Tag: riots

TURMOIL IN EGYPT: SINAI BREEDING INSURGENCY, M. BROTHERHOOD KILLING IT’S OWN, RULING GENERAL AL-SISI– ISLAMIST IN POPULIST CLOTHING?

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

 Download an abbreviated version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Sisi's Islamist Agenda for Egypt: The General's Radical Political Vision: Robert Springborg, Foreign Affairs, July 28, 2013—Addressing graduates of military academies is a standard responsibility for high-ranking military officers all over the world. But last week, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the commander of Egypt’s armed forces, which recently deposed the country’s first freely elected president, went far beyond the conventions of the genre in a speech to graduates of Egypt’s Navy and Air Defense academies.

In Egypt’s Sinai, Insurgency Taking Root: Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post, July 28, 2013—More than three weeks after the military coup that ousted this nation’s first democratically elected — and Islamist — president from power, the roots of a violent insurgency are burrowing fast into the sands of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Muslim Brotherhood Kills Its Own to Demonize Egyptian Military:Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, July 25, 2013—Killing fellow Muslims, and even the most horrific crimes, are permissible so long as they are seen as ways of advancing and empowering Islam.

 

On Topic Links

 

Egypt’s Dilemma: Marcus Marktanner, Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2013

Egypt's Predictable Unrest: Vice Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, Israel Hayom, July 29, 2013

About That Coup: Never Mind: Elliot Abrams, Israel Hayom, July 29, 2013

Egypt's Sectarian Tensions Become Politicised: Dahlia Kholaif, Al Jazeera, July 26, 2013

A Familiar Role for Muslim Brotherhood: Opposition: Robert F. Worth, New York Times, July 28, 2013
 

 

SISI'S ISLAMIST AGENDA FOR EGYPT:
THE GENERAL'S RADICAL POLITICAL VISION

Robert Springborg

Foreign Affairs, July 28, 2013

 

Addressing graduates of military academies is a standard responsibility for high-ranking military officers all over the world. But last week, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the commander of Egypt’s armed forces, which recently deposed the country’s first freely elected president, went far beyond the conventions of the genre in a speech to graduates of Egypt’s Navy and Air Defense academies. Sisi’s true audience was the wider Egyptian public, and he presented himself less as a general in the armed forces than as a populist strongman. He urged Egyptians to take to the streets to show their support for the provisional government that he had installed after launching a coup to remove from power President Mohamed Morsi, a longtime leader of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. “I’ve never asked you for anything,” Sisi declared, before requesting a “mandate” to confront the Muslim Brotherhood, whose supporters have launched protests and sit-ins to denounce the new military-backed regime.

 

Sisi’s speech was only the latest suggestion that he will not be content to simply serve as the leader of Egypt’s military. Although he has vowed to lead Egypt through a democratic transition, there are plenty of indications that he is less than enthusiastic about democracy and that he intends to hold on to political power himself. But that’s not to say that he envisions a return to the secular authoritarianism of Egypt’s recent past. Given the details of Sisi’s biography and the content of his only published work, a thesis he wrote in 2006 while studying at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, it seems possible that he might have something altogether different in mind: a hybrid regime that would combine Islamism with militarism. To judge from the ideas about governance that he put forward in his thesis, Sisi might see himself less as a custodian of Egypt’s democratic future than as an Egyptian version of Muhammed Zia ul-Haq, the Pakistani general who seized power in 1977 and set about to “Islamicize” state and society in Pakistan.

 

Last summer, when Morsi tapped Sisi to replace Minister of Defense Muhammad Tantawi, Morsi clearly believed that he had chosen someone who was willing to subordinate himself to an elected government. Foreign observers also interpreted Sisi’s promotion as a signal that the military would finally be professionalized, beginning with a reduction of its role in politics and then, possibly, the economy. Sisi’s initial moves as defense minister reinforced this optimism. He immediately removed scores of older officers closely associated with his corrupt and unpopular predecessor. And he implicitly criticized the military’s involvement in politics after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, warning that such “dangerous” interventions could turn Egypt into Afghanistan or Somalia and would not recur….

 

Throughout Sisi’s tenure as defense minister, the Brotherhood dismissed his political potential. Obviously, they underestimated him. That is not to say that he had been planning a coup the entire time; there is not enough evidence to determine that. But there is plenty of evidence that Sisi is not nearly as modest as he has always preferred Egyptians to believe. It is significant that he not only remained minister of defense in the new government but also took the post of first deputy prime minister.

 

Following the cabinet’s formation, Sisi’s spokesperson appeared on television to say that although the general was not running for the presidency, there was nothing to prevent him from so doing if he retired from the military. Sisi also had his spokesman release a 30-minute YouTube video glorifying the general and the military, taking particular care to illustrate the military’s provision of goods and services to civilians. Not long thereafter, demonstrators in Cairo and elsewhere were seen carrying large photos of Sisi.

 

As fears of the general’s political ambitions have intensified, so have concerns about the nature of his political views. Since deposing Morsi, Sisi has clearly been trying to give the impression that he is committed to democracy. He has taken pains to ensure that civilian political figures share the limelight with him. Hazem al-Beblawi, who was appointed as the prime minister of the transitional government, claimed in his first television interview after taking office that he had not met Sisi prior to the swearing-in ceremony and that the general had not intervened in any way in his choice of ministers….

 

Morsi likely also found much to admire in the thesis that Sisi produced at the U.S. Army War College, which, despite its innocuous title (“Democracy in the Middle East”), reads like a tract produced by the Muslim Brotherhood. In his opening paragraph, Sisi emphasizes the centrality of religion to the politics of the region, arguing that “for democracy to be successful in the Middle East,” it must show “respect to the religious nature of the culture” and seek “public support from religious leaders [who] can help build strong support for the establishment of democratic systems.”

 

Egyptians and other Arabs will view democracy positively, he wrote, only if it “sustains the religious base versus devaluing religion and creating instability.” Secularism, according to Sisi, “is unlikely to be favorably received by the vast majority of Middle Easterners, who are devout followers of the Islamic faith.” He condemns governments that “tend toward secular rule,” because they “disenfranchise large segments of the population who believe religion should not be excluded from government,” and because “they often send religious leaders to prison.”

 

But Sisi’s thesis goes beyond simply rejecting the idea of a secular state; it embraces a more radical view of the proper place of religion in an Islamic democracy. He writes: “Democracy cannot be understood in the Middle East without an understanding of the concept of El Kalafa,” or the caliphate, which Sisi defines as the 70-year period when Muslims were led by Muhammad and his immediate successors. Re-establishing this kind of leadership “is widely recognized as the goal for any new form of government” in the Middle East, he asserts. The central political mechanisms in such a system, he believes, are al-bi'ah (fealty to a ruler) and shura (a ruler’s consultation with his subjects). Apologists for Islamic rule sometimes suggest that these concepts are inherently democratic, but in reality they fall far short of the democratic mark.

 

Sisi concludes that a tripartite government would be acceptable only if the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are all sufficiently Islamic; otherwise, there must be an independent “religious” branch of government. He acknowledges that it will be a challenge to incorporate Islam into government, but concludes that there is no other choice. (As an afterthought, he adds that “there must be consideration given to non-Islamic beliefs.”)

 

If Sisi’s thesis truly reflects his thinking — and there is no reason to believe otherwise — it suggests not only that he might want to stay at the helm of the new Egyptian state but that his vision of how to steer Egyptian society differs markedly from those of the secular-nationalist military rulers who led Egypt for decades: Gamal Abdel al-Nasser, Anwar al-Sadat, and Mubarak. The ideas in Sisi’s thesis hew closer to those of Zia ul-Haq, who overthrew Pakistan’s democratically elected government in 1977 and soon began a campaign of “Islamicization” that included the introduction of some elements of sharia into Pakistani law, along with a state-subsidized boom in religious education….

 

If Sisi continues to seek legitimacy for military rule by associating it with Islamism, it could prove to be a disaster for Egypt. At the very least, it would set back the democratic cause immeasurably. It would also reinforce the military’s octopus-like hold on the economy, which is already one of the major obstacles to the country's economic development. And it would also pose new dilemmas for the military itself: somehow it would need to reconcile serving the strategic objectives of Islam and those of its American patrons. It’s not clear whether that circle could be squared. And the experiment would likely come at the expense of the Egyptian people.

Contents

 

 

IN EGYPT’S SINAI, INSURGENCY TAKING ROOT
Abigail Hauslohner
Washington Post, July 28, 2013

 

More than three weeks after the military coup that ousted this nation’s first democratically elected — and Islamist — president from power, the roots of a violent insurgency are burrowing fast into the sands of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The rapid thud of machine-gun fire and the explosions of rocket-propelled grenades have begun to shatter the silence of the desert days and nights here with startling regularity, as militants assault the military and police forces stationed across this volatile territory that borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.The emerging Sinai crisis gives Egypt’s military a pretext to crack down on Islamist opponents across the country, including in Cairo, where at least 72 people were killed over the weekend when security forces opened fire on demonstrators rallying in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi….

In the Sinai, long Egypt’s most elusive and neglected region, a familiar cycle of repression has already taken hold. The military has clamped down hard on all routes in and out. And Saturday, the armed forces launched Operation Desert Storm in the peninsula, ­according to the state-run al-Ahram newspaper. The operation got underway after millions of Egyptians took to the streets Friday to heed the military’s call to give it the popular “mandate” to crack down on violence and “terrorism.”

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said Egypt’s security forces have been given permission to confront those who threaten the state’s “stability.” “The people have given the army and the police a popular mandate to stand firmly against anyone who shakes the stability of the nation with terrorist or criminal acts,” Ibrahim said Sunday at a graduation ceremony for police recruits.

Bedouin leaders and Islamists in the Sinai say locals have been angered by the coup because it brought an end to Egypt’s nascent democracy — a concept that was slow to catch on in this deeply conservative territory that has long been suspicious of Cairo. Many others, particularly Bedouin smugglers, in a population long accustomed to sweeping arrests, state-sanctioned discrimination and torture under Mubarak, say that they tasted freedom in the anarchy that prevailed under Morsi and that they are determined to avoid a return to the past even if it costs them their lives….

Lawlessness, smuggling and militancy have thrived on the peninsula since the 2011 fall of Mubarak’s regime. Bedouin arms dealers who are sympathetic to the militants said in recent days that fighters have launched shoulder-fired anti­aircraft Stinger missiles (known to the U.S. intelligence community as MANPADs) at military aircraft, laid improvised bombs along roads traversed heavily by troops, and fired barrages of bullets and RPGs at security personnel stationed here.

 

On Sunday, a police commander who spoke on the condition of anonymity said police had located a fourth bomb outside the Sheik Zweid village police station in less than 48 hours. The first three exploded, injuring several police officers, the official said.

 

Both police commanders and Bedouin leaders say the militants are a minority in the desert peninsula; the latter group says the militants consist mostly of locals who operate in small cells, with little to no command structure. But Bedouin leaders fear that the territory’s population may soon get swept up in the military’s crackdown, escalating the conflict into a wider war.

 

On a night last week, militants struck the Hay al-Safa military base near Rafah with an RPG and then gunfire. Hours later, they struck again — with what local arms dealers said were armor-piercing bullets. Families living in the area said they have grown afraid to transit through security checkpoints at night, lest they get caught in the crossfire or get targeted by nervous troops. At least 10 civilians have died in the violence this month.

 

Unlike mainland Egypt, where Morsi supporters have staged thousands-strong protests that have shut down major roads and convulsed cities from Cairo to the Nile Delta, the Sinai has quickly taken its dissent to a more violent level. Local Bedouins say it is the route borne of the territory’s cyclical history of state repression and a natural response from a local population flush with weapons and budding extremist groups. “Protests aren’t really in our nature,” Abu Ashraf, a powerful tribal leader and smuggler in North Sinai, said last week using his nickname. “Our nature is…” he said, then stopped, smiled and pantomimed firing a gun.

