October 31, 2014

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Egypt’s ordeal

Wikimedia Commons

Two years after the overthrow of the dictatorial government of President Hosni Mubarak, the people of Egypt still long for real peace and freedom. The revolution that ousted Mubarak was based on three essential goals: justice, liberal democracy and economic progress. However, it was not very long before their new leader, President Muhammad Morsi, was accused of having a sinister political agenda, triggering another episode of violent domestic unrest across the country on the eve of the second anniversary of the uprising.

Just last summer, Egyptians were faced with a tough choice between a return to the yoke of the last six decades under Ahmed Shafiq, an old Mubarak loyalist, and a new but uncertain future with the Muslim Brotherhood. Practically, they chose the latter but to no avail. Within months of his presidency, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, under growing secular pressure issued a decree granting himself unchecked authority and practically exempting his office from judicial checks and regulation. According to the Economist, this political blunder has “left Egypt starkly and dangerously polarized.”

Moreover, the fact that this move was ratified just a month later through the Islamist-drafted constitution, which was pushed through by a slim majority of conservative voters, gave rise to explosive protests. The courts abandoned work, while demonstrators crowded the streets of major cities in the largest numbers seen since the uprising against Mubarak. However, Morsi appears to have not learned his lesson and has not budged from his position. His recent autocratic decision to ignore protests and hand down death sentences to 21 individuals who had participated in an Egyptian football riot last year was nothing but a catalyst in the dramatic escalation of ongoing protests since November. Protestors have refused to accept him as their legitimate leader, and characterize his regime as a “new form of authoritarianism.”

President Morsi has not only faced stern criticism for leading the country away from democracy and toward theocracy, but also for struggling to revive a near stagnant economy since the revolution. According to Bloomberg, Egypt’s economy has grown at a snail’s pace since the revolution, even slower than the rate of growth in two decades under Mubarak. Because of the political violence, investors and tourists, the only hopes to help stabilize a free-falling economy, have avoided the country, causing foreign currency reserves to drop to miserably low levels. The government has been trying to negotiate a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund in order to inject money into the economy, gain investor confidence and eventually release more funds from other lenders. But Egypt’s horrible figures stemming from the ongoing domestic turmoil endangers its chances to qualify for the IMF loan.

For a country with nearly 50 percent of its population living in poverty and relying on the government to subsidize basic necessities, with almost no jobs available, and with soaring food prices, survival is next to impossible. It may be one of the worst times to impose austerity measures and raise taxes to secure foreign loans. But who knows what might happen when all political power is in the hands of an inexperienced and self-destructive Egyptian president who faces a fragmented opposition of secular liberals?

Morsi’s numerous obstacles have still not given his secular opposition any incentive to unite and bring down his administration. They have failed, at least until this upcoming election, to gain strong support by providing any revolutionary alternative solutions to the problems that vex the state.

The slow pace of liberalization, dire economic and social conditions and ongoing protests against the government in the form of the street violence that has led to the death of almost 60 people in the past week, are signs of a moribund state. The Egyptian army chief, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, issued a warning just last week, after an emergency was declared by the president, that the political crisis could lead to the collapse of the state.

The people of Egypt have suffered a great deal under Mubarak and therefore will not tolerate another like him, even if he is their first democratically elected leader. They are aware of what two decades of oppression can do to a nation and will not stop until their demands are fulfilled. Mohammed Morsi, at present, is a failed president with immensely controversial policies, but he must remember that he is still in power. In order to establish his credibility among the people and save Egypt from collapsing, he must make radical changes in his style of leadership, his policies and maybe even his ideology.

Suyash Tibrawalla is a Collegian Columnist. He can be reached at stribrawa@student.umass.edu.

Comments
6 Responses to “Egypt’s ordeal”
  1. Arafat says:

    When are we going to get it through our thick skulls that Islam and democracy – Islam and freedom – are incompatible.

    Islam means submission. Submission of the individual to Islam. Submission of the individual to Sharia law. A religion and a law in which individuals who question Islam, leave their religion, treat non-Muslims as equals are all punishable under Islam.

    There is not ONE Muslim country where people can openly speak out against Islam without fear. There is not ONE single Muslim country where people can leave their religion (ISlam) without fear of death. There is not ONE single Muslim country where people can speak openly, candidly, freely.

    Until Islam becomes a relic of the 7th century – a place and time where it belongs – we will never see a true democracy in the Islamic world.

  2. Eric Tori says:

    I agree with Arafat (never thought I’d write those words!)

    A Muslim democracy? Heh! Fat chance. Meanwhile, this Morsi fellow isn’t the first democratically elected dictator (see: Nazi Germany.)

  3. Suyash says:

    Eric, I think you misread. I meant their (Egypt’s) first democratically elected leader not the first ever.
    Arafat, a Muslim democracy where people have a fair bit of freedom is Indonesia. These two countries have been on the same path and are pretty similar. Even though Indonesia can’t really predict what the future holds in store for Egypt..it is being proposed as a model for them. Try and look up this comparison.

  4. D.L Kennedy says:

    Arafat is correct. However, beyond that, it has recently been revealed that President has made explicitly anti-Semitic statements as he openly referred to Jews as “the sons of apes and monkeys.” What he has been doing is not a surprise, as the media, universities, clerics, intellectuals and political elites throughout the Arab Moslem world regularly publish and disseminate vile anti-Semitic nonsense. indeed, it is part of the educational curriculum in Palestinian school as well as in the broader Islamic world. While the New York Times generally covers up for such anti-Semitism, as it does not fit its agenda, it recently even covered Morsi’s outrageous statements. It took the Times several days to catch up with other media outlets. When Morsi was outed as an anti-Semite, he told visiting US Congressmen that his statements “were taken out of context.” He claimed the he was only speaking about Jews in Israel (as if anti-Semitism against the citizens of the Jewish state is somehow better). He is a theocratic thug, no less.

  5. Arafat says:

    Here is a recent article on Indonesia’s descent into Sharia.

    Let’s not forget that Islamic countries on the periphery – those where Islam has not been enforced for centuries – are not surprisingly less draconian than those near the epicenter like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar.

    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3579/indonesia-sharia

  6. The Enlightenment says:

    You know, “Arafat”, everything you just said about Islam was also true about Christianity until the mid-1700s. Before that time, there had never been ONE Christian country where people could openly speak out against Christianity without fear, not ONE single Christian country where people could leave their religion (Christianity) without fear of death, and not ONE single Christian country where people could speak openly, candidly, freely. Indeed, there had never been such a thing as a Christian democracy, in the entire 1700-year history of Christianity up to that point!

    And then things changed.

    Funnily enough, there WERE many people like you in the 1700s in Europe who claimed that Europeans will never be free until they reject Christianity – people like Voltaire, for example, or Diderot. And guess what? They were wrong.

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