Tuesday, July 9, 2013

No surprise!

An article that should serve as a must-read for everybody thinking the present democratic system is the way to go - with the "right Muslims" in power.

My comments in italics.
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Egypt's lesson for political Islam: politics comes first

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters)- When the Muslim Brotherhood won power it seemed Egypt's nascent democracy would allow the movement to realise its dream of making Islam the guiding principle in politics.

The Arab Spring revolts had opened the door to full Islamist participation in politics after decades of oppression or exile.

A year later, Egypt's first Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, has been forced out, illustrating the Islamists' dilemma as they champion faith while newly empowered citizens look more for effective pluralist governance.

"Islamism has always been more of a sentiment than a coherent political ideology," said Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. "Islamism is by definition not inclusive, but they need to be inclusive now." (trust to consult him on the subject).

The main political divide elected Islamists face is often not over religion, French Islam expert Olivier Roy said.

"Look at all the veiled women who were protesting against Mursi. They're not against sharia. They're against incompetence and nepotism," he said.

BORN IN EGYPT

Political Islam arose in Egypt in 1928 when Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, a revival movement to establish an Islamic state. "Islam is the solution" was its motto.

Banned for decades and opposed by Islamic authorities, it organised networks around the country, especially to provide social welfare services that won it grass-roots respect.

When the 2011 Tahrir Square revolt toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood emerged as the country's only organised force besides the army.

But the Islamists were not equipped to tackle the daunting economic problems or tame a hostile bureaucracy. While public anger mounted over these issues, Mursi assumed special powers to help impose an Islamist-tinged constitution.

John Esposito, professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, said the Brotherhood's reaction to criticism betrayed the defensive reflexes of its underground past.

"Good governance requires taking risks and reaching out to people you can't control, but they couldn't do that," he said.

In late June, Mursi protested he had reached out to his critics but they would not work with him. "I took responsibility for a country mired in corruption and was faced with a war to make me fail," he said.

RIPPLES IN TUNISIA

In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, the Islamist-led government is also under pressure as politicians battle over a new constitution, hardline Salafis attack secularists and unemployment and inflation rise.

The governing party Ennahda, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, also built its grass-roots network under the previous dictatorship, winning 42 percent in the 2011 election.

In contrast to Islamists often jailed during Egypt's dictatorship, party founder Rachid Ghannouchi spent 22 years in exile in Britain where he said he saw how religions could operate in a pluralist political system.

Ennahda formed a government with two secular parties and has not insisted on any mention of sharia in the constitution.



(and this is what it takes to stay in power. A very logical question that should arise in the mind of any Muslim {who wants Islam implemented in the political arena} is: Is this kind of power worth it? Will Islam ever be implemented, IF, to stay in power, you need to promise never to even mention Sharia??? If the answer is yes, that this kind of power is worth it, then sure. Go ahead. And if you're really sincere, then await the same fate that befell Morsi.)

But its weak response to attacks by Salafi extremists on cinemas, concerts and Sufi shrines made critics suspect that it secretly sympathised with them. The party denied the charge.

The assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid in February sparked a crisis and the government collapsed.

Ennahda formed a second government with the same junior partners but a new prime minister and named independents to head the key ministries of interior, defence, justice and foreign affairs. It also cracked down hard on Salafi radicals.


(Now we're talking. Step by step. You have to lean away from Islam, and consolidate your positions of power. See the compromise here?)

This has not gone far enough for a small group of Tunisian activists that launched a petition like the one that led to Egypt's mass protests. It wants a new caretaker government that would curb the Islamists and fix the faltering economy.

(Exactly my point. Whatever you do, if you're part of their system, and you haven't done the job of convincing the masses and key power-holders of the country, then you're basically clutching straw after straw, in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. Eventually, you'll go down.)

"The possibility of an Egyptian scenario is unlikely in Tunisia," Ali Lareyedh, the new prime minister, responded. "Our approach is characterised by consensus and partnership."

THE TARNISHED TURKISH MODEL

In the first flush of the Arab Spring, many Arab Islamists looked to Turkey's AKP as a model that has respected faith and still won three national elections in a row.

But the AKP had more political savvy and a more developed economy to work with. It gave up the goal of an Islamic state over a decade ago and focussed on rapid economic growth.


(See?)

The AKP has not renounced the official secularism imposed by Turkey's former military rulers. The Muslim Brotherhood rapped Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for defending the secular state during an otherwise triumphant visit to Egypt in 2011.

Erdogan and his allies started in local politics, learning skills that would pay off at the polls. "Neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor Ennahda had this kind of experience," Roy said.

Still, the AKP has angered secularists by fostering a more visible Islam, helping build mosques and limiting alcohol sales.


(And they will face the same scenario as Morsi faced in Egypt, if they dared go beyond that. Limiting alcohol sales, it is. Not banning alcohol. 


On a side note: Doesn't this behaviour by the so-called moderates show a high  level of paranoia and extremism?)

Street protests broke out this year at Istanbul's Taksim Square and elsewhere over issues ranging from the environment to city planning and an Islamic-inspired morality campaign.

The protesters' main complaint was what they saw as Erdogan's growing authoritarianism after a decade in power with no effective opposition to rein him in. "That's not an Islamic issue," said Istanbul columnist Mustafa Akyol.

Stung but not subdued, Erdogan has dismissed the protesters as "riff-raff" and indulged in some Muslim populism to attack them at a rally in Kayseri in Anatolia's pious heartland.

"They think their vote is not equal to the votes of Ahmet or Mehmet or the shepherd in Kayseri. They have enjoyed their whiskies on the banks of the Bosphorus," he said.

FALL OF POLITICAL ISLAM?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fighting an insurgency including the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, has called Mursi's failure "the fall of what is called political Islam."

