domestic producers are likely to face criticism that they are hurting the economy and endangering the jobs of their compatriots working in the boycotted companies,” cautioned Max Gallien, a London School of Economics PhD candidate who studies the political economy of North Africa.

The Moroccan boycott grew out of months of daily protests in the country’s impoverished northern Rif region. The government tried to squash those protests with a carrot-and-stick approach that involved the arrest of hundreds. Underlying the boycott is a deep-seated resentment of the government’s incestuous relationship with business, which has led to its failure to ensure fair competition. Many believe this has eroded purchasing power among the rural poor and the urban middle class alike.

Afriquia is part of the Akwa group owned by Aziz Akhannouch, a Moroccan billionaire ranked by Forbes. Akhannouch also serves as agriculture minister, heads a political party, and is one of the kingdom’s most powerful politicians. Oulmes is headed by Miriem Bensalah Chekroun, the former president of Morocco’s confederation of enterprises, CGEM. “The goal of this boycott is to unite Moroccan people and speak with one voice against expensive prices, poverty, unemployment, injustice, corruption and despotism,” said one Facebook page that supports the boycott. This is a message and a methodology that could resonate across a swath of land stretching from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Gulf.

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HOW QATAR’S JEWISH STRATEGY BACKFIRED

Seth J. Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2018

Six months ago, in January 2018, the world looked hopeful for Qatar. The small Gulf state had been blockaded by its neighbor Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh’s allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke relations. Qatar, which hosts a large US base, invested millions in a public relations effort in the US to counter its enemies. In the last days of January the US secretaries of state and defense sat with the Qatari leadership for a US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue confab. Doha seemed on the road to victory.

US President Donald Trump hosted Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in April. It seemed the PR effort was paying off. Qatar wanted Americans to see the emirate as an ally and a victim. It was fighting terrorism, it said, and it had changed its ways in terms of being a conduit for alleged terrorism finance to groups such as Hamas. In mid-January Alan Dershowitz, writing on The Hill website about his trip to Qatar, even wrote that it was becoming the “Israel of the Gulf states” and claimed that Qatari officials had told him Hamas leaders had left Doha. Dershowitz was one of a long list of pro-Israel Americans, including prominent Jews, who went to Qatar in the fall of 2017 and first months of 2018. Qatar carried out its outreach to US Jews through various channels, one of which was Nick Muzin, who had formerly worked with Sen. Ted Cruz and ran a firm called Stonington Strategies.

On June 6 Muzin wrote on Twitter that “Stonington Strategies is no longer representing the State of Qatar.” He said he had gone into the work to “foster peaceful dialogue in the Middle East” and to increase Qatar’s defense and economic ties to the US. Muzin’s break with the emirate coincided with the Zionist Organization of America condemning Qatar for its “giant step backward.” Mort Klein, head of ZOA, wrote on June 6 that he had traveled to Doha in January “to fight for Israel, America and the Jewish people.” But Qatar had “failed to do the right thing.”

A week later a man named Joseph Allaham filed paperwork with the US Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit. He registered Lexington Strategies as working for the State of Qatar and noted that after doing initial work to promote the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, “the understanding was expanded to include relationship-building with the leadership in the Jewish community in the United States to better international relations.

Methods of performance included peaceful means of community engagement, charitable contributions and arranging meetings in the US and visits to Qatar.” Qatar had given a grant of $1.45 million, according to the document. In an email Allaham wrote that he is “proud of the work that Mort Klein has done and all the other Jewish leaders working in collaboration with the Emir and other members of the Qatari Royal Family.

Mr. Klein has made great strides for the American Jewish community and Israel. These accomplishments, some public and some will remain private- go far beyond what many other leaders of the Jewish community and state officials have achieved with Qatar.” The Allaham filing, disclosing his previous relationship, apparently marked the end of his work with Qatar. “I had planned for a while on announcing my resignation,” he wrote in a statement at MSNBC in the first week of June. He said it had nothing to do with “the Broidy case,” a lawsuit filed by Elliott Broidy against Qatar…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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On Topic Links

4 Years On, Egypt’s President Urges Patience Over Reforms: National Post, June 30, 2018—Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi urged citizens on Saturday to further endure economic reforms and austerity measures, including a recent wave of steep price hikes on fuel, electricity and drinking water.

Egypt Tries To Reconcile ‘Coptic’ Churches To Non-Existence: Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Forum, June 16, 2018—From attacks by Muslim mobs to closures by Muslim authorities, the lamentable plight of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt always follows a pattern, one that is unwaveringly only too typical.

Coal’s Coming Renaissance in the Middle East: Dmitriy Frolovskiy, Real Clear World, July 02, 2018—Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi faces little opposition as he begins his second term, but the former field marshal has an immediate challenge coming in just a few weeks’ time.

Many Egyptian Christians Feel Left Out of World Cup: Hamza Hendawi, National Post, June 22, 2018— Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years has captivated the soccer-crazy nation, with intense focus on the squad and the broader game.