Egyptian Aak-Week36. Egypt between The Literalists and The Opportunists

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A Few Thoughts

One of the most intriguing arguments that I have heard about in support of the forced ending of the pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabaa and Nahda, is the story of the Derar mosque. This story is quoted in the Quran’s Al-Tawbah Sura (chapter), verse 107 and 108, in which God described those who occupied Derar mosque as hypocrites, disuniting believers, “They will indeed swear that their intention is nothing but good; but Allah declare that they are certainly liars.” Upon receiving this verse, Prophet Mohamed sent some of his companions to burn down Derar mosque.

 It s pointless to discuss the background of the Derar mosque, as it is like many stories mentioned in the Quran, open to various interpretations. Nonetheless, it is interesting that it has been picked up by some anti-Muslim Brotherhood Islamists to justify the forced ending of the sit-ins. Weren’t those in Rabaa inciting against the larger society? Feeding hatred? Undermining the foundation of the state? In their minds, the answers are yes to the above questions, and the story of Derar gives the right pretext to sanction the police interventions. Needless to say, the pro-Muslim Brotherhood vociferously dismisses that argument and call out their opponents as hypocrites that betrayed the legitimate leader of the country. This story is just one example of the current battle in Egypt, a battle in which both sides are armed with verses from the holy book of Islam to justify their actions.

 If linking the Derar mosque with Rabaa is alarming, then the debate about Egypt’s new constitution is seriously worrying to say the least. The Salafi Nour party has decided to apply their literalistic approach to Islam toward Egypt’s constitution. In their opinion, words have to be clear and with a decisive tone. Based on that argument, they consider article 2, which imposes the principles of Islamic sharia as the main source of legislation in the country as unclear and un-Islamic, and they consider article 219 of the suspended constitution as a good explanation of article 2. They argue that the word “principals” was never mentioned in the Quran, Hadith, or in any of scholarly interpretation; hence they want either a clear stating of Sharia as “Quran and Hadith” in article two, or to retain article 219 as it is.

 Nour party’s literalistic view has already generated uproar in the non-Islamist camp. It remains to be seen if other scholars will find a compromise phrasing. There are rumors that the Nour party may withdraw from the constitution committee before the start of the formal discussion to avoid being seen as compromising on Islamist principles in front of its constituency; if true, then it will be another cunning political maneuver from the relatively novice Salafi party. Meanwhile Amr Moussa has been elected Chairman of the 50-Member Constituent Assembly, with ex- Muslim Brotherhood Kamal al- Helbaway among 3 others as chair people. It is worth noting that the Assembly that has no judges among its members, and is imbalanced in its composition with very few Islamists.

 Concurrently, there are also growing demands to separate religious groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, and even the Salafi Dawaa Salafyia from their political wings like the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party and the Salafi Nour party. Many Salafi leaders seem to be happy with this formula, probably because they feel it will harm the Brotherhood more than them. Furthermore, the move to ban the Muslim Brotherhood NGO, officially formed only last March, but was running illegally for decades, is also aimed to undermine the group’s social roots. Separating preaching from politics, together with banning the Islamists’ formal social activities will harm the Brotherhood more than banning the formal Brotherhood organization.

 Policymakers inside Egypt’s current leadership seem to be of two minds about what to do with the Muslim Brotherhood. The doves are advocating a partially open window policy, allowing the Muslim Brotherhood as a political party, but not as an organization to practice politics. The hawks are advocating complete eradication of the organization. It is still unclear which side will win the debate.

 Against this background, the security forces are on high alert, especially after the failed assassination attempt against the interior minister and several foiled bomb attacks. Pro-Morsi alliances seem to be fighting on two fronts: thru persistent marches, hoping that these may gradually attract more crowds, while their supporters from radical Jihadists __or others___ have opted to try violence to undermine the current authority.

 It is important to understand that Morsi’s supporters are in desperate mood and are willing to gamble in order to achieve even a symbolic victory or a turning of the tide against the supporters of the military. It is worth remembering that the state of emergency is officially due to end on September 14th (two months after ending the sit-ins). Any extension, particularly of the curfew, will probably be counter-productive, and may swing the public mood against the government. The latest Baseera poll shows 73% of Egyptians do not feel safe, and 50% say incomes affected by the curfew.

