THE ARAB SPRING IS HERE TO STAY
On the expected line, the Egyptian military stepped in, deposed Mohammed Morsi, suspended the Egyptian Constitution and appointed an interim head of the country till the next elections are held.
Millions signed the petition demanding Morsi’s ouster. Millions gathered to protest. Millions shouted slogans of ‘no Morsi’. And millions celebrated in the iconic Tahrir Square and in Egypt when the Morsi’s rule came to an end.
With much less violence than the first Tahrir Square uprising! Spectacular!
This transition or the military coup as some say is still the step ahead in a positive direction in evolution of a multiparty democracy in the most populous Arab Nation.
Apart from the falling economy that Morsi failed to address, the other major complaint of the millions who protested against Morsi was that the government was engaging in ‘Brotherhoodization’ or ‘ikhwaninzation’ of the Egyptian society as an article on CNN says. (Muslim Brotherhood’s Arabic transliteration is al-Ikḫwān al-Muslimūn; ‘Ikhwan’ translates to ‘brothers’.)
Muslim Brotherhood is an influential organization with pan-Arab presence. It preaches and promotes exclusivity of Islamic values as the way of life and has been involved in violent activities to promote its cause. It doesn’t believe in secular democracy. The Brotherhood has been involved in political assassinations and has established militant Islamic organization like Hamas.
The movement was founded in Egypt in 1928. Due to its violent activities, it was banned in 1948. But the organization is still strong in Egypt and has been able to maintain its support base though every successive political establishment in Egypt has worked to suppress it effectively.
Its violent history, a narrow view on democratic values and emphasis on introducing a strict Islamic code as a way of life were worrying factors for the Egyptian thought leaders and for the global community when Morsi won a landslide victory last year to become the first democratically president of the nation.
And one year of Morsi’s rule has proven those worries correct. If Morsi’s victory was landslide, his fall is equally spectacular, too.
Some Arab nations are rich. Some are filthy rich. Many of the 22 Arab speaking nations are not so well-to-do. But almost of the Arab nations are bad places for free thinking souls believing in secular democratic credentials as a way of life.
Most of the Arab nations are not democracies. There are tyrannies. There are monarchies. Their rulers promote strict Islamic code as a way of life as religion helps them in keeping control over the masses. The there are nations torn by civil wars.
Though Egypt was not a democracy, but it was not even a hardliner Islamic state. Having a long ancient history, Egypt has been the cultural representative of the Arab world in the modern times and is one of the most diversified Arab world economies. The nation, though under the authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak for decades, has been in the mainstream of the global geopolitics. In modern times, the Egyptian politicians have been able to keep the state and the politics free from the Islamists and the religious institutions. And that reflects in the social weaving of the nation. And that is reflecting in the aspirations of the agitating nation.
The Wikipedia quotes from a U.S. Library of Congress study:
Many Muslims say that Egypt’s governments have been secularist and even anti-religious since the early 1920s. Politically organized Muslims who seek to purge the country of its secular policies are referred to as “Islamists.”
An article in the New York Times in the high-tide days of January 25 to February 10 protests writes:
Among Arab states, Egypt was the first to make a concerted effort to co-opt its intellectual class, and it has set the standard ever since. Muhammad Ali, who ruled during the first half of the 19th century, conscripted several generations of scholars to import scientific and military knowledge from Europe. These new experts also staffed government schools and edited official newspapers. A state-centered approach to culture persisted through the early part of last century and reached its apogee under the rule of Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Following the Free Officers’ Revolt of 1952, Nasser’s regime nationalized the press, the cinema and most publishing houses, establishing what one historian has termed “a virtual state monopoly on culture.” Mubarak exploited this monopoly for his own needs. During the 1990s, as Egyptian security forces fought a low-level war against Islamist groups in Upper Egypt, the regime did its best to recruit intellectuals to its side.
Egypt has been free of the religious fanaticism that has become the most lethal exporter of the Islamic terrorism in the world. The rich Arab nations are a major source of funding for the Islamic terrorist organizations.
Egypt, being an influential Arab nation, could have been and could be the beginning of the long process to free the Arab people from the autocrats and the monarchs ruling them; from the warlords killing them.
Egypt, indeed, is the best case study and can be the role model for promoting democratic values in an otherwise tyrannical Arab world with state controlled lives or civil wars, be it Saudi Arabia or Somalia.
The world has seen how the Arab Spring rapidly spread in the different Arab countries in a short span of time. Driven by a desperate urge for change and connected by the modern technologies of communication, the developments of one country pushed the thinking of the residents of the next country and the chain was established in no time.
It also shows how the people across the Arab nations are feeling almost similar problems of restricted freedom, borrowed livelihood, fractured social life and no individual viewpoints midst an existential threat.
For this, how the Arab Spring proceeded in Egypt, was important for Egypt, for the Arab world and for the world.
And the rapid rise and fall of Mohammed Morsi is good for that reason. It tells us it is heading in the right direction.
It was increasingly becoming clear that Morsi was not working and was not going to work to promote a secular democracy. He was gradually working towards Islamization of Egypt. In doing so, he messed up an already derailed economy, something that seldom seemed to be his concern. Morsi’s primary concern seemed to be establishing the Islamic rule as preached by the Muslim Brotherhood.
That is a dangerous proposition for the world. Establishment of a strict Islamist rule under the Muslim Brotherhood in one of the most influential Arab nations would work as a boon for the militant Islam and would push back the spirit of democracy in whole of the Arab world many years back and it would negatively affect the ongoing Arab Spring uprisings in other Arab countries.
The concern over the military stepping in and deposing a democratically elected government is valid but its applicability has to be case specific and it doesn’t apply in the Egypt of the day. Barack Obama rightly said that ‘democracy is more than elections’ when he requested Morsi to respond to the protesters.
Egyptians had seen first elections in decades when the elected Morsi. The generation of the voters had never experienced what the democracy was and had no idea what it had to be for them. Also, as some analysts say, the Muslim Brotherhood was the only organized political outfit (with the front – Freedom and Justice Party) when the elections were announced. The generation of voters had no practical experience of the violent past and the anti-secular hardline ideology of the Brotherhood as they had grown seeing the movement suppressed.
The protesters, and the Egyptians, had sought and fought for freedom and a better life during the first Tahrir Square uprising. And one year of Morsi’s rule told them it was not what they had expected from Morsi while voting him in the highest office of the country.
And it was a remarkably swift realization for a nation of over 84 million to realize it and raise voice so effectively deposing Morsi in just a year and the second Tahrir Square uprising is significant for that.
And for the concern of the military taking over, it is a far cry in the present circumstances. The Egyptian military is a stable institution that enjoys popularity in the country and has support from the global powers like the US. They are already an important part of the decision-making process in the Egypt and would not do anything to weaken that base by alienating the internal supporters and by antagonizing the global powers.
The Arab Spring in Egypt has given the country its next step to experiment with the process of establishing a free democracy. Let’s see how it rolls out and let’s pray for it to be headed in the right direction.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/