ISLAMIST DEMOCRACY: The Egyptian crisis raises deeper questions about religious politics
1. THE toppling of president Mohamed Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt has raised a host of deep and difficult questions about the future of politicised religion in general, and political Islam in particular.
2. For starters, it has posed us with the singular query: if the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt now feels that the democratic path is not the means to attain state capture, would this induce some of them to abandon the democratic process altogether and opt for other, perhaps extra-constitutional, means to come to power?
3. One is reminded of the thesis of Olivier Roy, who has written extensively about the future of political Islam. His argument, developed in the late 1990s, was that religio-political movements such as the Ikhwan’ul Muslimin would eventually learn to moderate and compromise if they were allowed to become part of the democratic process.
4. The belief then was that the arena of politics was like a structured mould that would shape and form all movements that entered its normative space. The assumption underlying this argument is that religio-political movements were the “soft” human component that entered the “hard” structure of states and institutions, and that such institutions – by virtue of their capacity to maintain and reproduce structured norms of behaviour – would tame the belligerent forces that would otherwise have tried to capture the state and turn it into something else.
5. For a while, the thesis struck a resonant chord among many analysts and scholars; and there was ample evidence from all over the Muslim world that Islamist parties and movements would conform to the pattern of behaviour Roy had predicted.
6. Even Islamist thinkers like Rashid Ghannouchi had stated, before the 1990s, that the Islamist movements of North Africa would have to learn to play by the rules of democracy and that if they wanted to come to power, it had to be via the ballot box. Related to this was the other caveat that such movements would also have to accept the will of the majority and accept the possibility that they may also be voted out of power.
The experiment with Islamist democracy was, therefore, not unique to Egypt, for we have seen the same taking place in countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Southeast Asia, we are also presented with several Islamist parties that have likewise committed themselves to the democratic process.
7. By and large, Roy’s argument seems to have been correct, for we have seen how the Islamist parties of Turkey and Indonesia have adapted themselves to the realities of modern states and modern democratic processes. This has not simply meant the change to their outward appearance in terms of their sartorial choices and the shift from robes and turbans to business suits and i-Pads.
8. It has also meant that many of these religio-political parties have begun to speak the language of democracy as well, and have to take into account serious challenges such as the accommodation of religious and cultural pluralism in the countries they wish to govern.
9. Morsi has been accused of being too strong-minded, autocratic and even borderline dictatorial.
The manner in which the new Egyptian constitution was ramrodded without the visible support and cooperation of other parties in the country was a poor starting point that eroded his claim that he would abide by the norms of democratic consensus and consultation.
10. So were the many less important policies that were pushed through, which had more to do with cosmetic forms of religious politics than a genuine shift in terms of the ethical prerogatives of the state.
11. But the toppling of Morsi is also something that has serious repercussions in the short and long term for Egypt, and the Muslim world at large.
12. For whatever mistakes and shortcomings of Morsi and the FJP party, it has to be said they had come to power with a majority of votes that did reflect the will of the people.
13. The toppling of the Morsi government has now gained the attention of Islamist movements worldwide, from Turkey to Indonesia; and the fundamental question has been raised by them: if an Islamist government can be brought down despite having won the elections, does this mean that all Islamist movements will meet the same fate in the end? And, if so, why should the Islamist movements of the world even play by the rules of democracy in the first place?
14. My own concern lies in the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood’s short-lived experiment with democratic politics was seen as a barometer for Muslim sensibilities in the Arab world today, which remains in a state of semi-permanent crisis. The Brotherhood was criticised by some of the more radical and violent Islamist groups of Egypt for “selling out” and transforming themselves into a political party, and by doing so accepting the rules of the democratic game.
15. Now that they have been deposed, the more radical voices in the Arab world might find themselves in a stronger position to say that democracy cannot be reconciled with religion.
16. That would be the wrong and dangerous path to follow and one that may end up being self-defeating in the long run. But, for now, the Brotherhood’s democratic experiment has come to a halt and the world waits to see if rational voices will be heard again.
Source : Dr. Farish A Noor, The Future of Political Islam,
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is claiming that the country’s new draft constitution has been passed after the final round of voting in a referendum, even as the opposition has claimed the group engaged in voting fraud.
The Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Mohamed Morsi hails, and the official al-Ahram newspaper reported that about 64 percent of voters supported the constitution, after preliminary results were tallied from the second round on Saturday.
The early results are based on reports from returning officials from the vast majority of stations over the two rounds, which were held a week apart. Official results will be announced by the country’s election committee on Monday, pending appeals.
Exit polls from the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) also showed the constitution passing, an official said. The NSF did, however, allege that there had been incidents of fraud during the vote, and was due to outline these at a press conference on Sunday.
