How Erdoğan thrives on ‘crisis strategy’; a game on constantly inventing enemies

An important read on Erdogan’s war against Europe by Yavuz Baydar

TEMPORAL

‘A spectre is haunting Europe–the spectre of authoritarianism.”

Is it fair to rewrite the first sentence of Marx-Engels manifesto in this manner?

Possibly.

As we observe the worrisome process of ‘Erdoğan vs Germany’, developing into ‘Erdoğan vs Netherlands’, it is inevitable how enthusiastically his relentless drift to test the intolerance vis a vis democratic tolerance is received by the far-right in Europe in general.

Authoritarian leaders have been known to to thrive over the conditions that the democratic tolerance provides. Their journey towards their ‘final destination’ defies checkpoints; their very ‘free ride’ aims to gobble up all legitimacy – by way of subversion of the rules and regulations otherwise widely agreed.

What we have been witnessing – with the rise of Putin, Erdoğan and Trump -, mind you, is only a harbinger of what we will see in the future; only more and more of it. Unless, of course, Western…

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Egyptian Aak 2017- Week 10 ( Mar 6-12)

ramses-ii-statue-01

Matariya residents pose for pictures  the head of an unearthed statue of Pharaoh Ramses II -Reuters

Top Headlines

  • Archaeologists in Egypt discover massive statue in a Cairo slum
  • Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council rejects bill that gives president judicial appointment power
  • Russia, Egypt have agreed on aviation security protocol
  • Egyptians protest lack of subsidized bread after government decision to reduce bakeries quota
  • An Alexandria criminal court sentenced a man to death after he was convicted of killing an Alexandria liquor store owner in January
  • Vatican confirms papal trip to Egypt is under study
  • Egyptian-Turkish Business Council to meet for first time since 2013 Morsi ouster
  • Disagreement between Egypt, Palestine over proposed amendment to Arab Peace Initiative
  • Egypt’s top archeologist Hawas apologizes for calling Lionel Messi “an idiot”

 

Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

 Wednesday 

Thursday

 Friday

 Saturday

Sunday 

 Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Photo Gallery:

 Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Europe and the Ottoman Tulips

 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is seen in this file photo. : AA Photo

Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu- AA Photo

Officials in several European countries have stopped mass rallies by top Turkish politicians to attract support for next April’s much anticipated constitutional referendum on a new Constitution that would expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Netherlands barred Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu from flying to the country. The move came hours after Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey would impose “severe sanctions” against the Dutch state if it attempted to cancel his planned meeting, at which he was scheduled to address the Turkish community in Rotterdam. The ties between Ankara and Berlin have also been strained in recent months after the German authorities blocked several rallies supporting Erdogan in Germany. Meetings in Austria and Switzerland have also been banned. These decisions are legally and politically correct, despite President Erdogan’s angry jibes in which he described first the German and later the Dutch authorities as “Nazis” and “fascists,” His foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu slammed Dutch authorities, saying tulips came to Holland from the Ottomans but failed to make them real men.”

Legally, Germany’s Constitutional Court has already delivered a verdict asserting that Turkish government officials cannot invoke German constitutional rights in seeking to enter the country for political appearances. The Netherlands will most probably use the same argument if Turkey legally challenges the case.

Politically, however, banning the rallies may appear controversial. Some Turkish observers have already expressed concern that banning Turkish officials from campaigning will only ignite the “Yes to constitution” campaign and unleash a sense of victimhood by Erdogan’s supporters. This argument may seem logical, but it is not necessarily accurate for a number of reasons:

First, moaning at Europe has become one of Erdogan’s main political campaign staples. Turkish officials have never been grateful to German or Dutch authorities for allowing them to campaign on their soil___ a privilege that is not reciprocated by Turkey, where foreigners are not allowed to hold public rallies. In fact, it is important to understand that whatever the actions of European officials, they will always be exploited and abused by the Turkish president, as he has adopted victimhood as a useful tool in his “populist authoritarianism.”

