CAIRO – Egyptian authorities on Monday postponed a move to disperse two Cairo sit-ins by supporters of the country’s ousted president to “avoid bloodshed,” an official said, as Islamist supporters stepped up rallies to demand his return to power.
The postponement could, at least temporarily, defuse tensions that had escalated overnight as the country braced for a new bout of violence. Any moves by the police against the protesters would have set the stage for deadly clashes with tens of thousands gathered at the two Cairo sit-ins in support of ex-President Mohammed Morsi, ousted in a popularly supported coup on July 3.
An Egyptian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said the decision to postpone an advance against the protest camps by Muslim Brotherhood supporters came after a plan on ending the sit-ins was leaked to the media.
Pope Francis on Sunday urged Christians and Muslims to promote mutual respect , especially through the education of new generations. His remarks came at the end of his Angelus address when he sent greetings to Muslims throughout the world who have just celebrated the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square about how God’s love is our greatest treasure. He said today’s gospel reading from St Luke talks to us about our desire for a meeting with Christ, calling it a key aspect of human life. All of us, the Pope said, “have this desire in our hearts, be it explicit or hidden.” In St. Luke’s account of Jesus walking with his disciples towards Jerusalem, Christ reveals to them what is really important for him at that time. The Pope says Jesus’s thoughts include a distancing from earthly goods, faith in the providence of the Father and his interior vigilance while awaiting the Kingdom of God. This gospel account, he continues, teaches us that a Christian is someone who carries within him a deep desire to meet the Lord together with his brethren and his companions along the way. All this can be summed up in Jesus’ words: “for wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too.”
M. ZUHDI JASSER
In a word, Egypt is a mess. But which democracies in history arose from order? Which tyrannical dictatorships ended their regimes with an epiphany in favor of freedom and gave their nation an orderly exit?
The hope and promise of a democratic awakening of the “Arab spring” that rocked Cairo and the Egyptian people in January 2011 has given way to the grim realities of a society long cultivated by tyranny. One year cannot right the course of democracy away from two generations of tyranny and corruption.
A coup or an act of people? Call it what you wish. Ending the tyranny of Hosni Mubarak was also less than democratic, but in the end similarly deserved. But with Mubarak’s military back in control, are the people of Egypt being duped? For Egyptians, one year of Muslim Brotherhood rule left a fear that time was running out for a course correction back to the road toward democracy. Iran taught the world what a difference just a few years can make in the post-revolutionary Islamist power grab that overcame Iran in the early ’80s.
In just 12 short months, true to his Islamist DNA, Morsi proceeded to lock himself in control, real democracy be damned. He interpreted his narrow electoral win as a mandate to do as he pleased. He paid heed only to his role as an Islamist ideologue in power rather than as the first democratically elected president of Egypt. He ran roughshod over any foundations for Egypt’s future. Morsi gave himself immunity from judicial review in November 2012 – a brazen move that put the wheels of mass protest back into action. He then appointed either hardcore Muslim Brotherhood faithful or even more extreme Jamaat Islamiya to coveted regional governorships. The constitutional process marginalized minorities and women, ending up an Islamist manifesto. His economic policies ushered in worsening food and fuel shortages, devalued currency and vanishing tourism. His foreign policy isolated Egypt from the free world and moved the nation into the inflammatory Islamist orbit of Hamas and Iran.
Rather than a founding father, he was the grim reaper of the revolution. Instead of speaking to all citizens, the constitution and new presidency spoke only to Islamists. At best, he implemented a majoritocracy. At worst, he set into motion an Islamist theocracy.
History shows that revolutions that arise from the ashes of tyranny will not easily deliver the will of the people. Generational institutions of democracy must be built from the ground up in progressive stages. The journey must begin with foundational principles that provide checks and balances to protect against tyranny. Those cannot only rest in elections. The rule of law and defense of the individual and minorities is essential or else the tyranny of dictatorship will be replaced by mob-ocracy.
Democracy for Egypt is a destination. Elections do not a democracy make.
Has Morsi’s Islamist power grab now given the authoritarian National Democratic Party (NDP)-dominated military the cover it needs to slide back to the era of Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak? Sadly, the imprisonment and torture of Morsi’s hierarchy is now making that case.
The last week’s increasing violence, with hundreds killed and thousands injured, demonstrates that the Islamists are best at stoking violence and becoming martyrs and the military only knows the iron fist. What was to be a course correction can easily devolve into civil war or the old Darwinian battle between the two evils that the Middle East has known too well.
If there is anything that Egypt should learn from the last year, it’s that one year of an open society did more to set back the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist cohorts than 60 years of authoritarian measures by Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak.
Egypt does not need hasty elections. It needs a strategic road map prodded by the free world for the next few years that ultimately aims toward civilian control of the military on top of a constitutional democracy that enshrines real freedom and equality for all. That was the dream of a better Egypt that brought millions to the streets against the Islamists on July 13 as well as against the NDP in January 2011. Only the United States can help them thread this needle in the critical coming few years.
Saad Ibrahim, one of Egypt’s genuinely liberal reformers, told Bari Weiss of the Wall Street Journal in February 2011 that holding elections in only six to 12 months was “not wise” and instead astutely recommended “putting them off for several years to allow alternative groups to mature.” A half-baked democracy is not only a recipe for failure but also can falsely taint for generations the taste of real freedom. It took only one year to prove Ibrahim right. The old adage applies that democracies based only in elections are no different from three wolves and a lamb voting on the dinner menu.
While the Brotherhood only received 25 percent of the vote the first time, it was a fait accompli for them to win in the runoff against Mohammed Shafik, Mubarak’s old Air Force commander. Secular non-Islamist groups were far more repressed than even the Islamists under the 60 years of NDP so the skill-sets, ideologies and know-how of forming liberal democratic groups were only yet beginning to hatch. In fact, if the one year of Brotherhood rule did anything well, it was the catalyst for the unification of disparate political groups into a mass of humanity that rejected Islamism.