“We’re going to challenge this in the courts, we’re going to challenge this in the streets, we’re going to challenge this until we die, because we cannot recognise this wide attempt to steal the people’s future,” Ahmed Hawary, a spokesperson for the NSF, told Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that while the results were so far unofficial, the Muslim Brotherhood’s figures on elections have usually been close to accurate. She said that the low turnout figures, however, were of concern to both camps.
“Some 30 percent only of eligible voters turned out to vote in both rounds. once again raising questions of how the leadership of both the opposition and the Islamic camp have failed to appeal to the public and get them to vote in the first place,” she said.
The December 15 first round returned 57 percent in favour of the constitution, according to unofficial data. The vote was split over two days as many judges refused to supervise the ballot.
Backers of Morsi say the constitution is vital to move to democracy, nearly two years after a revolution that overthrew authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak. It will provide stability for a weak economy, they say.
But the opposition accuses Morsi of pushing through a text that they claim favours Islamists and ignores the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s vice-president announced his resignation even as voters were still going to the polls on Saturday, state TV reported.
Mahmoud Mekki’s resignation was announced just hours before the end of voting in the second and final round of the referendum on the constitution.
Fifty-eight-year-old Mekki, a career judge, said that he intended to quit once the charter was adopted. The new constitution eliminates the post of vice-president.
“I have realised a while ago that the nature of politics don’t suit my professional genesis as a judge,” he wrote.
Late on Saturday, Morsi announced the names of 90 new members he had appointed to the upper house of parliament, state media reported, and a presidential official said the list was mainly liberals and other non-Islamists.
The president’s main opponents from liberal, socialist and other parties said they had refused to take any seats.
Two-thirds of the 270-member upper house was elected in a vote early this year, with one third appointed by the president.
“What happens next is that when the official results are announced on Monday by the higher election commission, we’re expecting President Morsi to call for parliamentary elections in two months from now. And those parliamentary elections are going to be the next serious battle for both camps,” reported Al Jazerea’s Rageh.
Source : Al Jazeera
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood claimed a victory for its candidate Mohammed Morsi on Monday in the country’s first presidential vote since its uprising, but his rival Ahmed Shafiq disputed the announcement.
“The campaign of Dr Mohammed Mursi announced… his victory as president of the Arab Republic of Egypt according to the results reported by its representatives and counting records from all polling stations,” the organisation said in a statement, adding Mr Morsi had won 52 percent of the vote.
“It’s a moment that all the Egyptian people have waited for,” said Mr Morsi’s campaign head Ahmed Abdelati at an earlier press conference in which he confirmed the projected win.
But a Shafiq campaign official said their figures showed Shafiq, who served as prime minister to deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, leading in the count.
“We reject it completely,” Mahmud Barakeh, said of the Brotherhood’s claim. “We are astonished by this bizarre behaviour which amounts to a hijacking of the election results.”
There were scenes of jubilation at Mr Morsi’s headquarters, where the candidate himself thanked Egyptians for their votes in brief remarks.
He pledged to work to “hand-in-hand with all Egyptians for a better future, freedom, democracy, development and peace.”
“We are not seeking vengeance or to settle accounts,” he said, adding that he would build a “modern, democratic state” for all Egypt’s citizens, Muslims and Christians.
Supporters screamed with excitement, some wiping tears from their eyes. Several hundred held a victory rally in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square after the announcement.
The Brotherhood mobilised their formidable network of supporters to receive tallies from polling stations across the country and deliver early unofficial results, but final official figures are not expected until June 21.
The jubilation at Mr Morsi’s headquarters was overshadowed however by a looming showdown between the Brotherhood and the ruling military, which issued a new constitutional document shortly after polls closed on Sunday.
The document issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces grants the body legislative powers after a top court on Thursday ordered the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated parliament.
The document also gives SCAF veto power over the text of a new permanent constitution, and states that no new parliamentary vote will be held until after a permanent constitution is approved.
The declaration appeared to put the military on a collision course with the Brotherhood, which called the constitutional declaration “null and unconstitutional.”
The document was issued after a Thursday ruling from the constitutional court, which found a third of the parliament’s members had been elected illegally, effectively ordering the dissolution of the body.
The declaration confirmed the military was retaking the legislative power it handed the body in January after its election.
“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces shall exercise the powers referred to under the first clause of article 56 (on legislative power)… until the election of a new People’s Assembly,” the document reads.
Such an election cannot be held until a new permanent constitution is written and adopted by a referendum, it adds.
The writing of the new constitution will be carried out by a “constitutional commission representing all segments of the society” that will have three months to complete its work, the document says.
It also grants SCAF a veto right over any article of a draft constitution it considers “contrary to the supreme interests of the country.”