Second, if banning Turkish officials will galvanize the “Yes” campaign, then surely allowing Erdogan’s men to campaign openly amidst the already divided Turkish communities in Europe will further help the “Yes” campaign. In other words, by sending his men to campaign in European cities, Erdogan has positioned himself in a win-win situation, regardless of how European countries react.

Third, in the current illiberal, even oppressive Turkey, Turkish opposition officials have warned of campaigns of harassment and intimidation. Inside Turkey, a wave of arrests of opposition lawmakers, activists, and journalists, as well as the closure of media outlets, have left a predominantly government-friendly press moderating the debate on the vote. Last month, the Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet scrapped an anti-referendum interview with Orhan Pamuk, a celebrated novelist and Turkey’s first Nobel laureate. In planning to tour Berlin, Rotterdam, and other locations, Turkish officials were trying to spread the same policy of fear and intimidation, albeit subtly, among Turkish diaspora in European cities.

Tulips

 

As the Turkish foreign minister lectures Europe about the origin of tulips, I wonder if he remembers the tragic end of Ottoman’s “Tulip Period” when people revolted against the Sultan; he was forced to resign and his grand vizier was executed.

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Islamist Gehad Haddad Versus Muslim Reformer Maajid Nawaz

The New York Times (NYT) recently published a column by Gehad el-Haddad — the [previous] spokesman for the global Islamist group The Muslim Brotherhood — penned from the confines of his Egyptian jail cell, in Tora prison. Haddad wrote about his movement’s “peaceful reformist approach,” and he concluded his letter by a shy admission that his group’s political maneuvering created distance between the Brotherhood and the Egyptian people. Haddad, however, failed to address the problematic approach of the ideology of political Islam that was the core problem that forced many Egyptians, including millions of Muslims to turn against the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

In a column in the Daily Beast, British activist and columnist Maajid Nawaz wrote an open letter to Gehad Haddad, addressing the points Haddad in his NYT’s column and how Haddad only presented half the story, and how it is “disingenuous to argue that your Islamist ideology does not contribute to the intolerant atmosphere from which jihadists are able to recruit.” Nawaz also highlighted that Hadad, (and other Islamists), cannot have it both ways: “If anti-Muslim rhetoric is dangerous because it acts as a backdrop to violence against Muslims, then Islamist rhetoric is dangerous because it acts as a backdrop to jihadist violence.”

 

I recommend reading the whole article here.

 

As for the debate on whether the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization or not, I repost this analysis (initially included in my weekly Egypt’s compilation), by Mokhtar Awad and Samuel Tadros.

 

 

 

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Egyptian Aak 2017 – Week 9 (Feb 27-March 5)

Top Headlines

  • In a final ruling, Egyptian court acquits Mubarak over killing of protesters
  • Egypt’s parliament has expelled an MP who was an outspoken critic of the government’s human rights record
  • Egypt’s general intelligence has hired a Washington lobbyist
  • Chancellor Merkel visits to Egypt to curb migrant flow
  • Cairo prosecutor’s office summoned prominent journalist Ibrahim Eissa for investigations into claims that he insulted the Parliament
  • Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir to visit Cairo next week
  • Hollywood star Will Smith visits Egypt’s Giza pyramids

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

  • Egypt’s Sisi to meet Russian Federation Council chairwoman in Cairo
  • Chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council: Egypt has met 90 percent of the required procedures for resumption of Russian flights
  • Cairo prosecutor’s office summoned prominent journalist Ibrahim Eissa for investigations into claims that he insulted the Parliament
  • Egypt reduces price of subsidized sugar to EGP 10.50