 

In the wake of the coup, Egyptian security forces locked down the single bridge that connects the peninsula to the mainland and set up a battery of checkpoints along the highways that link Cairo to the Suez Canal, and onward across North Sinai, where soldiers check IDs and sift through luggage in the trunks of cars. They shine strobe lights into vehicles at night. The Sinai Bedouin feel as if the state is targeting them — again.

 

Analysts and local political leaders in North Sinai interpreted the call by Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, Egypt’s military commander, for a mandate to fight terrorism as a signal that a Mubarak-style crackdown was imminent. “I think Sissi wants public cover for his bloody work,” said Ahmed Salem, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood in el-Arish, capital of North Sinai.

 

As much as the Sinai insurgency derives from militant anger at Morsi’s ouster, it is also a preemptive backlash rooted in fear, say Bedouin leaders who sympathize with the militants. “People here have gotten some freedoms, and they will not allow those to be taken away now,” said Mohamed, a fundamentalist sheik in North Sinai who requested that his last name not be used. “The coup took us back to square one,” he said, and the Sinai’s Islamists are expressing anger at the military “in any way they can.”

 

“If the state does not reverse al-Sissi’s mistake, there will be more for them to endure,” he said. Morsi’s rule offered some respite from the repression — a new kind of freedom, some Bedouin leaders said. He didn’t deliver the roads, schools or hospitals that local leaders say would help break the territory’s cycle of violent resistance. But he left them alone. “Nothing happened the year that Morsi was in power,” said one Bedouin smuggler who spent eight years in prison under Mubarak. “Morsi had no control here. But at least he didn’t insult or arrest anyone. When you would pass by the checkpoints, they would respect you. Now we’re back to the way it was before.”

 

The military says its crackdown is necessary to fight terror, but the Bedouin here say it only adds fuel to their rebellion, in a cycle that may soon spiral out of control. Security officials say they have seized Syrian, Palestinian and even Russian fighters in the Sinai since Morsi’s ouster. They have accused the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Morsi, and the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, of orchestrating the violence, and say that many of the Sinai’s fighters are well-trained jihadists.

 

Last week, the Interior Ministry said a “car accident” in the South Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh led to the arrest of a jihadist who had fought in Syria. On Sunday, a police official said security forces had killed 10 “jihadists” and arrested 20 others over the weekend.The police also have blamed the Brotherhood for the deadly weekend clashes in the Egyptian capital, sparked by police attacks on demonstrators. The Brotherhood says it does not condone violence. “We do not support, and we do not accept it, even if it seems like the violence is in support of us,” said Salem, the spokesman. But the Sinai, he said, was beyond the group’s control. “We had tried to tell them that democracy would give them another chance to be good people and to be involved in society,” he said of the region’s smugglers and fugitives. “But this coup made them lose faith.”….

 

Contents

 

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD KILLS ITS OWN
TO DEMONIZE EGYPTIAN MILITARY

Raymond Ibrahim

Gatestone Institute, July 25, 2013

 

Killing fellow Muslims, and even the most horrific crimes, are permissible so long as they are seen as ways of advancing and empowering Islam. New evidence indicates that some of the pro-Morsi protesters reportedly killed by the Egyptian military, after the Muslim Brotherhood president's ouster, were actually killed by fellow pro-Morsi protesters. They did this, according to the report, to frame the military, incite more Islamist violence and unrest, and garner sympathy from America, which has been extremely critical of the military, especially in the context of the post-Morsi violence.

 

The Arabic satellite program, Al Dalil, ("The Evidence") recently showed the evidence, which consisted mostly of video recordings. One video records events on July 8, during pro-Morsi protests in front of the Republican Guard building in Cairo, where Morsi was being held, and where the bloodshed between the military and Brotherhood began. The video shows a young man with a shaven head and a Salafi-style beard approaching the Republican Guard barrier; he gets shot, collapses to the ground, and dies—as other protesters fly into a rage against the military. As the video plays, it seems clear that the military shot him.

 

However, watching the video in slow motion and in zoom clearly indicates that someone from behind him, from the pro-Morsi throng, shot him. The whole time he falls, in slow motion, he is still facing the Republican Guard. Yet when the camera zooms in, the bullet wound and blood are visibly at the back of his head; his front, facing the military even after he falls, does not appear to have a scratch. Considering that the military was facing him, it seems apparent that a fellow Morsi-supporter shot him from behind.

 

On the same day this man in the video and others were killed, Muhammad Mahsoub, a former Brotherhood member and politician tweeted the following: "The Brotherhood sacrifice their youth in the streets, even as the sons of their leaders are at the beach resorts… Allah curse the hypocrites [based on a Koran verse];" and "I repeatedly warned al-Baltagi against his plan to antagonize the military in order to implicate it an attack on the protesters, but he insists on his plan…"

 

Baltagi is a Brotherhood leader who has been especially vocal about "getting back" at the military; he apparently also enjoys close relations with the widely disliked U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson.

Another video shown on Al Dalil is even more obvious. An armored vehicle appears slowly driving by a group of pro-Morsi protesters, many easily discernible with their Salafi-style beards. A shot is heard and the man nearest the passing vehicle collapses. Again, at first it appears that the men in the armored vehicle shot him.

 

Played, again in slow motion, however, it becomes apparent that the man in a gilbab [long Muslim style robe] standing directly behind the murdered man is actually the one who shot him, then walked over to another man near him, gave him the weapon, and then quickly walked off the scene. Even the man on the roof who is taping this scene is heard to be asked, "Did the car [armored vehicle] shoot?" only to reply, "No, no."

 

Even so, the desired effect of all these "human sacrifices" by the Brotherhood was accomplished: as with the other man, shot in front of the Republican Guard, many other pro-Morsi protesters rushed to the fallen man, screaming Islamic slogans and vowing relentless war on the military, as it supposedly "shot first." This second incident prompted the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, to call for "an uprising by the great people of Egypt against those trying to steal their revolution with tanks."

 

To many Islamists, killing an ally to empower Islam is legitimate, especially in the context of two Islamic ideas: 1) jihad [war in the service of Islam], in Islamic jurisprudence — for its function, under Muhammad, of making Islam supreme — is considered the "pinnacle" of Islam; and 2) Islam's overarching juridical idea that "necessity makes the prohibited permissible" – in other words, that a pious end, such as empowering Islam, justifies the use of forbidden means. All that matters is one's intention, or niyya.

 

Thus, killing fellow Muslims, lying, prostitution, even sodomy all become permissible, so long as they are seen as ways of advancing and empowering Islam. Those who commit or promote even the most horrific crimes are exonerated, and those "sacrificed" to empower Islam — as those pro-Morsi supporters killed by the Brotherhood — are deemed martyrs who will achieve the highest level of paradise. From an Islamist point of view, it is a win-win situation.

 

Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam expert.  He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.

 

Contents
 

A Familiar Role for Muslim Brotherhood: Opposition: Robert F. Worth, New York Times, July 28, 2013—Among the muddy, crowded tents where tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members have been living for weeks in a vast sit-in protest, men in Islamic dress can still be seen carrying incongruous signs above the teeming crowd: “Liberals for Morsi,” “Christians for Morsi,” “Actors for Morsi.”

 

Egypt’s Dilemma: Marcus Marktanner, Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2013—Recent events in Egypt reveal the following dilemma: On the back of a powerless majority of moderate Egyptians who yearn for democracy, the country faces an epic battle between a secular military and a powerful Islamist movement, neither of which is deeply interested in democracy.

 

Egypt's Predictable Unrest: Vice Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, Israel Hayom, July 29, 2013—The unrest in Egypt in recent days shouldn't surprise anyone. Former President Mohammed Morsi's ouster after three days of demonstrations was no doubt a military coup — there is no other way to define it.

 

About That Coup: Never Mind: Elliot Abrams, Israel Hayom, July 29, 2013—There are many good reasons to maintain U.S. aid to Egypt under current circumstances, but American law presents a problem. Under the Foreign Assistance Act, "none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup or decree."

 

Egypt's Sectarian Tensions Become Politicised: Dahlia Kholaif, Al Jazeera, July 26, 2013—The army’s removal of Egypt’s first civilian elected president may have unleashed deadly clashes but for the country’s Coptic Christian minority it has brought relief.

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

ALTHOUGH EGYPT TOTTERS ON BRINK OF COLLAPSE, DON’T COUNT ISLAMIST BRETHREN OUT


Contents:                          

 

Download a pdf version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

The Region: Passivity in the face of Islamism: Barry Rubin, Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2013—A colleague wrote me the following thoughts: “As the expert on this issue, may I pose a question to you? I accept the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is messing up in Egypt – that they are suffering a credibility gap between promise and performance.

 

Egypt's Summer of Discontent: Eric Trager, Real Clear World, May 29, 2013—Due to a moribund economy, fuel and food shortages, and a lack of political opportunities, Egypt faces a tumultuous summer, and conditions will likely continue to deteriorate thereafter.

 

Mohamed Morsi’s Betrayal of Democracy: Editorial Board, Washington Post, May 13, 2013—Ahmed Maher, one of the leaders of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, supported Islamist Mohamed Morsi in last year’s presidential election because he believed Mr. Morsi’s victory over a military-backed candidate would be more likely to consolidate democracy in their country.

 

On Topic Links

 

Egypt’s Supreme Court Rules Against Shura Council: Zenobia Azeem, Al-Monitor, June 3, 2013

Monthly Infiltration from Sinai Drops from 2,000 to 2: Prime Minister's Office, June 2, 2013
Ethiopian Dam Project Raises Fears of Water Deficit in Egypt: Ahmad Mustafa, Al-Monitor, May 30, 2013

Jihad on Egypt's Christian Children: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, June 3, 2013

 

 

THE REGION: PASSIVITY IN THE FACE OF ISLAMISM

Barry Rubin

Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2013
 

A colleague wrote me the following thoughts: “As the expert on this issue, may I pose a question to you? I accept the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is messing up in Egypt – that they are suffering a credibility gap between promise and performance. But could this not also be positive in that in the process political Islam itself gets discredited? You would recall the Islamist Revolution heralded by Hasan al-Turabi in Sudan. However when I [met some of them], Turabi’s own students [were] critical about the Islamist revolution and indeed told me there should now be a division between state and faith. Could a similar development not happen in Egypt?”

This is a clever point, and it could certainly happen. Yes, by mismanaging Egypt’s affairs the Brotherhood could become unpopular and be voted out of office. To put this idea another way: Might despair be moderation’s best friend? There are examples of such a phenomenon right now in Egypt: An anti-Islamist media now exists to point out this discontent, though the opposition’s power is sometimes overestimated. The mistaken lesson of the 2011 Egyptian revolution at the time was that a lot of people protesting or voting equals democracy.

 

Yet power balances still matter. The old regime only fell because the old ruling elite wouldn’t save it due to exhaustion and factional conflict. The new Islamist ruling elite won’t make that mistake, at least for decades to come. A recent poll shows how Egyptians are becoming understandably gloomy over the situation.

 

Now Egypt faces a huge economic crisis. The country has only about two months’ reserves to pay for imported food. Where is it going to get the around $5 billion a month it needs to pay this bill? A proposed loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that would pay for one month or so is being held up by the Egyptian government’s refusal to sign the deal because the IMF’s conditions require cutting subsidies, and cutting subsidies on food could lead to massive riots.

 

Westerners generally believe that repression and suffering lead to angry responses by the masses. Yet institutions can control the situation, propaganda reshapes beliefs, repression stifles opposition. Moreover, in Third World countries, a predominantly poor people can – because they know they have no choice in economic, political and social terms – put up with a lot more unhappiness and suffering than do middle class Americans or Europeans who have the leisure, information, freedom, and luxury of acting (albeit not necessarily effectively) on even minor complaints.