 Managing this stage of conflict in Egypt will be challenging for the interim government and for the army leadership. It requires delicacy, finesse, and cunningness. The crowds that supported General Sisi will not stay loyal forever, particularly if they do not see any improvements in security and economics. Can the leadership understand that indulging in the security measures will play into their opponents’ hands? Can they understand that inclusive democracy is the best way to fight terrorism?

 Egypt needs urgent state building measures, in which there is a balance between security and freedom, and between politics and religion. Thus far, the country is still hijacked by literalists and opportunists from all sides, and if it continues on this path, Egypt will end up galloping towards either a police state or a failed state, with many stories, similar to that of the Derar mosque, usurped to justify future failures.

 Good Reports:

Good Read:

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
This entry was posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, June30 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Egyptian Aak-Week36. Egypt between The Literalists and The Opportunists

  1. beamout says:

    Thank you for the insightful analysis.

    So basically, nothing new in Egypt. The power of the strong and the cunning has been reinstated in its full strength, and as expected, out-dazzling even the luster of the Mubarak “glory days.”

    I sure disagree with MUSTAFA AKYOL, but he sure is right in his Egypt’s fascist ‘liberals’ article. At least now you know how the MB felt when they were unjustly and without any grounds accused of fascism. But because the liberals are utterly unimportant, the military junta will not swoop on them as they did on the MB.

    Egyptian “liberals” (hah, if only they were liberals) are on the side of the military, with their hard on still on. So far, they have proven to be the most useful of all the useful idiots.

    Egyptians in general, for their arrogance and cynical, filthy sarcasm, deserve a government that is far worse than MB could have even been, had they been allowed to rule. I hope I am wrong.

    It is appalling how Egyptians are such blind sheep. So easily deceived and easily manipulated by the elites which they dutifully obey with full servility.


  2. Amr says:

    Thank you for your concise and helpfull analysis Nervana,also thank for something else,,,

    I agree that Egypt cannot really move forward without real inclusion,only selling the idea of including the “Brotherhood” to the Egyptian at this time and quite another long time is almost an impossility
    As for the rest of the “Islamist” current and in particular the foxy Al Noor party which I won’t be surprised if they shave their beards soon to get a piece of power,may be but if they renounce mixing religion and politics,also an almost impossibility
    As a Muslim I don’t want to see again that mix,religion should be in mosque,at home,schools for those who want but not in politics as it not only proven to be catastrophic for governance but for religion itself
    I know people who drink alcohol but stop during Ramadan (including myself) who had decided to keep drinking during the Holy Month,then June30 Revolution came and I didn’t do it
    I know what I just said is stupid but a small example
    I also know people who are quite religious,coworkers of mine,who were in the square against Morsy,hqr foted for gim btw,one of their reasons they didn’t want the religion they were growing their children to believe it,to be jeopardized
    But I agree with you that government including El Sissi shouldn’t lose the momentum of trust it has for now,won’t last forever

    In conclusion, we have Al Azhar,and the Chuch,even Synagogues for the few remaning jews, for faith
    As for politics and this earthly life,I personally want inclusively to hear political programs
    In view of the intense security situation it may be too early to have softer policies in regards to that aspect,but I believe after the new construction (btw not a holly text and can be amended later) new parliament and President,we shall be able to move forward and never to forget that the prime demand of our revolution since Jan25 was and is and will remain social justice and progress

    Thank you again


  3. beamout says:

    On another note. I really think your twitter “ridiculing” of Erdogan has exceeded the levels of tasteful barbs. Hate him all your want, still you can’t deny that world over, he is the most popular Muslim leader among Muslims. Only those “Muslims” who yearn to nourish disingenuous seeds in their hearts scorn at him. Those who DO NOT STAND FOR SINCERITY!!!!

    And it is not because of his neo-Ottomanism, or neo-Islamism, but because he IS sincere.

    Sure thing, Erdogan is no saint, but he certainly has the backbone of sincerity among many spineless Muslim leaders.


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