Sunday

Good Reports

  • Egypt’s economy is in crisis. So why is the government spending millions on a fancy new space agency? Ruth Michaelson
  • Emerging market investors take a shine to Egypt. John Sfakianakis
  • The Journalists Syndicate and the state: 2 crises, 21 years apart 2 crises, 21 years apart. Mada Masr
  • No safe routes to schools: Sinai teachers intercepted by Islamic State loyalists. Mada Masr
  • Mubarak’s trial comes to an underwhelming end: He is free. Heba Afify
  • In Egypt’s traditional province, little girls learn ballet steps. AFP, via The National
  • Leqaa el-Kholy shatters Upper Egypt’s male-dominated workplaces as female car mechanic. Ola Noureldin

 Good Read

 From Twitter

Interview

Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Shadi Hamid and the Infantilization of Muslims

shadi-photo

Islamic liberalism and its role in modern-day Islam became the subject of a timely and provocative debate organized recently by the Cato Institute, a public policy research organization. The event was hosted by Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol and Shadi Hamid a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. In this fascinating debate, which can be viewed here, Mustafa Akyol passionately argued for Islamic liberalism, while Shadi Hamid was more pessimistic, arguing that Islam is “exceptional,” in that it is essentially resistant to liberalism.

The essence of Hamid’s argument was that illiberalism is a viable model for Muslim societies. He was clearly pessimistic about the prospect that liberal ideas will prevail in the Muslim world in the future, saying: “We should not hitch our wagon to that possibility.” However, Hamid’s assertion that average Muslims reject liberal Islam is based on some erroneous assumptions that I would like to discuss, in addition to what Mustafa Akyol mentioned in his talk:

 First: The simplistic heaven-hell approach

Hamid started his talk by claiming Muslims want religion to be straightforward, and that there is a risk in believing in progressive interpretation. “There is a lot at stake,” he added, “heaven and hell is what is at stake; why take a risk and go to the Day of Judgment?”

This simplistic approach to Islam is one of the fundamental tenets of Islamism, an ideology that promotes fear in the hearts and minds of its followers in order to win their loyalty. However, this approach seems to forget how, in the Quran, God instructed humankind to think, ponder, seek knowledge, and reflect. Here are some examples of Quranic verses that advocate deep thinking: “Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think.” (16:69),so that their hearts (and minds) may thus use reason” [22:46]; “There are messages/signs indeed for people who use their reason” [2:164]; “Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect [59: 21].”

 The problem with political Islamists is that they believe critical thinking is the exclusive domain of elite scholars, and is not part of the mindset of ordinary Muslims. This assumption that ordinary Muslims’ cannot think for themselves or have the right to, makes it easier for theocrats to control the thinking of people en masse by suggesting that critical Muslims are dangerous individuals, who should be silenced either by fatwa, imprisonment, or death.

Second, the political elements of Islam

According to Hamid, the Prophet Mohamed was a politician because he was the head of a proto-state in Medina. Hamid added that some Muslims like the fact that Islam has a political element as it makes Islam more powerful and prevents it from declining as other religions are.

This interpretation is another tenet of Islamism that propagates Islam as the last “uncompromising” religion. Islamists see politics as the guardian of the faith, which in their view, is incapable of facing the challenges of globalization and modernity alone.

This concept clearly reflects the depth of insecurity among Islamists, rather than the ideals for which the Prophet stood within his community in Medina.

In fact, the history of Islam proves just how inaccurate that argument is. Politics has never protected Islam; instead, it has created instability and led to bloodshed on numerous occasions, from the murder of Caliph Osman and then Caliph Ali to the great divide between Sunni and Shia. Those tragic events in the early days of Islam were not the result of colonialism or infidels, but were the outcome of the politics of greed that failed to protect the faith from division and infighting. Periods of Islamic renaissance were notably prominent during political stability, which enabled the faith and spirit to produce the best of Muslim art, literature, and science.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that modernity has not eradicated other faiths, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, which are all still alive, despite numerous challenges.

Third, do we have liberalism in the Middle East?