 

In short, dissatisfaction in Egypt doesn’t necessarily mean change.  Despair usually leads to passivity. If the last revolution failed or was disappointing are people going to want to mobilize for another one? Isn’t the message that politics don’t work or the forces making the mess are too strong? Thirty-four years after Iran’s Islamist revolution a lot of despair has only led to two peaks of moderate activity there. The first was co-opted (the Khatami presidency which achieved nothing), and the second was put down through repression (the 2009 Green Movement after the regime stole an election).

 

The Arab nationalist regime in Egypt lasted for almost 60 years and involved a lot of suffering and four lost wars (Yemen, and against Israel in 1956, 1967, and 1973). By the time the Brotherhood is discredited it will be far more entrenched in power and therefore harder to remove. Perhaps future elections will be fixed, or not even held at all. The Brotherhood will, for example, control the court system in future – this is currently its highest priority – and thus can guarantee electoral victories. By then, repression will set in deeper, discouraging open dissent. Much of the time it is true that the heavier the penalty for speaking out, the fewer who will do so. Even if you have a lot of discontented people on your side it is not easy to moderate, much less, overturn an Islamist dictatorship.

 

Speaking of Iran (and this is quite interesting), in the past, especially in the 1990s, it was argued that the visible failures of Iran’s revolution would discourage other countries from having Islamist revolutions, and at the time that did seem quite logical. Around the year 2000 the Islamist movement was widely considered to have failed. Yet disastrous precedents don’t necessarily discourage revolutionary Islamists, who simply claim, “We can do it better.” And it doesn’t mean the masses necessarily will not believe them, especially since Islam is such a passionate, powerful force.

 

If the highest goal of the Middle East peoples is democracy, freedom, human rights and material progress, the argument that these forces will triumph might be plausible. But is that in fact true? Just because people in the West think that way doesn’t make it accurate. Ideological enthusiasm and religious passion may carry the day rather than the everyone-wants-their-kids-to-get-a-better-life-as-their-top-priority school believes.

 

Not every parent celebrates their kid becoming a suicide bomber, for example, but a large number do. And even though they might be angry about the children being misled by demagogues, they know well enough not to speak publicly about it. Attacking a Christian church also lets off a lot of steam, as does blaming the Jews. Many people give up, thinking (or knowing) that there is no real road immediately visible for transforming their societies into prosperous and democratic ones. Others benefit materially by supporting a dictatorial regime. The government better ensure that one of these groups are military officers.

 

It is also often true that outside observers look at every specific development in isolation, ignoring the revolutionary rulers’ ideology and blueprint. With the armed forces apparently determined to be passive, there is only one effective institution holding back the Brotherhood: the courts. Judges appointed under the old regime are largely secular, and many of them showed pro-democratic independence even under the Mubarak dictatorship. One way or another, however, the Brotherhood is moving toward replacing the judges by forcing them into retirement. And then the regime will name its own judges, who will interpret things the way the Brotherhood likes as well as putting a very high priority on making Sharia the law of the land. The same process will be happening in the schools, mass media, religious and other institutions, finally reaching the entrance and promotion of Brotherhood sympathizers in the officer corps….

 

Indeed, it is very sobering to consider the Sudan, my colleague’s example of anger at an Islamist government leading to moderation. While the extreme Islamists did become discredited there eventually, the process took almost 25 years. Even today, the country is under an authoritarian dictator. And it is very significant to note that Sharia law largely continues to rule the country. The current Sudanese dictatorship, which has been credibly accused of genocide against black Africans in the south, merely uses the pedestal provided by the Islamist predecessor. On its behalf, the Muslim clerical association has just called for jihad against anti-government rebels.

 

Egypt is a more advanced country than Sudan and the Islamists there are badly split. There are now four main Islamist parties in Egypt. Yet they can also work together and are all pushing in the same direction. The moderates are still weak even if you add in all the other non-Islamists (including radical nationalists and leftists). And the opposition to Islamism is more fragmented than the Islamists, lacking even an ideology or program….

 

Thus, while anger and despair are going to rise in Egypt these factors are not in themselves enough to bring down a regime. Unless the army is convinced that the country is going to fall apart – and perhaps not even then – the Brotherhood is going to be in power for a long time. And that also applies to everywhere else Islamists are ruling – in the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, and perhaps soon in Syria.

 

The writer is the director of the Global Research in International Affairs (Gloria) Center.

 

Top of Page

 

 

EGYPT'S SUMMER OF DISCONTENT

Eric Trager

Real Clear World, May 29, 2013

 

Due to a moribund economy, fuel and food shortages, and a lack of political opportunities, Egypt faces a tumultuous summer, and conditions will likely continue to deteriorate thereafter. While Washington should encourage Cairo to undertake necessary political and economic reforms that might calm the situation and improve governance, the Obama administration should concentrate on preserving vital strategic interests in the event of renewed upheaval.

Since Egypt's 2011 revolution, persistent political uncertainty and plummeting domestic security have undermined foreign investment and harmed the country's once-vibrant tourism industry. According to the Interior Ministry, the past year has witnessed a 120 percent increase in murders, 350 percent increase in robberies, and 145 percent jump in kidnappings. Foreign currency reserves dropped from approximately $36 billion at the time of Hosni Mubarak's ouster to $14.42 billion at the end of April 2013, with a $2 billion Libyan cash deposit in late March inflating the latter figure. Meanwhile, according to the Financial Times, Egypt's public sector salary bill has risen by 80 percent since the uprising to $25 billion annually; 400,000 government jobs have been added, and an additional 400,000 will be made permanent by the end of June.

This combination of shrinking reserves and growing expenditures is threatening the government's ability to import wheat and fuel, which it sells at subsidized rates. Fuel and fertilizer shortages have also impacted domestic wheat production, which is unlikely to reach Cairo's goal of 9.5 million tons — a benchmark intended to reduce Egypt's dependence on foreign imports. The fuel shortages have also catalyzed regular electricity outages (including multiple times in one day at Cairo International Airport), and rural areas are reporting water outages. These problems are expected to worsen as Egyptians turn on their air conditioners during the summer; the situation will become especially uncomfortable once Ramadan begins in early July, when approximately 90 percent of the population will be observing the month-long fast during daylight hours.

Historically, wheat shortages and subsidy cuts have sparked mass protests in Egypt, such as the 1977 "Bread Riots" and the demonstrations that accompanied the 2008 global food crisis. Indeed, fuel shortages have already given rise to sporadic protests nationwide since March. Although these demonstrations have been relatively small thus far, summertime power outages that make it too uncomfortable to be indoors could force more people into the streets.

Since November 2012 — when President Muhammad Morsi asserted virtually unchecked executive authority and rushed an Islamist-dominated constitutional process to ratification — Egypt's non-Islamist opposition has protested the Muslim Brotherhood-led government's autocratic behavior and increasingly questioned its legitimacy. For many activists, the Brotherhood's use of violence against non-Islamist protesters on December 5 represented the point of no return; the group's subsequent assaults on media freedom (e.g., prosecuting journalists who criticize Morsi) have led some to call for the military to return to power.

The latest iteration of this movement is the "Tamarod" (rebellion) petition campaign, which opposition activists launched on May 1. The campaign seeks to "withdraw confidence" in Morsi and rally public support for early presidential elections by focusing on specific grievances, including the persistent lack of security, ongoing poverty, and Morsi's supposed "subservience to the Americans." While the petition will likely fall short of the 15 million signatures its supporters hope to collect by June 30 — the one-year anniversary of Morsi's inauguration — the fact that it has already collected 2 million indicates widespread frustration, and June 30 may emerge as a major protest date.

The Brotherhood's response to these political challenges has only exacerbated the situation and seemingly strengthened the opposition's resolve. Rather than engaging its opponents, the government is repressing them. Ahmed Maher, founder of the "April 6" opposition movement, was recently arrested after returning from a trip to the United States, charged with inciting protests outside the interior minister's house. The prosecutor-general is also investigating two prominent television hosts — Amr Adib and former parliamentarian Mohamed Sherdy — for supporting the Tamarod campaign.

Unfortunately, Egypt's political polarization will likely persist well beyond the summer. The opposition will probably continue to be excluded from the political process. The next parliamentary elections, which have not yet been scheduled, are unlikely to occur before September, leaving street protests as the only viable avenue for opposition dissent. Moreover, when elections finally do occur, the Brotherhood will likely win again: even if the main opposition bloc (the National Salvation Front) abandons its current boycott commitment, as many analysts expect, its late entry will complicate efforts to compete with the Brotherhood's nationwide network, which has been in campaign mode since the beginning of the year.

In the interim, the Brotherhood appears unlikely to abandon exclusivist rule. Morsi's latest round of cabinet appointments further expanded the number of Brotherhood-affiliated ministers without adding any from non-Islamist parties, and he has rebuffed opposition demands to remove the interior and information ministers. Moreover, the officials who will lead the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $4.8 billion loan are all Muslim Brothers.

This polarization will significantly inhibit Egypt's economic recovery for the foreseeable future. Morsi's apparent focus on consolidating the Brotherhood's power is contrary to the IMF's insistence on more inclusive governance, which the agency views as necessary for ensuring broad political support for any loan. In addition, persistent political tension and civil strife will deter foreign investment and keep tourists away, leaving Egypt reliant on petrodollar infusions (e.g., from Qatar and Libya) that are unlikely to continue flowing indefinitely. The cash crunch will also complicate government efforts to restore security, further compounding lawlessness and economic woes.

Meanwhile, the military does not appear willing or able to steer the country in a more positive direction. Although the armed forces are generally considered Egypt's strongest institution, the generals have repeatedly signaled their lack of interest in returning to power. They recognize that they performed poorly when they ran the country prior to Morsi's election, and they seem to know they are no more likely to succeed in governing than the Brotherhood given the extent of Egypt's challenges. In addition, the military's undemocratic nature makes it incapable of engendering the kind of broad consensus needed for reform.

 

Egypt's worsening economic and political frustrations, coupled with the state's declining ability to maintain order, make upheaval a strong possibility this summer and beyond. Washington should therefore focus on two goals.

 

First, it should continue encouraging Egypt's political actors to dial down the tension. This means telling the opposition not to give up on politics, since participation in the current system provides a more likely path to power sharing than calling for a "rebellion" against Morsi, which would only exacerbate the country's instability and further damage the economy. As for the Muslim Brotherhood, Washington should tell Cairo that the painful choices required by necessary economic reform (e.g., tax increases and subsidy cuts) make including the opposition and forging political consensus vital. U.S. officials should also point out that Egypt cannot rely on petrodollar infusions to sustain its shrinking cash reserves indefinitely, and that failure to institute vital reforms will ultimately lead its benefactors to view it as a bad investment.

 

Second, Washington should prepare for the likelihood that the Brotherhood and opposition will reject this advice, and plan for potential instability. In particular, the administration should focus on the three strategic interests that could be jeopardized:

 

1. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, which may come under pressure if turmoil leads to greater violence from Sinai or more hostile populist politics from Cairo

 

2. The security of the Suez Canal, which recent civil unrest has already put at risk

 

3. Counterterrorism cooperation, given the recent emergence of Salafist jihadists in Egypt

 

Since the Egyptian military is primarily responsible for each of these items, the Obama administration should work with the generals to ensure that contingency plans are in place if the country's summer of discontent boils over.

 

Eric Trager is the Next Generation fellow at The Washington Institute.

 

Top of Page

 

 

MOHAMED MORSI’S BETRAYAL OF DEMOCRACY

Editorial

Washington Post, May 13, 2013

 

Ahmed Maher, one of the leaders of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, supported Islamist Mohamed Morsi in last year’s presidential election because he believed Mr. Morsi’s victory over a military-backed candidate would be more likely to consolidate democracy in their country. But during a visit to Washington last week, Mr. Maher told us that Mr. Morsi had betrayed him and his April 6 Youth Movement. “They lied, they broke promises, they killed members of April 6,” Mr. Maher said. Mr. Morsi’s government, he said, increasingly resembled that of former strongman Hosni Mubarak: “They only seek power.”