Egypt’s parliament has already appointed a constituent panel to replace an initial group that was dissolved over allegations it was Islamist-dominated.
But the declaration leaves it unclear whether that panel will be able to continue its work, and gives SCAF the right to form a new panel if the current body “is prevented from doing its work.”
It also stipulates that SCAF “as currently constituted, has the power to decide on all matters related to the armed forces.”
The Muslim Brotherhood and revolutionary youth movements denounced the declaration as a “coup” and the Freedom and Justice Party said it rejected any bid by the military to retake legislative power.
And parliamentary speaker Saad al-Katatni, an FJP member, said the constituent assembly appointed by the parliament would continue its work.
The new political uncertainty comes after an electoral race that polarised the nation, dividing those who fear a return to the old regime under Shafiq from others who want to keep religion out of politics.
The new president will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011.
Dr. Mohamed Morsi, Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, is also one of the most prominent political leadership figures of the Brotherhood, the organization that led the struggle against the ousted repressive regime in its last decade.
Dr. Morsi was also the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc at the People’s Assembly of 2000-2005, and President of the Department of Materials Science, Faculty of Engineering at Zagazig University.
His full name is Mohamed Mohamed Morsi Issa Ayyat. He was born in August 1951 in Egypt’s Sharqiya province. He received a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Cairo University in 1975, then a Master of Engineering degree in Metallurgy from the same university in 1978. He further received a doctorate (PhD) in engineering from the University of Southern California, 1982.
He worked as a lecturer and a Teacher Assistant at the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, and the University of Southern California, US. He also worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of North Ridge in California between 1982 and 1985, and as a Professor and Head of Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering at Zagazig University from the year 1985 till 2010. He was elected a member of the Faculty Staff Club at the University of Zagazig.
He was also selected as a member of the International Conference of Political Parties and Organizations, and founder-member of the Egyptian Resist the Zionist Project Committee. Dr. Morsi is known to be a hard worker at each position he held – from the various fields of science, in which he excelled, to his career as a determined political leader, in which he proved his great abilities and skills.
He has research in several major fields of industry in Egypt related to practical production solutions. He also conducted dozens of studies in “metal surface treatment”, which is one of the scientific precision industries, during his work at NASA on the development of space shuttle engines in the early eighties.
Due to his constantly firm stance against the repressive measures and oppressive practices of the overthrown regime, Dr. Mohamed Morsi was arrested several times. After the 2005 elections were rigged, Dr. Mohamed Morsi led demonstrations in support for judges demanding independence, refusing referral of some judges to the Competence Commission to punish them for their outspoken views against blatant elections fraud.
Consequently, Dr. Morsi was arrested on the morning of May 18, 2006 with 500 members of the Brotherhood during their protest in front of the North Cairo Court and Al-Jalaa Court Complex in Central Cairo. He spent seven months behind bars.
He was arrested, yet again, on the morning of the “Friday of Anger” on January 28, 2011 during the revolution of January 25 along with a large number of Brotherhood leaders across Egypt. Their arrest was a deliberate attempt by the despotic regime to prevent them from participating in the ‘Friday of Anger’ protests across Egypt.
When several prisons were destroyed during the revolution, and many prisoners escaped, Dr. Morsi refused to leave his prison cell. Instead, he contacted satellite TV channels and news agencies demanding the judicial authorities visit the prison and check the legal position of jailed Muslim Brotherhood leaders, to clarify if there were indeed any legal reasons for their arrest, before leaving prison, since no judicial personnel were available there.
The injustice suffered by Dr. Mohamed Morsi went beyond his person, extending to his family. His son, Dr. Ahmed, was arrested just after the announcement of his father’s nomination for parliament in 2000. He was also arrested 3 times when his father was an MP at the People’s Assembly.
After his great endeavors and proven excellence in political work in his five-year term in parliament, Dr. Morsi was chosen by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura Council as a member of the group’s Guidance Bureau. After the January 25 Revolution, he was elected by the Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council as Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party when that was established by the group.
In Egypt’s Parliament in 2000, Dr. Mohamed Morsi played a prominent and influential role as leader of the parliamentary bloc. He was one of the most active members of parliament, responsible for the most famous questioning sessions in Parliament – for the train crash incident – in which he held the government responsible for the tragic accident. Internationally, he was chosen as the best parliamentarian in the years 2000 – 2005 due to his effective parliamentary performance.
In the 2005 Parliament elections, Dr. Morsi won the highest number of votes, leaving his nearest rival far behind. But a run-off was announced, after which his rival won through blatant fraud.
Dr. Morsi played a major role in the political section of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was supervisor of that section which has seen significant action during the recent period, starting from the reform initiative launched by the group in 2004, then the publishing of a political program in 2007, and led the political operations during the parliamentary elections in 2010.
Source : rohama.org