Violent turmoil in Egypt

Egypt has experienced heady times in the past two years. Hosny Mubarak an octogenarian dictator who had ruled Egypt with an iron hand for three decades was toppled in 2011 by widespread street protests. The Egyptian people young and old shedding their fear of the fearsome Mubarak security apparatus, basked in the sunshine of freedom. The Muslim Brotherhood, the conservative Muslim fundamentalist group, with a substantial following among a cross section of Egyptian society, which had lurked in the shadows as a delegitimized group for half a century, was allowed to become a stakeholder in Egyptian politics. A new and hopeful future for Egyptians seemed to be on the horizon, when Mohammed Morsi a Muslim Brotherhood politician was elected President in the summer of 2012.

Morsi is the elected President of Egypt. But in the eyes of millions of his countrymen he has forfeited his legitimacy through his actions over the past year, which are unacceptable to an increasing number of Egyptians.This is not to say that he has lost support in his Muslim Brotherhood base.But through his sins of omission and commission, Morsi now presides over a dangerous fault line in Egyptian society roughly between the supporters of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood and the secular progressive elements. Morsi did have a chance after being elected, to be a President of all Egyptians but chose largely to align himself with his Brotherhood base. His critics thus maintain that his aim is to “brotherhoodise” Egypt which they will resist fiercely.

In the year of his tenure Morsi has presided over a perceptibly worsening economy, with dangerously falling foreign exchange reserves and mounting inflation which the ordinary Egyptian living on $ 2 a day is ill equipped to cope with. Morsi is thus facing a very difficult if not critical situation. If he refuses to heed the voices raised against him and take the necessary corrective measures, he could plunge his country into a civil war That would be a huge tragedy in the most important and populous country in the Arab world. The repercussions would be felt in the Middle East and beyond. Hence it is important for the Arab League, the wider Islamic community, the Non-aligned movement and other friends of Egypt to try to help the Morsi regime to regain its equilibrium.

Egypt has been an ally of the United States since the Sadat period of the 1970’s.It is therefore natural for the US to be concerned at the ugly turn Egyptian politics has taken. President Obama has rightly stressed to the three main actors, Morsi, the Army and the protestors not to aggravate matters further and to strive to reach a peaceful accommodation through the dialogue of give and take. In the contest between legitimacy (i.e. Morsi’s elected status) and popular will, both sides will have to compromise. The Army was ill advised to issue a controversial statement pressuring Morsi to settle issues with the protestors failing which the army would devise its own road map. They should keep out of the political arena as their participation in politics exacerbates rather than heals the issues that exist in all societies. We should say good bye to the days when armies arrogated to themselves the option of hard coups or soft coups. Civil society should be left alone to settle issues between the different stake holders.


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©2022 Syed Azmat Hassan

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