 

Mr. Maher’s strong charges soon were substantiated by another transgression: Upon returning to Cairo from the United States on Friday, he was arrested at the airport. The 32-year-old, who founded the April 6 movement in 2008 to organize protests against the Mubarak regime, was charged with inciting a protest in March against Mr. Morsi’s interior minister. His transfer to a high-security prison quickly provoked a backlash both in Cairo and in Washington, and on Saturday authorities backed down. Mr. Maher was released, his case was transferred to a lower court and Mr. Morsi’s office and political party repudiated the airport arrest.

 

That retreat still left Mr. Maher facing charges, according to the state news agency, of “resisting the authorities, insulting the police, gathering and obstructing traffic” — counts frequently used by the former dictatorship against public demonstrations. It offered new cause for concern about a government that repeatedly has proclaimed its commitment to both democracy and compromise with its opponents even as it prosecutes critics and prepares repressive new laws.

 

Mr. Maher’s youth movement has resisted the polarization that has overtaken Egyptian politics in the past year. Though its leaders are secular liberal democrats with left-leaning views, they supported Mr. Morsi after obtaining direct assurances from him that he would seek consensus on the terms of a new constitution. The president broke that commitment in November, when he granted himself absolute power in order to force through a constitution favoured by the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, a state prosecutor Mr.Morsi appointed in what opponents contend was another illegal manoeuvre has been bringing charges against critics, including journalists and organizers of demonstrations. A legislative body dominated by the ruling party has given preliminary approval to a law that would eviscerate Egypt’s civil society, shutting down almost all government-watchdog and human rights groups.

 

Mr. Morsi’s spokesmen have asserted that he does not favour the political prosecutions and that the government is preparing a new version of the civil society law. But the president has not removed the prosecutor he appointed nor met other reasonable opposition demands, such as the correction of a gerrymander of electoral districts legislated by his party.

 

Mr. Maher opposes counterproductive strategies embraced by other opposition leaders, including a boycott of future elections or support for a military coup. But he warns that the United States is repeating past mistakes in Egypt by appearing to tolerate Mr. Morsi’s consolidation of power. “If you want to support democracy, say we are here in Egypt to support democracy, not whoever is in office,” Mr. Maher says. That’s advice the Obama administration should heed.

 

Top of Page

 

Egypt’s Supreme Court Rules Against Shura Council: Zenobia Azeem, Al-Monitor, June 3, 2013—In a surprising decision, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled on June 2 that the Shura Council, currently the country’s only functioning legislative body, and the Constituent Assembly, which drafted the December 2012 Constitution, are unconstitutional.

 

Monthly Infiltration from Sinai Drops from 2,000 to 2: Prime Minister's Office, June 2, 2013—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, "The fence that we built in the south is achieving the result for which it was erected.

 

Ethiopian Dam Project Raises Fears of Water Deficit in Egypt: Ahmad Mustafa, Al-Monitor, May 30, 2013—Ethiopia's decision to begin diverting the course of the Blue Nile (the largest of the Nile river’s branches), as a prelude to the construction of the Renaissance Dam, put Egyptian diplomacy in a difficult position and stirred fears over Cairo’s declining share in the Nile waters, but the Egyptian presidency managed to tame these fears.

 

Jihad on Egypt's Christian Children: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, June 3, 2013—Attacks on Christian children in Egypt are on the rise. Earlier this week, a six-year-old Coptic Christian boy, Cyril Yusuf Sa'ad, was abducted and held for ransom. After his family paid the ransom, the Muslim kidnapper, Ahmed Abdel Moneim Abdel-Salam, killed the child and threw his body in the sewer of his house

Top of Page

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

A “TURKISH SPRING”? TURKEY REACHES HISTORIC BREAKING POINT: MASSIVIE RIOTS RALLY ANTI-ISLAMISTS AGAINST ERDOGAN


Contents:                          

 

Download a pdf version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Protests Shake Turkey's Sense of Stability: Victor Kotsev, Gobe and Mail, June 3, 2013—Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Turkey’s four biggest cities on Sunday, braving tear gas and rubber bullets on the third day of the fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years. They were protesting a violent crackdown by the government against initially peaceful protesters trying to halt the demolition of a park next to Taksim Square – the heart of modern Istanbul – to construct a new shopping mall.

 

Unrest in Turkey Shows Cracks in AKP's Vision: Yavuz Baydar, The Guardian,  June 1, 2013—Despite the astonishing, far-reaching changes that Turkey has undergone in recent years, clouds of anxiety are gathering over the country. The apprehension has little to do with the economy. The negative energy emanating from Syria has a partial impact. The jitters in public sentiment stem essentially from increasingly pronounced links between politics and religion, interventions in lifestyles and the demands of various social groups going unheeded.

 

'Moderate Political Islam' Leading Turkey to 'Moderate Shariah': Kadri Gursel,, Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, May 31, 2013

Just before the parliament voted on May 24 for the bill that would introduce serious restrictions on the sale, marketing and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Turkey, neo-Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) members added a clause that would also ban the retail sale of alcoholic drinks from shops between 10 p.m. and 6 in the morning.

 

On Topic Links

 

Protests in Turkey Reveal a Larger Fight Over Identity: Tim Arango, New York Times, June 2, 2013

Turkish Spring Update: Erdoğan Doubles Down: Michael Rubin, Commentary, June 3, 2013

Turkey's Velvet Revolution: Cengiz Çandar, Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, June 2, 2013

Istanbul Protesters: 'We Are Here For Our Freedom': Nafeesa Syeed, Al-Monitor, June 2, 2013

Talking Turkey about Obama: Joel J. Sprayregen, Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2013

 

 

PROTESTS SHAKE TURKEY'S SENSE OF STABILITY

Victor Kotsev

Globe and Mail, June 3, 2013

 

Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Turkey’s four biggest cities on Sunday, braving tear gas and rubber bullets on the third day of the fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years. They were protesting a violent crackdown by the government against initially peaceful protesters trying to halt the demolition of a park next to Taksim Square – the heart of modern Istanbul – to construct a new shopping mall.

 

In support of the protests, residents honked car horns and banged pots and pans in several parts of Istanbul and Ankara until late Sunday night as clashes between riot police and demonstrators continued. Turkish TV stations reported that a building of the ruling AK Party was set on fire in Izmir.

 

More than 1,000 people have been injured since Friday, dozens of them from tear gas canisters fired at close range, according to Amnesty International, which also reported that at least two people have died. Still, protesters of all ages, political affiliations and socioeconomic status, said they would continue.

 

“Tayyip [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan] is saying, ‘I give you freedom,’ but it’s not true,” said Yasin Keskin, 27, a demonstrator at Taksim Square.

 

The protests have caught Turkish officials and their international allies off-guard: Turkey, a member of NATO and long touted as a bastion of stability and democracy in the region, is suddenly projecting scenes similar to those seen in Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab Spring countries to whom Mr. Erdogan has offered guidance.

 

The international image of Turkey’s Prime Minister, champion of the rebels fighting against a brutal regime in neighbouring Syria, is now in question. While the protests initially began late last week as an Occupy-style movement against the building of a mall and a mosque on Gezi Park next to Taksim Square, the reasons for the mass outrage go back years: Mr. Erdogan’s administration has grown increasingly tyrannical in the past decade and, in recent months, his government has moved to roll back liberties Turks have enjoyed for years.

 

Many locals are complaining about the “Islamization” of Turkey, which has secularism enshrined in its constitution. Late last month, parliament passed a law severely restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol. At the same time, authorities warned against “immodest” public displays of affection, triggering a nationwide “kissing protest.”

 

Others express concern that Mr. Erdogan is setting himself up as “leader for life” and increasing a crackdown on dissent while limiting free speech and press freedoms even further. In recent months, a blogger and also a well-known pianist have been convicted of blasphemy for series of tweets deemed “harmful” to Islam. And Turkey has a particularly bleak record for persecuting journalists: The Committee to Protect Journalists has called it “the world’s leading jailor of journalists” – the country jails more reporters than Iran.

 

One original reason that drew protesters to Taksim Square is how the government has pressed on with the gentrification of Istanbul’s centre, recently evicting poor Kurds and migrant workers from the historic Tarlabasi neighbourhood close by. It also announced plans to build a third bridge over the Bosphorus, which will fell many trees and harm the environment, urban advocates say.

 

“The government wants to build up the capital for the bourgeoisie, and to send the workers out of Taksim and the other squares of the city,” said protestor Serkan Gundogdu. “The people have responded against the government and taken Taksim Square for themselves.”

 

Analysts say that the Turkish government is in a bind. The crackdown on protesters could endanger several important international projects such as Turkey’s accession talks with the EU and Istanbul’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. But it is also possible that, as the euro-zone crisis deepens, Mr. Erdogan may be looking in an altogether different direction, soaking in opportunistic Gulf Arab investments and political values. A financial bubble has been growing in the country in recent years, fuelled by investment redirected to Turkey following the Arab Spring. And while instability could threaten the Turkish economy, a heavy-fisted approach to the demonstrations could encourage the Arab investors, wary of asset freezes in the West, analysts say privately.

 

Regardless, Mr. Erdogan, known for his pragmatic and wily political style, backed off the shopping project late Sunday even as he continued to sound a defiant tone, vowing to “bring together” one million supporters of his Justice and Development Party for every 100,000 protesters gathered.

 

“The problem with Erdogan is that he is essentially calling about 40 per cent of the population marginal,” said Aaron Stein, an analyst at the Center for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul, in a tweet.

The more immediate test, however, is whether Mr. Erdogan will be able to subdue the outrage at home. While most protesters did not believe they would topple the government, the crackdown has also failed to disperse the demonstrators so far.

 

In contrast to widespread vandalism on Saturday night in Istanbul, an atmosphere of solidarity took hold Sunday, with volunteers removing trash and distributing donated meals to protesters in scenes that hark back to Tahrir Square in Egypt. Some locals are already calling it the “Turkish Spring,” saying its borne out of a deep sense of frustration with Mr. Erdogan and his ruling party.

 

“It’s a protest against all the things [the government] does – they just say, ‘We want this,’ and proceed to do it but in an undemocratic manner,” said Bak, 42, manning a barricade near the scene of some of the clashes, and who asked his last name not be used. “I think these protests will grow, grow, grow, like a snowball. It’s the first time that you see such protests here – so many people coming together from so many different parts of society.”

 

Top of Page

 

 

UNREST IN TURKEY SHOWS CRACKS IN AKP'S VISION

Yavuz Baydar

The Guardian,  June 1, 2013

 

Despite the astonishing, far-reaching changes that Turkey has undergone in recent years, clouds of anxiety are gathering over the country. The apprehension has little to do with the economy. The negative energy emanating from Syria has a partial impact. The jitters in public sentiment stem essentially from increasingly pronounced links between politics and religion, interventions in lifestyles and the demands of various social groups going unheeded. All attention is focused on the decisive impact that Turkey's Kurds will have on the country's macro politics.

 

Let's first lay out some observations on social unrest. Turkey's economy has continued to grow, and for its allies the country remains a powerful element of regional stability. In domestic politics, however, Turkey has entered a state of limbo as the 12-year-old government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) balks at matching economic growth with political reform, creating a tactical-strategic confusion with distracting machinations and deviations. Certainly, this has a lot to do with the lack of an alternative vision on the opposition side. But still, a powerful, single-party government is supposed to be able to make determined and far-reaching steps. There will be a way out of the limbo at the end of the day. But how?

