Morsy’s stepchildren

Tahrir A

I wrote this piece for the  Daily News Egypt just before yesterday protest in front of  the presidential palace. The way President Morsy ignored the crowd yesterday reaffirm my views. 

They went out in the thousands; Egyptians from every walk of life and almost all political affiliations protested in Tahrir against President Morsy’s latest decree and the draft of the new constitution.

However, they were not the only ones protesting. Islamist groups, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, protested too, but in support of the president and the new constitution, which, in their eyes, is Islamic and consistent with the “core” values of Egyptian society. They proclaimed their protest to be a “true million-man march,” labelling the Tahrir protestors as un-Islamic, the secular minority, infiltrated by the ex-regime and even funded from abroad.
The Muslim Brotherhood is waging a war of perception, not just for domestic consumption but for a western audience, too. Perception is crucial for two reasons: To defeat non-Islamist opponents, who may lose faith quickly when watching the endless number of pro-Morsy protestors in comparison to their relatively lower number in Tahrir and, secondly, to convince western nations that Islamists are the only reliable, powerful force in Egypt and that they are backed by the “majority” of Egyptians.

Eighty years of a mushrooming underground within Egyptian society has resulted in deep mistrust of mainstream establishments. Islamists view members of these establishments and other non-Islamist forces with deep suspicion and consider them elitist, anti-religious snobs. The strict, rules that govern the Brotherhood’s internal structure were partly introduced to protect the group from outside “corruption.”

This combination plus simmering resentment and years of grievance have finally exploded in the recent crisis in Egypt, and it partly explains the abrupt, odd way that Morsy has chosen to deal with it.

Moreover, Morsy, who likes to address Egyptians as his “brothers and children,” clearly feels at ease only among his brothers and children within his party, but he seems to struggle with dealing with “others’ brothers and children,” whom he has inherited as part of the whole package of ruling Egypt. He, it seems, despises everything the others stand for; their individuality, their boldness, and their persistent scrutiny.

No wonder he chose to explain his decree by addressing his supporters in front of the presidential palace, and he ignored those in Tahrir as if they were his “stepchildren,” an inconvenience that he is hoping he can overcome. Their protests were not part of his curriculum and have pushed him to revert, even more, to his own natural tendency of defiance and autocracy.

Rather than suppressing his opponents by force, Morsy has decided to snooker them. By calling for a referendum on his proposed constitution, he has put his opponents in an extremely difficult situation. He is banking on his supporters to deliver a clear yes vote, which would reinforce his claim that the majority of Egyptians are backing him up. He also has managed to secure legal backup, as Egyptian judges are divided between being anti- and pro-Morsy.

While the judges Club, the largest representative organisation of judges in Egypt, has issued a recommendation to its members not to oversee the referendum, the Supreme Judiciary Council has agreed to delegate judges and members of the prosecution to assume that responsibility.

Tired, drained, and divided, the Egyptian opposition now has two painful choices: Either boycott or participate in the referendum and vote no. Boycotting is not the better option; if the government imposes a fine for skipping the vote, many Egyptians (who are already struggling economically) will ignore the boycott campaign.

This overlooks the fact that boycotting is never a good idea; Islamists are ready to mobilise their supporters just to turn up and a voter turnout of 30 per cent or less is all that is needed for the result to be viewed as legitimate.

On the other hand, participating in the referendum is not without risk. If the majority votes yes, it will be a victory in Morsy’s war of perception and non-Islamists will definitely look like the minority. However, if the majority votes no, then Morsy is almost certain to stick to his decree that protects him and grants him full power, until a new constitution can be drafted. A very clever game of snooker from Morsy.

It is time for cool heads and clear plans for non-Islamists if they are to win this round of the legitimacy war. Protesting against Morsy will always help, but it is not enough. It is time for aggressive campaigning to explain the pitfalls of the new constitution and how it can negatively affect the general public.

Fighting autocracy is not the war of the elite; it is the war of the oppressed who have suffered for decades under the junta’s police state. A smart campaign to expose the flaws of this shambolic constitution may attract a big section of Egyptian society. It is not too late to fight smartly and campaign in every trade union, syndicate, and university in Egypt. It is the only way to strike the back at Morsy and force him to understand that the non-Islamists are not stepchildren, but legitimate sons and daughters whom he must take seriously.

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
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4 Responses to Morsy’s stepchildren

  1. istinatv says:

    Hi Nervana,
    Excellent observation, and I agree that the best and only option Egyptian people have is to engage in a smart campaign.

    The tough choices the Egyptian people face today are a bit similar to those Bosnian people had almost 17 years ago, after an aggression and genocide over Bosnian Muslims (known as the most moderate secular-oriented Muslims in the world). Bosnia at the time ended up in a peace agreement and an unjust constitution that was signed by Bosnian aggressors under the leadership of the so-called protectors of Bosnian sovereignty (EU and US). On one hand this peace agreement brought the peace that Bosnian people desperately needed after a four years of unjust war and aggression on Bosnia. On the other, unfortunately, Bosnian legal representatives and Bosnian legal defense army had to accept the most unjust Constitution imposed on a modern democracy at the time. This Dayton Constitution was drafted by everyone else but Bosnian people. Bosnia, which existed for more than thousand years as a country, was divided with that Constitution along very divisions the aggressors wanted (internal division of the country along ethnically cleansed lines). This Constitution, which further enhances divisions and separation of ethnic peoples (with religion as the only separator even though those people lived together for centuries), was one of the worst examples how a democracy could be high-jacked, and how citizens had to choose the legalization of the results of an unjust war and divisions over the continuation of that war. It was similar to ending the second world war with Hitler being at the negotiating table over Poland’s sovereignty after Hitler exterminated and expelled a huge number of native Polish people.

    Even though the experience Bosnian people had to endure was much worse, as the enemies came from both ends, the outside and inside, and Muslim people were targeted to disappear by Christians, the situation in Egypt is similar because its Constitution is being imposed by force on their moderate Egyptian people (religious or non-religious, no difference there when we talk about a democratic society and a need for basic human rights).

    The Egyptian people should fight, using all democratic options they have on their disposal. They should insist in a Constitution that represents all the people, especially women and minority groups of all kinds. The approach of educating people around the world on specific parts of constitution in a clear, understandable ways to show discrimination and violations of basic human rights, is the best way to go.

    Whatever ways of fight the Egyptian people have is better, than caving in and accepting an unjust imposed Constitution. If they accept it even though they feel it is unjust their future generations may treat them as the traitors. That is how we treat our legal representatives in Bosnia for accepting an evil Constitution at the time even though they were forced.

    For the Egyptian people is much easier to fight for a right Constitution now, then fight against an evil one decades later.


    • nervana111 says:

      Thank you so much for your insightful reply. I completely agree. We have to fighter a right constitution that #Egypt deserve.


    • Jon Goodfellow says:

      Well spoken about the uncomfortable truths of the Bosnian “Peace Plan”. The realization of the Vance-Owens Plan of 1993. Some attitudes are slow to change: Paris, 1922; Dayton, 1995. Demokracija nije etničko! Bošnjanin zaslužuju bolje. [tr: Democracy is not ethnic and ancient Bosnia deserves better.]


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