 In his talk, Hamid saw no problem with illiberal democracies, and explained that illiberalism could be expressed peacefully. He asserted that democracy should be established first, adding that there were liberals in the Middle East, but no liberalism.

Hamid conveniently ignored the fact that attempts have been made to systematically assassinate liberalism in the Muslim world. Liberal Muslim thinker Farag Fouda was murdered in cold blood by an Islamist. Another Egyptian Muslim scholar, Nasr Abu-Zayd, was declared an apostate for challenging mainstream Muslim views on the Quran, and was effectively forced into exile with his wife. Nobel Laureate Nagib Mahfouz was also attacked and nearly killed, again by an Islamist. These examples are just from Egypt; other Muslim countries have similar stories.

Fourth, Hamid’s assertion that the biggest problem in the Middle East is secular authoritarian regimes, not theocracy

While Hamid focused on the past 100 years, he conveniently forgot that events that happened in the last century, including secular autocracies, were not just a response to colonialism, but to decades of stagnation that plagued the theocratic Muslim world before colonialism. When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, he did not find the flourishing civilization of Baghdad and Cordoba, but a stagnated backward society that for many complex internal reasons the French leader and his alien army regarded as irrelevant.

In another words, the failure of Islamic theocracies led to the current struggle of modernity, and not the opposite. What followed in the 20th century was an attempt by Muslims such as Nasser and Ataturk to provide answers to the challenge of modernity, while preventing a resurgence of medieval theocracies. The secularist autocrats have indeed failed due to many complex reasons beyond the scope of this piece, but their diagnosis that theocracies have failed to cope with modernity, and hence are not ideal for modern Muslim societies, is fundamentally true. Hamid also ignored the elephant in the room, the Islamic republic of Iran, which is a glaring example of how resurrecting theocracy is not the right antidote to secular autocracy.

Muslims in Hamid’s views are insecure, incapable of critical thinking, paralyzed by fear of hell, and need strong political leaders to protect their faith from outside challenges. Those views are not just condescending and wrong, but are dangerous too. Infantilizing Muslims will never produce strong, healthy Muslim societies. Perhaps Shadi Hamid should speak to regime opponents in Iran or purged public servants in Turkey before he extols the virtues of illiberal democracy to the Muslim world.

Post Script

This piece was included in Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Steven Cook’s blog weekend reading

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Egyptian Aak 2017- Week 8 ( Feb 20-26)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt’s Coptic Christians flee Sinai after deadly attacks
  • The top commander of American military operations in the Middle East says that the US wants to resume major military exercise with Egypt
  • UK’s Boris Johnson visits Egypt
  • Egypt is annoyed as Britain continues suspension of flights
  • Court clears Mubarak’s chief of staff from illicit gains charges
  • Egyptian court rejects former top auditor Geneina’s appeal against dismissal
  • Sisi and Merkel will inaugurate Siemens power plants’ first phase

 

Christian families from Al-Arish in the North Sinai Governorate arrive at the Evangelical Church in Ismailia

Coptic families leaving Al-Arish- Via Rueters

Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

 Wednesday

 Thursday

 Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

Good Reports

  • Anger and desperation accompany Copts from their homes in Arish to Ismailia. Karoline Kamel
  • Seeking to secure Sinai, Egypt builds closer ties with Hamas. Lin Noueihed and Nidal al-Mughrabi
  • The honeymoon period for Egypt’s pound may be nearing an end. Ahmed Namatalla and Ahmed Feteha
  • Egyptian activist Ahmed Maher is out of prison, but he is still only half free. Hamza Hendawi

Good Read

From Twitter

Interview

 Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Re-blog: “Moderate” Muslim Brotherhood Mourns Terrorist’s Death

It was my intention to write a piece on the Muslim Brotherhood’s response to the death of  the “blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, but I found a comprehensive post on the topic written by John Rossomando in The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

I herewith re-blog it with permission:

 

Calls for revenge and glowing eulogies for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman by the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers dealt a blow to efforts to paint it as a moderate group.