 

The social unrest is concentrated in three main areas. First, the shortcomings in "public diplomacy" and lack of transparency in the five-month-old Kurdish peace process have led to confusion and anger, especially among Turks. This sentiment has triggered street violence by small groups, but what is more important is that the "silent majority" feels deprived of adequate information about the process. Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan grasped that. When bombings in the border town of Reyhanli raised fears about fanning a Sunni-Alevi conflict, he made a move to kill two birds with one stone. To distract attention, and please AKP's Sunni conservative voters, his party passed a law restricting alcohol sales, and Erdogan went as far as to argue that "the commandments of religion cannot be disputed".

 

Barring statistics on drunk drivers and the argument of "zero tolerance" for traffic violations, all other arguments used to justify the law – health, public order, alcoholism – have been unconvincing. As a result, Turkey's famously rational urban electorate, including the Sunnis, has come to perceive itself as the target of a "lifestyle intervention". The agenda has since been occupied by an issue supposed to be a non-issue.

 

There is more. A pompous groundbreaking ceremony was held last week to inaugurate the construction of a third bridge over the Bosporus in Istanbul, even though the environmental impact was not sufficiently debated. The prospective bridge was given the name of Sultan Selim the Grim, the cruellest adversary of Alevis and Shiites in Ottoman history. Conqueror of Egypt, the powerful sultan is known for the massacres of tens of thousands of Anatolian Alevis prior to and after his war against Iran.

 

The bridge might have well been named after Rumi, the great Sufi thinker who spread the teaching of universal tolerance from Anatolia, or any other Islamic humanist. It is not hard to guess how offensive the choice of Selim's name is for the Alevi community – who form about 10% of the population and are still awaiting an official acknowledgement of their religious identity and worship rights. The great bridge is thus likely to become the symbol not of united continents and cultures but of painful collective memory.

 

The anxieties are not limited to Alevis. A series of giant ongoing and planned construction projects in Istanbul ahead of local elections next year have – like the new bridge – united people of various political convictions and ages in a fresh opposition front.

 

In May alone, the authorities violently suppressed May Day demonstrations, hastily demolished a historically iconic movie theatre to replace it with a shopping mall and gave a forceful go-ahead to controversial construction projects at nearby Taksim Square without proper public debate. The last straw came when they cut down the trees in a park adjacent to the square.

 

The AKP government and local administrations have the means to do whatever they please to centuries-old Istanbul, regardless of how the city's fabric and environment are affected. But if they continue to step up the use of force against passive resistance, as happened in Taksim's Gezi Park, the opposition could speedily emerge as a concrete alternative.

 

The contradiction is obvious: the AKP government continues to speak of reform and repeats promises to usher Turkey from the existing constitutional order, the legacy of a military regime, to a new democratic system, But in only a few weeks it has managed to create two opposition fronts against itself – the Alevi community and the urbanites, who include also moderate religious people. If this polarisation continues, the "reasonable consensus" required for a new constitution will become a distant fantasy.

 

The Kurds remain the most significant opposition dynamic in the country. Even though the pullout of the PKK rebels continues free of controversy, the Kurds, who make up 18% of the population, feel themselves in limbo as they grow impatient to see any major reform. Their demands for rights and freedoms are increasingly coalescing with the demands of Alevis and various urban communities. The difference is in the transformation power of the political dynamic stemming from the Kurdish peace process.

 

One aspect of the social unrest and political uncertainty relates to questions emerging over the AKP's identity. The party is a powerful "social coalition", with a profile that goes beyond any Islamist identity, and has described itself as "Muslim Democrat" over the past five years. But during that same period, doubts have arisen over its "democrat" nature amid a slowdown in reforms, uncertainties in the Kurdish peace process and discriminatory rhetoric. And now the authoritarian and neoliberal attitude displayed in major projects concerning Istanbul's fabric, lifestyle and environment has given food for thought also to those who really know what "conservative" means.

 

Top of Page

 

 

'MODERATE POLITICAL ISLAM'
LEADING TURKEY TO 'MODERATE SHARIAH'

Kadri Gursel

Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, May 31, 2013

 

Just before the parliament voted on May 24 for the bill that would introduce serious restrictions on the sale, marketing and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Turkey, neo-Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) members added a clause that would also ban the retail sale of alcoholic drinks from shops between 10 p.m. and 6 in the morning.

 

If the bill is signed by President Abdullah Gul and becomes  law, which is likely in the absence of any indication to the contrary, alcoholic drinks would be able to be sold only in Turkish bars and restaurants after 10 p.m. My first Al-Monitor article, May 23, on the subject was titled “AKP's Jihad Against Alcohol: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.”

 

The ruling party's members of parliament had already taken a step back and diluted the extremely rigid clauses of the original bill that required the outdoor spaces of alcohol-serving establishments to not be visible to the public. The bill did, however, take the power to issue alcohol licenses from local administrations and gave it to the central authority.

 

By introducing a ban on nighttime sales, they compensated for the back step and even went further. In my first article, I said that the alcohol restriction couldn’t be based on the public-health concerns of combating the alcoholism we don’t have in Turkey, or of protecting youth from alcohol addiction. My findings were based on Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures of per capita alcohol consumption.

 

The AKP government and their media defend the restrictions, saying that similar measures are in place in some democratic and secular European countries. It is not hard to show the invalidity of this argument. According to OECD data, per capita annual consumption of pure alcohol for the above-15 age group is 1.5 liters in Turkey. Let’s calculate this in beer terms: 1.5 liters of pure alcohol means 30 liters of beer with 5% alcohol content. That means 90 cans a year.

 

In Turkey, where, thanks to this law, all advertising and publicity for alcoholic beverages is now totally banned, the sale of alcoholic beverages at night is prohibited and any sale of alcoholic drinks within 100 meters of schools, other educational institutions and religious sites is illegal, the weekly per capita consumption is 1.7 cans of beer. It has almost always been this way. Alcoholic-beverage consumption peaked in 1976-1979. To what? All of 2 liters per capita per year.

 

Also according to OECD data, in 2010, pure alcohol consumption per capita in Sweden was 7.3 liters, 11.9 in Ireland, 10.2 in Britain, 9.7 in Finland, 12.6 in Lithonia and 12 liters in France. It may be understandable for some of these countries to adopt rigid measures to protect public health and to combat alcohol dependency, but we have to see other motives behind the restrictions in Turkey.

 

In Turkey, we are confronted with an ideologically motivated, extremely conservative and oppressive social engineering that is a part of the Islamic agenda of the AKP government. This project has no democratic legitimacy because it is in clear violation of Turkish rights and freedoms. Another proof of this mindset is what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said to his party caucus at the parliament on May 28, when he reacted to those who claimed that alcohol bans are related to the Islamic agenda. He said, "No matter what religion it is, religion stipulates not the wrong but the right. If that is an appropriate stipulation, are you going to oppose [this] on the grounds it is religion-based? For you, a law prepared by two drunkards can be valid, but how come our convictions becomes something to be rejected?”

 

Erdogan, therefore, has openly declared that the alcohol ban is a religious requirement, and that he wants to reshape public life according to religious strictures. He went further and openly called "anti-religious” anyone who opposes alcohol bans on the basis of personal rights and freedoms.

 

The relief felt by those who heard Erdogan say in the same speech, “The arrangements made are not interference in anybody’s way of life,” did not last long because Erdogan immediately added, "If you want to drink, take your alcoholic drink and drink it at home. Drink whatever you want to drink. We are not against that."

 

With these words, the Turkish prime minister has told a significant segment of the population, “Don’t pursue your way of life in public spaces.” This in itself is a grave example of social pressure that goes far beyond the substance and context of existing alcohol legislation.

 

Finally, with this alcohol restriction, the AKP government, not through public pressure but by enacting laws, has sadly provided a negative response to the question that has been waiting for an answer for the past 10  years: Is moderate Islam compatible with democracy? We have consequently reached a historical breaking point.

 

The authoritarian drive in Turkey had already prompted a very negative response to this question on Islam. But the alcohol ban that constitutes a religion-motivated assault on rights and freedoms did serve a useful function by revealing the reality that moderate Islam is not compatible with democracy.

 

The AKP attitude on the alcohol ban and the position adopted by Erdogan in its aftermath are fundamentally in contradiction with the secularism that is indispensable to peaceful and harmonious existence in a culturally heterogeneous country such as Turkey, and therefore an integral part of democracy.

 

Professor Atilla Yayla, one the most prominent defenders of liberal thought in Turkey, wrote in Taraf May 28 why the alcohol ban is critical for Muslim Turkey: "Alcohol is a basic test of freedoms that should given to religious conservatives, and whether we like it or not is a symbol of existence of freedom in Muslim countries. The freedom-drink linkage is this: Freedom is a person’s right to choose between the option of drinking or not. Forcing someone not drinking to drink is a violation of freedom, just as it is a violation to stop someone who wants to drink. In a country of freedoms, alcohol consumption can be regulated for secular reasons but not for religious pretexts, and such regulating cannot reach the point of the outright banning of drinking.”

 

As can be seen, ”moderate political Islam” in a country like Turkey that totally lacks checks-and-balances mechanisms and where there is no questioning by an effective opposition and free media is bound to eventually end up as a "moderate Shariah order." This is what the Turkish experience is teaching the world.

 

Kadri Gursel is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse and has written a column for the Turkish daily Milliyet since 2007.

Top of Page

 

On Topic
 

Protests in Turkey Reveal a Larger Fight over Identity: Tim Arango, New York Times, June 2, 2013—Across this vast city, a capital for three former empires, cranes dangle over construction sites, tin walls barricade old slums, and skyscrapers outclimb the mosque minarets that have dominated the skyline for centuries — all a vanguard for more audacious projects already in the works.

 

Turkish Spring Update: Erdoğan Doubles Down: Michael Rubin, Commentary, June 3, 2013—One of the more interesting things about the Arab Spring protests in Egypt was that the protestors did not initially seek Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster: Rather, their chief demand was for Mubarak to fire the interior minister. It was only Mubarak’s ham-fisted response that caused both the crowds and their demands to grow.

 

Turkey's Velvet Revolution: Cengiz Çandar, Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, June 2, 2013—I have been living in Istanbul for 40 years. I have never seen days like the last two in my city. I never thought I would be living through times like these. I am writing these lines as a veteran of revolutionary situations and extraordinary days. Which one should I recall? 

 

Istanbul Protesters: 'We Are Here for our Freedom': Nafeesa Syeed, Al-Monitor, June 2, 2013—For several days, streams of demonstrators filled the streets around the city's Taksim area where plans to build a shopping center on the grounds of Gezi park set off opposition that swelled into mass anger over Erdogan and his government.

 

Talking Turkey About Obama: Joel J. Sprayregen, Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2013 —President Barack Obama welcomed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House last week with warmth appropriate for the leader of a strategically located ally which is NATO’s only Muslim member, enjoys a booming economy, and holds elections which appear democratic. But Turkey brings to this alliance conduct which undermines constructive cooperation between our countries.

 

Top of Page

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

EGYPTIAN VOLCANO: AS MORSI STUMBLES, ARMY RETURNS, WOMEN TERRORIZED & COPTS, ANXIOUS, ELECT NEW POPE.

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

Morsi and the General: Daniel Nisman, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28, 2013In August 2012, it seemed as though Egypt's once-omnipotent military generals had been all but neutered. After a devastating militant attack killed dozens of troops in the Sinai Peninsula, a newly-elected President Mohammed Morsi seized the opportunity to fire Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and a number of other generals.

 

A Warning to John Kerry: Egypt Could Become the Next Iran: Nesreen Akhtarkhavari, Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 1, 2013As Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Egypt March 2 he should be wary of one concerning possibility: Under the rule of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt is in danger of becoming a Sunni version of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Terror in Tahrir: Diana Sayed, Egypt Independent, Mar. 2, 2013Women activists have protested all over the world against sexual violence in Egypt. The protests, which took place in front of Egyptian embassies in 20 capitals worldwide and in Cairo, sent a clear message to the Egyptian government that the international community will take a stand against sexual harassment in solidarity with the women of Egypt.