However the rejection of Islamism does not a platform make for the economic, political and pluralistic future of Egypt. A rush too quick to correct the course will only swing the pendulum back to secular despotism.
It is imperative during this Revolution 2.0 that the Obama administration learns from the bevy of mistakes it made in 2011 and play an active public leadership role in helping the Egyptians shape their democracy. Threatening our aid to coerce the right actions now may be warranted, but it also was during Morsi’s reign in which President Obama and Ambassador Anne Patterson were oddly silent.
Egypt remains at a tipping point. Syria is proof of what can happen when a ruthless genocidal regime runs into a people demanding freedom. Egypt may be heading there. The U.S. cannot continue to sit out these changes and hand the direction of change to a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” influenced by either the forces of theocracy, autocracy or corruption in the region, including Iran, Qatar, Turkey or Saudi Arabia.
Many protesters balked at President Obama and Ambassador Patterson as being in league with their new oppressors – the Muslim Brotherhood. Sen. Ted Cruz noted, “The United States is – in both perception and reality – entrenched as the partner of a repressive, Islamist regime and the enemy of the secular, pro-democracy opposition.” The White House instead dug in its heels, bizarrely stating, “We do not take sides on political parties.”
In the end, the defeat of the Brotherhood will not be a reality until the ideology of Islamism is dissected by democratic groups in Egypt, a feat the NDP types could never do. The new government needs to ensure the right of nonviolent Brotherhood ideologues to exist under the banner of free speech. Historically, bad ideas are not defeated by making them illegal. Such was the case with Soviet communism. Similarly Islamism and the Brotherhood flourished when they were relegated to the underground without an open challenge to their ideals and principles. The new interim government needs to step back from unwarranted arrests and create a space to openly challenge and defeat Islamist ideas.
In our ADHD world, we have a tendency to want to wrap these situations up over a weekend and move on. The reality is tipping points come once in a millennium or less and they tip over years to decades not weeks to months. If we want real national security at home and abroad, we need to take sides inside Egypt, get our hands dirty and demonstrate to the people in the streets that the freedoms we have are worth the effort. Liberty needs nurturing if it is to have a chance in an environment whose recent memory has only seen tyranny.
M. Zuhdi Jasser is author of “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith” and also president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix.
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PHOENIX (August 9, 2013) – Muslims around the world commemorated the end of their month long daily fast of Ramadan on Thursday, August 8, 2013 with the Holiday of the Feast (Eid al-Fitr). Eid al-Fitr is celebrated in congregational prayer, the giving of gifts and gathering over meals.
To all our Muslim friends and supporters, we at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) wish you a most blessed Eid al-Fitr. May your fasts be accepted and your prayers answered. As we celebrate Eid al-Fitr, may we commit to carry the awareness of our blessings throughout the year, the humility of Ramadan never straying from our hearts. Allow us to see every day as an opportunity to appreciate and strive for freedom, for liberty, and for universal human rights. These commitments are a service to God and to our country. May we remain grateful and committed to service, never taking for granted the blessings of freedom, of health, and of living in this great nation.
About the American Islamic Forum for Democracy
The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. AIFD’s mission advocates for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. For more information on AIFD, please visit our website at http://www.aifdemocracy.org/.
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A stepped-up campaign of drone strikes in Yemen and diplomatic missions shut in 19 countries, and another on Friday in Lahore, Pakistan, have all come for fear of an al-Qaeda attack: if President Barack Obama was eager to wind down the “global war on terror” this summer these events have brought that war very much back to the fore.
The exact nature of the threat posed to US missions has yet to be made public and the secretive nature of the CIA’s drone programme in Yemen makes its aims equally opaque.
But the new plot and the flurry of drone strikes have revived discussion about whether al-Qaeda has been “decimated”, as Obama administration officials have repeatedly claimed. They come after more than a decade of targeted killings, aggressive surveillance and an intense focus by the US on the threat from terrorism.
Today, a military jury recommended that Nidal Malik Hasan, who murdered 13 American soldiers and wounded 32 others at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009, be sentenced to death.
In his 2012 book, A Battle for the Soul of Islam, Dr. Jasser – an American Muslim veteran of the United States Navy – volunteers to be first in line to administer justice to Hasan upon his receipt of the death penalty. He believes it would be no greater symbol of how wrong Hasan was in his theology than to find himself dead at the hand of loyal, patriotic American Muslims enacting the will of the American military court.
An excerpt from A Battle for the Soul of Islam:
“My hope is that once we extract any information we need from Hasan about his radicalization and contacts, and once he is found guilty, he receive the death penalty. If I may set aside my Hippocratic oath for just a few seconds, let me be the first to sign up to be one of those who carry out the ultimate punishment for this man. While I know that is not how we carry out capital punishment in the United States, this is part of how I feel in the aftermath of this massacre. There would be no greater symbol of how wrong Dr. Hasan was in his ‘theology,’ that he could not go to war against Muslims, than for him to find himself dead at the hands of loyal, patriotic American Muslims enacting the will of the American military court.” – Chapter 7, pg. 159
We pray that today’s decision will begin to bring some closure to the families of those who were mercilessly slaughtered and injured on that horrible day in 2009.
Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) — Bangladesh’s high court has declared the registration of the country’s largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, illegal.
Jamaat is one of two main opposition parties and a constant thorn in the side of the ruling Awami League.
With the declaration, Jamaat will not be able to take part in the country’s upcoming general election — certainly welcome news to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
But such a ruling can also reignite a fresh round of political unrest in the South Asian nation.
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