Abdel Rahman, known as the “Blind Sheikh,” died Saturday in a U.S. prison where he was serving a life sentence for a seditious conspiracy to launch what prosecutors called a “war of urban terrorism” against targets around New York City. He also helped plot the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 that killed six people and injured 1,042.

“May Allah’s blessings be upon him, the deceased of the Islamic call, who was imprisoned by different repressive regimes, who was falsely and unfairly accused of terrorism by the Unites States of America, while being old and blind Sheikh, it also prevented him from receiving medical care until he met his Lord, Oh Allah please accept him and have mercy upon him,” the Muslim Brotherhood General Office said.

Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted Abdel Rahman, noted in a National Review Online column that the “Blind Sheikh” was proud of being a terrorist. This fact ought to raise red flags about the character of the Muslim Brotherhood.

McCarthy cited this Abdel Rahman statement as an example: “Why do we fear the word terrorist? If the terrorist is the person who defends his right, so we are terrorists. And if the terrorist is the one who struggles for the sake of God, then we are terrorists. We . . . have been ordered with terrorism because we must prepare what power we can to terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy. The Koran says ‘to strike terror.’ Therefore, we don’t fear to be described with ‘terrorism.’ . . . They may say, ‘He is a terrorist, he uses violence, he uses force.’ Let them say that. We are ordered to prepare whatever we can of power to terrorize the enemies of Islam.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s official Facebook page posted another statement Saturday that was quickly taken down. The message, asking “God Almighty to bestow His Mercy, and ensconce him in the highest paradise of Heaven with the prophets, the saints, the martyrs, the righteous and the best of them as companions” was cross-posted on Ikhwanonline, the Brotherhood’s Arabic website.

To read the rest of the piece, click here

 

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The myth of Sisi’s Sinai proposal

As the myth of an Egyptian proposal to create a Palestinian State on part of sinai has resurfaced, I re-blog my post on why this proposal is baseless and impossible to happen. Enjoy..

Nervana

Sisi: abbas

(Photo via Cairo Post)

Initially published in Al-Monitor

A few days ago, a claim surfaced that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered to give part of the Sinai Peninsula to the Palestinians to expand the Gaza Strip and create a state. It was also claimed that the Palestinian president had rejected the Egyptian offer.

In fact, the claim is a farce — it never existed. Anyone with a basic understanding of the Egyptian psyche and current dynamics will reach this same conclusion. The proposal, however, reflects the new reality that has emerged after Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza that ended with an open-ended cease-fire deal. This inconclusive end of the war highlights a new reality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is characterized by no peace, no victory and no guarantees for any long-term period of calm. Within this atmosphere of uncertainty, everyone is bound to feel stuck, and rumors…

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Egyptian Aak 2017- Week 7 ( Feb 13-19)

Top Headlines

  • ‘Blind Sheikh’ Trade Center bomber Omar Abdel-Rahman dies in prison
  • Egypt’s parliament on Tuesday approved a cabinet reshuffle
  • Egypt appoints first-ever female governor
  • US dollar hits lowest against Egyptian pound in almost a month
  • Egypt, Russia sign protocol before resumption of flights
  • Egypt says it killed senior operative of IS in Sinai
  • Egypt’s foreign ministry denies reports of proposal to establish Palestinian state in Sinai
  • Cypriot court rejects Egypt Air plane hijacker asylum request
  • Egypt bans motorbikes in areas of central and north Sinai for a year

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

  • Egypt appoints first-ever female governor
  • US dollar hits lowest against Egyptian pound in almost a month
  • Egypt lowers customs dollar rate to EGP 16 until end of February
  • Israeli PM dismisses claims by one of his ministers of an Egyptian plan to establish a Palestinian state in Sinai
  • Egypt‪’s cotton exports rise 63.9 pct in Q1 of the agricultural year 2016/17

 Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

 Good reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Plus

Finally here are Jason Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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