Egypt's New Coptic Pope Tawadros Faces Religious Tension, Uncertain Future: Joseph Mayton, Washington Report on Mid East Affairs, February 2013In early November, less than a week after Egypt's new Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros had taken over as the newest pontiff in the world's oldest Christian sect, he lashed out on television, accusing the ultra-conservative Salafists of "destroying" the future of the country. 

On Topic Links

 

 

Muslims Attacking Copts in Egypt Over False Rumor: Salma Shukrallah, Al Ahram,  Mar. 2, 2013

Will Violence Erupt in Egypt?: Mike Giglio, The Daily Beast, Mar 1, 2013

Will Egypt’s Democrats Get Serious?: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Feb. 27, 2013

The Egyptian Army is Making a Comeback: Zvi Mazel, Real Clear World, Feb. 25, 2013

 

 

 

MORSI AND THE GENERAL

Daniel Nisman

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28, 2013

 

In August 2012, it seemed as though Egypt's once-omnipotent military generals had been all but neutered. After a devastating militant attack killed dozens of troops in the Sinai Peninsula, a newly-elected President Mohammed Morsi seized the opportunity to fire Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and a number of other generals. President Morsi was empowered by popular anger following 17 months of incompetent military rule over post-revolution Egypt. But now, six months later, the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have returned to challenge an increasingly loathed President Morsi—quite possibly laying the groundwork to bring Egypt back under military rule.

 

General Abdel Fattah El Sissi, whom Mr. Morsi chose to replace Field Marshal Tantawi, was originally presumed to be sympathetic to Egypt's popularly elected Islamist leadership. Perhaps it was the notable opposition to U.S. foreign policy exhibited in his past writing, or the traditional Muslim headscarf worn by his wife. To suggest however, that a Brotherhood-sympathizer could have risen to the rank of general under Hosni Mubarak is to ignore the former dictator's unrelenting, decades-long rivalry with political Islam. Gen. Sissi's first move after being appointed was to make a tactical retreat, pulling the military back from the political sphere and restoring the prestige it lost during Egypt's tumultuous transition period. From there, Gen. Sissi has had a comfortable vantage point from which to observe the decline of the headstrong Muslim Brotherhood.

 

It didn't take long for the show to start. Last November, President Morsi plunged the country into violence after issuing a decree to help push an Islamist-backed draft constitution to referendum. During that month-long period of unrest, the fissure between Gen. Sissi's military and the Brotherhood had already begun to reopen. Amid ongoing military attacks against Islamist compounds across the country, President Morsi and his cohorts fumed at the military's refusal to send troops to protect their installations. The Brotherhood's leadership reportedly pressured President Morsi to reject a SCAF offer to mediate dialogue with the political opposition….

 

In January came more civil unrest, ignited by the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, particularly violent in Cairo. By then, relations between the Brotherhood and the military had gone from bad to worse. The Suez Canal region also saw particularly ugly clashes after a court issued death sentences against dozens of Port Said residents for their involvement in a deadly soccer riot last year. The Interior Ministry's failure to restore order to the country's most strategic region forced a hesitant President Morsi to make a request from the military to impose martial law.

 

Ironically, this handed Gen. Sissi a perfect opportunity to side with the people of the Suez Canal cities against President Morsi. Gen. Sissi agreed to deploy to the Canal, but ordered his troops to protect the waterway itself rather than submit to President Morsi's bidding by cracking down on a restive populace. The ensuing scenes of Port Said residents marching in the streets, side-by-side with military troops in defiance of President's Morsi's curfew, bore semblance to those of the 2011 uprising, when military officers were received in Tahrir Square by cheering revolutionaries. Those images emanating from Port Said soon led to whispers of support for a military coup in Cairo.

 

In the Sinai meanwhile, Gen. Sissi has gone ahead and strengthened his position with Washington at President Morsi's expense. The military's unprecedented crackdown on smuggling to the Gaza Strip most recently culminated in a campaign to destroy hundreds of tunnels on the Rafah border by flooding them with water. The military has made sure to publicize each of their seizures in a direct affront to President Morsi's pledges of support for Gaza's ruling Hamas regime.

 

Gen. Sissi has continued to publicly deny any intentions to seize power unless he is "called upon by the people" to do so—a hazy notion which has sparked fears of a coup within the Brotherhood leadership. On Feb. 20, the Egyptian press reported that the SCAF had been holding meetings behind closed doors in the president's absence on matters relating to security and stability. Since then, Egyptian media has been awash with rumours over a possible scheme by the president to sack Gen. Sissi as he did Field Marshal Tantawi…

 

Currently, neither President Morsi nor Gen. Sissi looks to be in a position to overpower the other. But the Machiavellian discipline displayed by the general may just be enough to outlast the Islamist politician. Egypt's secular opposition remains in disarray, unable to prove its worth as a viable alternative to President Morsi's floundering leadership. That leaves Gen. Sissi's increasingly trusted military as the only entity with the influence and organization needed to bring Egypt back from the brink of collapse.

 

Mr. Nisman is the Middle East and North Africa section intelligence director at Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm.

 

Top of Page

 

 

 

A WARNING TO JOHN KERRY:
EGYPT COULD BECOME THE NEXT IRAN

Nesreen Akhtarkhavari

Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 1, 2013

 

As Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Egypt March 2 he should be wary of one concerning possibility: Under the rule of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt is in danger of becoming a Sunni version of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Opposition leaders’ refusal to meet with Mr. Kerry over what they perceive to be as unprincipled US support for Mr. Morsi should serve as a wake-up call and warning to Washington.

 

Morsi’s first step after winning the June 2012 presidential election was to create an alliance with other Islamic groups, and sideline seculars and liberals who could derail the establishment of a religious state. Next, he gave himself immunity from legal prosecution and managed to quickly hoard more power than deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak ever dreamed of having. After a number of manoeuvres, Morsi pushed forward a constitution drafted mostly by Brotherhood members and their allies, ignoring the protests of secular opponents, Christians, women, and liberals against the discriminatory language and key articles placed in the new constitution.

 

The new constitution sets the legal ground for creating what could become an Islamic state. It restricts the role of the judicial and legislative branches and stipulates that laws and their interpretations are subject to Islamic jurisprudence. It further gives legal-oversight power on “matters related to the Islamic sharia” to Al-Azhar University, the oldest and highest Sunni religious institution in Egypt.

 

The new constitution and its wide implications for personal freedom and social justice should concern the international community. It explicitly recognizes only the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and leaves other minorities, such as those of the Baha’i faith, without meaningful constitutional protection. Strict adherence to the concept of apostasy prevents Muslims from changing their religion, a crime punishable by death. Blasphemy laws restrict freedom of expression, especially on religious matters, with retributions as severe as death for comments related to the prophet Mohammed or the Koran.

 

According to Sunni jurisprudence, women are subject to male guardianship under which their personal freedoms, social life, and career choices are severely restricted. This restriction is not banned under Egypt’s new constitution. And because the new constitution fails to set a minimum age for marriage and does not criminalize sexual trafficking of minors, children, especially girls, could be forced into marriages at the age of nine with the approval of their male guardians.

 

During the last three decades, Iran, under the control of the Islamic Shiite clergy, was transformed into a religious state with endless human rights violations. In most cases, the world stood by watching. Egypt is learning from the Iranian experience. If the political conditions in Egypt remain the same, Egypt could soon follow Iran’s footsteps…..

 

Top of Page

 

 

 

Terror in Tahrir

Diana Sayed

Egypt Independent, Mar. 2, 2013

 

Women activists have protested all over the world against sexual violence in Egypt. The protests, which took place in front of Egyptian embassies in 20 capitals worldwide and in Cairo, sent a clear message to the Egyptian government that the international community will take a stand against sexual harassment in solidarity with the women of Egypt.

 

In the midst of all the chaos of the country’s politics, there seems to be one constant: Women are being pushed, figuratively and, in many cases, literally, out of the public sphere. Despite being at the forefront of the revolution that occurred two years ago, women continue to face much the same kind of systematic targeting they faced under the Hosni Mubarak regime.

 

For example, Cairo’s Tahrir Square, seen as the heart of the protest movement, has become a dangerous place for women. On 25 January 2013, the second anniversary of the Egyptian uprising, numerous women reported being sexually assaulted, including many who were raped. Nazra for Feminist Studies, an Egyptian NGO, documented one protester’s story about what happened to her at Tahrir when she was caught in a crowd of demonstrators: “I did not understand anything at that moment … I did not comprehend what was happening … who are those people?”

 

“All that I knew was that there were hundreds of hands stripping me of my clothes and brutally violating my body. There is no way out, for everyone is saying that they are protecting and saving me, but all I felt from the circles close to me, sticking to my body, was the finger-rape of my body, from the front and back; someone was even trying to kiss me … I was completely naked,” she recounted. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the attacks….

 

In response to such violent attacks, Nazra and other leading Egyptian NGOs, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, HarassMap and Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, have formed Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, often abbreviated as OpAntiSH. The coalition has been a prominent critic of revolutionary groups and political parties that have failed to combat attacks on female protesters.

 

Though it is not certain who is behind the frequent attacks, OpAntiSH suggests they are not random. “We believe they must be organized, because they happen most of the time in the exact same spots in Tahrir Square and they use the same methodologies,” the coalition said, adding that testimonies collected were similar to accounts of 2005 attacks thought to have been instigated by secret police. Nazra adds, “We will not be frightened; we will not hide in our homes. Sexual harassment is a social disease that has been rampant for years, used by the regime to intimidate girls and women.”

 

This is not a new problem in Egypt, but it is one that grows more disturbing with each brutal attack. According to a 2008 report by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, 83 percent of Egyptian women had experienced some form of sexual harassment. The problem is exacerbated by a failure to prosecute the perpetrators.  One activist recently observed, “There is no accountability for these people. They know that they can get away with it again and again.”

 

The Egyptian Railways Authority announced last week that it would enforce women’s-only train cars on several popular routes to and from Cairo in a move to try and curtail the rampant sexual harassment. However, it’s a move that some activists say addresses the symptoms and not the cause of the attacks. The issue frequently happens in the shadows of more well-documented news events surrounding Egypt’s journey toward democracy. It is clear that Egypt is a nation in desperate need of stability that is safeguarded by institutions established to guarantee human rights.

 

It’s not easy bringing in democracy after generations of dictatorship or to change mindsets that have been entrenched for so long. But if the new Egypt is to emerge stronger and better than the one of the past, women must be permitted to safely participate in political dialogue. They must be able to walk down the street or into areas of protest safe from fear of attack.  If the revolution of Tahrir Square is to take hold permanently, all Egyptians — men and women, alike — must be able to participate to ensure that every Egyptian lives with dignity and enjoys democracy.

 

Diana Sayed is Human Rights First’s Pennoyer fellow and an advocate and researcher in the Human Rights Defenders Program.

 

Top of Page

 

 

EGYPT'S NEW COPTIC POPE TAWADROS

 

FACES RELIGIOUS TENSION, UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Joseph Mayton

Washington Report on Mid East Affairs, February 2013

 

In early November, less than a week after Egypt's new Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros had taken over as the newest pontiff in the world's oldest Christian sect, he lashed out on television, accusing the ultra-conservative Salafists of "destroying" the future of the country. His comments are unlikely to go over well with a majority of Egyptians, who have turned even more toward their Islamic faith since the January 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak from power.

 

Nevertheless, Pope Tawadros, like the Coptic community, is forging ahead, asserting their identity despite fears of a conservative backlash that has already threatened Egypt's social fabric. The new pope's ascension comes at a time when relations between Muslim and Christian Egyptians are strained at best. Reports of girls having their hair cut off on public transportation by Salafist (Islamic puritan) women in niqab, the full-face-covering veil popular among the ultra-conservatives, or of a teacher cutting students' hair for failing to cover their heads with a hijab are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

In an early November incident, a group of Salafists occupied a plot of land on the outskirts of Cairo owned by the Coptic Christian Church and attempted to turn it into a makeshift mosque. It took police a full day to arrive. Luckily for residents, violence and clashes did not break out, but it would not have been the first time Christians and Muslims have battled.

 

The average Egyptian Christian is uncertain which way the church will go under Pope Tawadros. As George Zaki, a young man studying to become a Coptic priest, says, right now "it is really up in the air" in which direction the church will head. Zaki wants a strong leader who is willing to speak his mind, but doesn't feel that immediately lashing out at the Salafists is a good move. "Many of us are definitely fearful of the Salafists, even my Muslim friends," he explains, "because we all fought and protested for a new Egypt that wouldn't see religion be part of the political make-up."

 

Prior to Pope Tawadros' appointment on Nov. 4, the Muslim Brotherhood began talking about working with the new pope, and those who cover religious issues on the ground say they support the status quo. "What the Coptic community doesn't need is someone who will anger the Islamists in government right now," says Yussif Qandeel, a reporter at an Egyptian Arabic daily who regularly covers Christian issues. Judging by his conversations with members of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)—the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing—Qandeel says "they want to see someone be pope who they can work with, which means continuing the [late Pope] Shenouda tradition." Not everyone in the Coptic community may agree, however. Although Pope Shenouda, who died on March 17, was extremely popular, many Copts considered him weak in standing up for the community's rights and ability to function in Egyptian society.

 

Still, overall the Christian community is inclined to support the new pope, who already has demonstrated his ability to combine the strengths of the Shenouda era with distancing himself from what many perceived to be Shenouda's willingness to acquiesce to the Mubarak regime. Certainly it will be difficult to replace a man who presided over the Coptic community for more than four decades, as Shenouda did. Despite the growing internal struggle within the church, however, most are optimistic, including Zaki, who believes the future will find the Coptic Church stronger than ever.

 

"We are a strong people, a strong group of Christians and we have been through a lot in the past years," he explains, "so I think the future of the Church will not be determined by one choice, but by the strength of our own community and by our people as Egyptians." Fears of anti-Christian sentiment received a reprieve earlier this year when the country's leading Islamic institute, al-Azhar, called for a Bill of Rights to be adopted before a constitution is drafted. The idea, simply, would be to establish certain "inalienable" rights for all Egyptians, including freedom of speech, assembly and, most importantly, freedom of religion. The proposed document received massive popular support from activists, liberals, Islamists, intellectuals and Christians alike. Nevertheless, the implementation of these "inalienable" rights remains to be seen.

 

In the process of drafting a new constitution, the Constituent Assembly was consumed with the question of shariah, or Islamic law, leaving many Egyptians wondering what happened to the proposed Bill of Rights.

 

For its part, the Coptic Church has historically avoided advocating separation of church and state, despite the inclination of the greater Coptic community, which has long demanded that the government end its preferential treatment of Muslim Egyptians. This was evident a few years back, when a Coptic woman had to fight numerous court battles in order to retain custody of her two children, who grew up Coptic but whom the government reclassified as Muslims after their father converted to Islam. Although its views on religion in Egypt are becoming more liberal, the Coptic Church has long preferred a separate set of laws for Egypt's Muslim and Christian communities to a unifying concept of freedom of religion.

 

While the Coptic community is hopeful about the future of Egypt and the social and political roles it will play, they must have reservations about how far the Christian community can realistically advance. Not only do Coptic Egyptians have limited mobility and limited parliamentary representation, but the country's turn toward conservatism may well be a major impediment to creating a robust civil society that treats Coptic Christians with equal weight. The new constitution undoubtedly will provide the first look at just how much unity and freedom its citizens, Muslim and Coptic alike, will enjoy in the new Egypt.

 

Joseph Mayton is a free-lance journalist based in Cairo.

 

Top of Page

 

 

 

 

Muslims Attacking Copts in Egypt Over False Rumor: Salma Shukrallah, Al Ahram,  Mar. 2, 2013A rumour has spread in the Upper Egyptian city of Kom Ombo that a divorced Muslim woman in her mid-30s was kidnapped by the Coptic Church and converted to Christianity. In an area divided by tribal and religious allegiances, the story has fuelled violence against the area's Christian minority.

 

Will Violence Erupt in Egypt?: Mike Giglio, The Daily Beast, Mar 1, 2013On the night of December 7, Ahmed Abdel Hamid sensed violence coming. A 35-year-old Salafi activist with a rugged black beard and a pro wrestler’s build, he and a few thousand of his hardline religious comrades had massed outside the futuristic compound in western Cairo known as “media city,” the heart of Egypt’s expanding TV-news universe. They waited for word from the capital’s east.

 

Will Egypt’s democrats get serious?: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Feb. 27, 2013Two years ago, the popular narrative on Egypt was all about a nation getting rid of a despot and heading for a golden future. Today, we have a litany of woes depicting Egypt as a wayward ship in a stormy sea. But what if both narratives miss the point?

 

The Egyptian Army is Making a Comeback: Zvi Mazel, Real Clear World, Feb. 25, 2013Never has Egypt been so close to civil war and today it seems that only the army can prevent the worst from happening. The Muslim Brothers and the opposition are both doing their utmost to bring the army to their side, with little success so far: Field Marshal Abd el-Fattah El-Sisi, the defense minister, never loses an opportunity to state that the army is taking no part in the political struggle and devotes its energy to protecting the country – while adding that it will not let it plunge into chaos.

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

AS EGYPT’S ECONOMY TANKS & IRAN TIES WORSEN, SUDAN’S SHADOW FALLS OVER CHRISTIANS’ SITUATION

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

Morsi, Egypt Face Economic Meltdown: Felix Imonti, Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2013—Six months of street violence over the preparation of the constitution has led to the neglect of an economy. The budget deficit rose by 38%, or $13.1 billion over six months, the Egyptian pound slipped 6% against the US dollar, unemployment rose from 8.9% to 12.4% and GDP growth fell from 5.0 to 0.5%.

The Enduring Egypt-Iran Divide: Mehdi Khalaji, Washington Institute, Dec. 31, 2012—Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood's ascent to power in the aftermath of the massive popular protests that toppled Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, inspired hope of renewed diplomatic ties with Iran. But, despite shared ideological principles, significant political obstacles continue to inhibit bilateral cooperation.

 

A 'Sudanese Genocide' in Egypt?: Raymond Ibrahim, Front Page Magazine, Jan 4, 2013—The current tensions in Egypt between the Muslim Brotherhood-led government and a fragmented populace that includes large segments of people who oppose the Islamization of Egypt—the moderates, secularists, and Christians who recently demonstrated in mass at Tahrir Square and even besieged the presidential palace—is all too familiar. One need only look to Egypt's immediate neighbour, Sudan, and its bloody history, to know where the former may be headed.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Qatar to Egypt $2.5-Billion Lifeline Props Up Pound: Yasmine Saleh & Patrick Werr, Globe and Mail, Jan. 8, 2013

Cables Show State Department Disregarded Muslim Brotherhood Threat: John Rossomando, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jan. 8, 2013

Preacher Alarms Many in Egypt with Calls for Islamist Vice Police: Egypt Independent, Jan. 9, 2013

Morsi Manages Egypt’s Economic Decline: Nervana Mahmoud, Al-Monitor, Jan 7, 2013

Diving Currency Adds to Egypt's Woes: Matt Bradley, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 30, 2013

Egyptian Cleric Threatens Egypt's Copts with Genocide: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 28, 2012

 

 

 

MORSI, EGYPT FACE ECONOMIC MELTDOWN

Felix Imonti

Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2013

 

It took a mere 20% of the electorate to bring into effect the new constitution. Eighty percent of voters either rejected it or did not vote — for whatever reason . The obsession that Morsi had with imposing the constitution has placed him in the middle of a political minefield. Six months of street violence over the preparation of the constitution has led to the neglect of an economy that has come to a near halt. The budget deficit rose by 38%, or $13.1 billion over six months, the Egyptian pound slipped 6% against the US dollar, unemployment rose from 8.9% to 12.4% and GDP growth fell from 5.0 to 0.5%.

 

Added to those problems, foreign reserves were halved with the flight of capital and the transfer of savings abroad. The outflow led to the imposition of currency controls at the end of December, when reserves had diminished to $15 billion, enough to finance only three months of imports. Egypt runs a 50% trade deficit that used to be offset by earnings from tourism and remittances from workers abroad, but the tourists are staying away and economic conditions around the world make it more difficult for Egyptian workers to find employment.

 

Due to the political instability and the worsening financial plight of the government, Standard & Poor's downgraded Egypt's credit standing to B-minus, six levels below credit grade. Before the downgrade, Egypt paid 13.54% for a one-year treasury bond. After the downgrade, the sale of bonds was cancelled to avoid higher interest rates. Credit swops show Egypt ranking among the ten worst credit risks, along with Greece and Pakistan….

 

The certain rise in import prices will increase the inflation rate above the current level of 4.1%. The impact could be offset by expanding subsidies, which would increase the budget deficit beyond the current 10%. Already, subsidies form 30% of the budget; and it is that which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the government to reduce in order to qualify for the $4.8 billion loan. Terms for the loan had been settled after a year of negotiations only to be cancelled by the Morsi government, which feared increased taxes and reduced subsidies would spark more riots before the vote on the referendum. The IMF loan is critical for acquiring the additional $10 billion from the European Union, the African Development Bank and other sources. Without it, Egypt will be frozen out of the international financial markets.

 

As most of the Egyptian government debt is owed to domestic banks, those banks face insolvency. The National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr SAE and Commerce International Bank have been downgraded in anticipation of a government default. Egypt suffers from a shortage of investment capital due to the lack of savings. Only if there is an influx of foreign direct investment can Egypt expect to see capital available for economic expansion. That, however, is being stifled by the unrest and the effort by groups inside Egypt to reverse the sale of state enterprises made during the Mubarak regime.

 

Starting in 2004, the Mubarak government embarked upon an economic-reform and privatization program. Over the next four years, $9.4 billion in state industries were sold to foreign and domestic buyers. The GDP growth rate rose from 4.1% to 7.2%. Foreign reserves expanded from $16 billion to $34 billion. Even during the global economic crisis of 2010, the economy continued to expand at 5%, but all of that came to an abrupt halt when the mobs flooded into Tahrir Square.

 

Now, some of the sales are being reversed. Foreign investors are viewing them as future risks better avoided. Foreign direct investment is only 16% of what it was in 2007, and much of that is in the petroleum sector.

 

A bad situation is being made worse by spreading worker discontent. Workers are demanding the right to unionize and to strike. Their call for “bread, freedom and justice” was for them the purpose of the revolution. Instead, the Morsi government is breaking up strikes with the police and has jailed union activists just as the Mubarak government had done before. If anything, workers are complaining that Morsi’s administration is worse than what was overthrown.

 

Most businesses are small. Yet, it is they that are providing the bulk of Egyptian employment. Business owners are complaining that the new government is doing nothing to reduce the suffocating regulations and corrupt bureaucracy. If they try to raise capital to invest, they are forced to compete with the government borrowing to finance its growing budget deficit or with the large private and state corporations that are given preference.

 

Whatever the ideology expounded, the Muslim Brotherhood is comprised mainly of professionals, with many involved in businesses. Like the crony capitalists of the Mubarak era, the government has become an instrument to protect their interests.

 

Back in November, Morsi seized power and moved to block the Constitutional Court to save his concept of democracy. There is nothing to say that he will not break the labour unions to save his vision of the economy. He should look very carefully at the mere 20% of the voters who supported his constitutional efforts and realize that he has been given a warning. The people of Egypt are not marching in his parade.

 

Felix Imonti is the retired director of a private equity firm where he was an investment strategist for seven years. 

Top of Page

 

 

 

 

THE ENDURING EGYPT-IRAN DIVIDE

Mehdi Khalaji

Washington Institute, Dec. 31, 2012

 

Despite ideological affinities between the Muslim Brotherhood and Tehran, political disagreements make a rapprochement unlikely. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi may look besieged at home, but by brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in November, he enhanced his diplomatic stature mightily across the entire Middle East. Indeed, as 2012 comes to a close, Egypt's centrality to regional diplomacy has been restored. The big question for 2013 is whether Morsi will follow his achievement in Gaza by tackling another major diplomatic challenge: rebuilding relations with Iran after more than three decades of animosity.

 

Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood's ascent to power in the aftermath of the massive popular protests that toppled Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, inspired hope of renewed diplomatic ties with Iran. But, despite shared ideological principles, significant political obstacles continue to inhibit bilateral cooperation.

 

Relations between the two countries collapsed in 1980, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in Iran's Islamic Revolution and severed ties in response to Egypt's formal recognition of Israel the previous year. Egypt's then-president, Anwar El Sadat, granted the exiled Shah of Iran permission to live in Egypt, and supported Iraq in its eight-year war with the Islamic Republic. The Shah was ultimately buried in a mosque in Cairo….

 

Islamists in Iran and Egypt have a strong ideological connection. They share anti-Israel sentiment, and support Hamas against the secular-nationalist Fatah in the Palestinians' internecine struggle. Committed to governance under Sharia (Islamic law), they both view Western culture as a threat.

 

Iran has made some efforts to establish stronger economic relations with Egypt's Islamist government and, in turn, cement a powerful anti-Israel front in the region. Iran's attempt to strike a deal to sell Egypt crude oil would also help the Iranian government to cope with economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. But, although Iran's oil minister, Rostam Qassemi, said in October that negotiations were underway, Egypt's minister of petroleum and mineral resources, Osama Kamal, quickly disavowed any such deal.

Beyond economics, Khamenei has an emotional attachment to Egypt. A student of the Egyptian style of Koran recitation, he gathers Koran reciters from Egypt, as well as from other Islamic countries, in his home every Ramadan. More important, his outlook has been heavily influenced by the writings of Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood. Prior to the revolution, Khamenei translated three of Qutb's books into Farsi.

 

Despite these ideological affinities, political disagreements make a rapprochement unlikely. The Muslim Brotherhood considers itself the bastion of modern political Islam, and believes that it should assume a leadership role for all Islamist groups and states. For his part, Khamenei describes himself as the "leader of the Islamic world," and calls Iran its "mother city" (Umm al Qora).

 

Moreover, the Sunni-Shia divide could pose a major challenge for Egypt-Iran relations. The Muslim Brotherhood is working to strengthen ties with Sunni allies, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and even Turkey, rather than with Iran's Shia regime, which threatens Sunni regimes by exporting revolution and pitting Shia minorities against their governments.

 

In fact, since Mubarak's ouster, anti-Shia propaganda has gained traction in the Egyptian public sphere, with books alleging Shia corruption of Islam's true meaning filling the shelves of Cairo's bookstores. But this campaign largely reflects the growing influence of Egypt's Sunni allies — particularly the Gulf monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia — rather than a genuine threat from Egypt's small and quiescent Shia community….

 

These countries then export their anti-Shia discourse to countries, like Egypt, that do not necessarily have a history of Sunni-Shia conflict. Indeed, many of Cairo's cultural landmarks, for example, were built under the Shia Fatimid Caliphate. And, before last year's revolution, Egypt was considered one of the most Shia-friendly Sunni countries in the Arab world. But the Muslim Brotherhood remains financially dependent on the Gulf monarchies, which are using Egypt as a platform for their anti-Shia, anti-Iran agenda.

 

The most urgent dispute between Iran and Egypt, however, relates to Syria. During its years in opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood considered Iran's Islamic Revolution an example of how a transnational Islamist government might assume power. But, in the face of a popular uprising in Syria, Iran has supported the brutal, repressive policies of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. As a result, Islamists in Egypt are beginning to view Iran as a status quo power, not an agent of revolutionary change.

 

Furthermore, the flow of military supplies from Iran, together with battlefield support for Assad's regime from Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, reinforce the perception of a Sunni-Shia conflict in Syria. In this context, the collapse of Assad's regime would likely exacerbate tensions between Iran and Egypt — especially given that Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, the leading opposition group, would likely play a strong, even dominant, role in a new Syrian order.

 

For now, Egypt's government is putting national interests ahead of pan-Islamist aspirations. Rather than inciting an escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Egypt worked with the US and other regional allies to broker a cease-fire. By contrast, Iran's military leaders boasted about their support for Hamas, offering no indication that they wanted the fighting to end.

 

Less than two years after Egypt's revolution, Morsi's government is struggling to address domestic challenges, including the proliferation of armed radical groups in Sinai. But, as regional tensions continue  to rise, the chances of an Egypt-Iran detente are likely to deteriorate.
 

Mehdi Khalaji, a Qom-trained Shiite theologian, is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute.

 

Top of Page

 

 

 

A 'SUDANESE GENOCIDE' IN EGYPT?

Raymond Ibrahim

Front Page Magazine, Jan 4, 2013

The current tensions in Egypt between the Muslim Brotherhood-led government and a fragmented populace that includes large segments of people who oppose the Islamization of Egypt—the moderates, secularists, and Christians who recently demonstrated en mass at Tahrir Square and even besieged the presidential palace—is all too familiar. One need only look to Egypt's immediate neighbour, Sudan, and its bloody history, to know where the former may be headed.

 

The civil war in Sudan, which saw the deaths of millions, was fundamentally a by-product of an Islamist regime trying to push Sharia law on large groups of Sudanese—Muslim, Christian, and polytheist—who refused to be governed by Allah's law, who refused to be Islamized. Although paying lip-service to pluralism and equality in the early years, by 1992, the Islamist government of Khartoum declared a formal jihad on the south and the Nuba, citing a fatwa by Sudan's Muslim authorities which declared that "An insurgent who was previously a Muslim is now an apostate; and a non-Muslim is a non-believer standing as a bulwark against the spread of Islam, and Islam has granted the freedom of killing both of them."

 

In other words, Khartoum decreed that: 1) It is simply trying to do Allah's will by instituting Islamic Sharia law; 2) Any Sudanese who objects—including Muslims—is obviously an infidel; 3) All such infidels must be eliminated. Accordingly, countless people were butchered, raped, and enslaved—all things legitimate once an Islamic state declares a jihad. While South Sudan recently ceded, the Nuba Mountains in the north is still continuously being bombarded.

 

Now consider how the above pattern—false promises of religious freedom, followed by a Sharia push and a declaration that all who oppose it, including Muslims, are infidels and apostates to be killed—is precisely what has been going on directly to the north of Sudan, in Egypt.

First, although Muhammad Morsi repeatedly promised that he would be a president who represents "all Egyptians" during presidential elections, mere months after coming to power, he showed that his true loyalty—which should have been obvious from the start, considering that he is a Muslim Brotherhood leader—was to Sharia and Islamization.

Even so, Egyptians did not forget that Morsi, during presidential elections, had said the following in a video interview:

 

The Egyptian people are awake and alert—Muslims and Christians; and they know that, whoever comes [to become Egypt's president], and does not respect the rule of law and the Constitution, the people will go against him. I want the people immediately to go against me, if I ever do not respect the law and Constitution.

 

Accordingly, when Morsi aggrandized himself with unprecedented presidential powers, and then used these powers to sidestep the law and push a Sharia-heavy Constitution on Egypt, large segments of the Egyptian people did rise against him; at one point, he even had to flee the presidential palace. And just as in Sudan, Morsi's Islamist allies—who, like Morsi, during elections spoke glowingly of Egyptian unity—made it a point to portray all those Egyptians opposing Morsi, the majority of whom are Muslims, of opposing Islam, of being apostates and hypocrites, and thus enemies who should be fought and killed.

 

Radical online cleric Wagdi Ghoneim, for instance, incited Muslims to wage jihad on and eliminate anyone protesting against Morsi, adding that any Muslim found protesting is, in fact, an apostate hypocrite, who wants to see Islam wiped out of Egypt. He justified the jihad on such Muslims by quoting Quran 66:9: "O Prophet! Strive hard against the infidels and the hypocrites, and be firm against them." He added that the hypocrites were supported by "Crusader Christians" (a reference to the Copts) and "debauched" liberals and seculars—all of whom must also be fought and even killed.

 

As for those Muslims who were protesting but were still "true" Muslims, Ghoneim portrayed them as being misguided—asking them, "Why are you siding with crusaders and infidels against Sharia?"—and thus also needing to be fought until they come to their senses.

 

He correctly pointed out that Islam forbids true Muslims from fighting each other—despite the fact that history (and current events) are replete with Muslims slaughtering each other—and rationalized his call to fight fellow Muslims by quoting Quran 49:9: "If two factions among the believers fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allah." In this context, the moderate Muslims opposing Sharia are the ones "oppressing the other"—the true Muslims, Morsi and his supporters, who want Sharia, that is, who want to "return to the ordinance of Allah."…

 

Egypt is still not Sudan, but it is going down the same path and following the same pattern, specifically, an Islamist government trying to Islamize society, and characterizing as infidels and apostates all who resist. Undoubtedly Egypt's Islamist government will continue to try to Islamize all walks of Egyptian life; undoubtedly there will be those who reject it. The question is, will their resistance ever be staunch enough to prompt the government to act on the aforementioned fatwas, formally declaring all those Egyptians opposing Sharia as infidels and apostates to be hunted down and eradicated with impunity? Only time will tell.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Top of Page

 

 

 

 

 

Qatar Throws Egypt $2.5-Billion Lifeline to Prop up Pound: Yasmine Saleh & Patrick Werr, Globe and Mail, Jan. 8, 2013—Qatar threw Egypt an economic lifeline on Tuesday, announcing it had lent Egypt another $2-billion and given it an extra $500-million outright to help control a currency crisis. Political strife has set off a rush to convert Egyptian pounds to dollars over the past several weeks, sending the currency to a record low against the U.S. dollar and draining foreign reserves to a critical level.

 

Cables Show State Department Disregarded Muslim Brotherhood Threat: John Rossomando,

Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jan. 8, 2013—The Obama administration chose to listen to voices suggesting that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was moderate rather than those who warned it would resort to violence if it came to power, cables obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism show.

 

Preacher Alarms Many in Egypt With Calls for Islamist Vice Police: Egypt Independent, Jan. 9, 2013—Many Egyptian viewers were horrified when preacher Hesham al-Ashry recently popped up on primetime television to say women must cover up for their own protection and advocated the introduction of religious police.

 

Morsi Manages Egypt’s Economic Decline: Nervana Mahmoud, Al-Monitor, Jan 7, 2013—As fear for the economy grows in Egypt, a comparison to the conditions faced in the ’70s and early ’80s becomes more plausible. How far will the economy deteriorate? Can Morsi’s team save it? Every household ponders these questions while watching a devalued Egyptian pound and witnessing the hike in food prices.

 

Diving Currency Adds to Egypt's Woes: Matt Bradley, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 30, 2013—Egypt's currency plumbed new depths on Sunday as policy makers tried to reassure the public and investors that they can prevent a full-scale currency devaluation while still repairing Egypt's budget deficit. The country's worsening economic crisis comes after President Mohammed Morsi isolated his political opponents to push through Egypt's Islamist-leaning constitution, sparking weeks of riots, protests and political uncertainty.

 

Egyptian Cleric Threatens Egypt's Copts with Genocide: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 28, 2012—Islamic leaders continue to portray the popular protests against President Morsi and his recently passed Sharia-heavy constitution as products of Egypt's Christians. 

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org