(Wouldn't expect anything else from him.)

It is a setback but not likely the end of Islamists' decade-long efforts to link the power of religion to politics.

Roy said the Egyptian Brotherhood and Ennahda might both split into two groups, one keeping their groups' traditional approach and the other attracting more modern activists.

The coup could also push frustrated Islamists to violence. "The message will resonate throughout the Muslim World loud and clear: democracy is not for Muslims," Mursi's National Security Adviser Essam El-Haddad wrote in a farewell Facebook post.

(One thing I have yet to understand. How come there is only one alternate to democracy: violence. Why aren't the non-violent alternatives being represented here?)

"There will be a greater feeling that Islam is targeted and this could lead to future mergers between some factions within the Brotherhood and Salafi groups that see eye to eye," said Jordanian analyst Mohammad Abu Rumman in Amman.

(Additional reporting by Paul Taylor and Tom Perry in Cairo and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; editing by Anna Willard)
Reuters

10 comments:

Mohammad Zafar said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/11/world/middleeast/improvements-in-egypt-suggest-a-campaign-that-undermined-morsi.html?ref=world&_r=0

and

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/07/2013710113522489801.html

Speaks whats going on behind the seen

Oh Allah have Mercy on us.

kino said...

(and this is what it takes to stay in power. A very logical question that should arise in the mind of any Muslim {who wants Islam implemented in the political arena} is: Is this kind of power worth it? Will Islam ever be implemented, IF, to stay in power, you need to promise never to even mention Sharia??? If the answer is yes, that this kind of power is worth it, then sure. Go ahead. And if you're really sincere, then await the same fate that befell Morsi.)

So now we are calling into question Ennahda's sincerity? Phewh :) Really, why are we so cynical of other's works? Despite being in majority, they managed to muster 89/217 seats in the assembly, less than even half of the total. And we are whining why they are not talking about their ideals anymore which would obviously mean radical reforms. Why is it so wrong to not shove our ideals down society's throat when at large they clearly don't want it? Why are we disgusted at the notion of giving time to the society to develop the capacity to swallow change?

"And if you're really sincere, then await the same fate as Morsi"

In realpolitik, sincerity alone cannot make up for decisions that betray rank ignorance of ground realities. Anyone winning with a 51.7% to 48% margin will indeed meat Morsi's fate if he chooses to follow his footsteps, regardless of being secular or Islamist. Unless of course there is military support available, like it is in Iran. But after my countless interactions with Iranians, religious or not, and seeing the reactionary hatred and utter hopelessness they have for their theocratic democracy (an oxymoron), I don't need to think twice before disowning it.

So yes, Morsi did falter but by not striking a realistic note between his ambitions and the ground support he had. Even among his 51% voters, a big chunk, if not majority, were ordinary people who hoped Morsi would delivery them from the misery they face today thanks to the huge corruption and incompetence of Mobarak's era. They wouldn't have minded Sharia as such if his government had shown an equal interest in taking care of the foremost responsibilities of any government i.e. ensuring law and order, indiscriminate dispensation of justice and economic progress. But in his zeal for constitutional reforms, he ignored that ordinarry people were getting crushed under the ever increasing weight of a disintegrating economy. No surprises that anti-Morsi protests saw such a huge turnout and Morsi stands isolated from the rest of society, except of course his party loyalists.

But well, that should not be a cause of concern for Islamists or considered in their evaluation. Sharia means enacting punishments and imposing restrictions, and on that count we have a policy of either all or nothing. People can go destitute now due to government's utter imcompetence because it can be made up later once the system of Zakat is in place :)

And I am really really sorry if I went over the line in my sarcasms. Honestly, I tried my best to do away with them altogether. But sometimes I just don't know how else to highlight the irony in a narrative. Please don't consider it any lack of respect, at least an intentional one.

Uni said...

@kino
It's not about being cynical of others. It's just about not worming into the same holes where we've been bitten once before.

Why is it so wrong to not shove our ideals down society's throat when at large they clearly don't want it?

If a party says its an Islamic party, then it should uphold its ideals. Otherwise, it should just declare itself secular and get done with it. Nobody would attach any expectations then.

Anyone winning with a 51.7% to 48% margin will indeed meat Morsi's fate if he chooses to follow his footsteps, regardless of being secular or Islamist.

If he were secular, believe me this wouldn't have happened. Nothing happened to Mubarak don't you see? He's behind bars, sure, but look at his influence. His friends, his institutions are all there. And that's why Morsi - an Islamist - would never be tolerated.

Unless of course there is military support available, like it is in Iran.
I don't hold Iran as a shining beacon for Islam implementation in a country. They've been corrupt and brutal to the people. I myself have had many interactions with Iranians, and collectively ALL hate their regime.

They wouldn't have minded Sharia as such if his government had shown an equal interest in taking care of the foremost responsibilities of any government i.e. ensuring law and order, indiscriminate dispensation of justice and economic progress.

Can a leader ensure law and order if the police/military is not in his control? Can he ensure justice if the courts/judiciary is not under his control? Can he really ensure economic progress if the Mubarak era bigwigs withdraw investments and cause huge damage to Egypt economy?

You really must read this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/11/world/middleeast/improvements-in-egypt-suggest-a-campaign-that-undermined-morsi.html?ref=world&_r=0

No surprises that anti-Morsi protests saw such a huge turnout and Morsi stands isolated from the rest of society, except of course his party loyalists.

And also this: http://stream.wsj.com/story/latest-headlines/SS-2-63399/SS-2-276213/

Maybe you will realize this is exactly what was expected of us to think: Omg so many people turning against Morsi, he must go.

No problem. Constructive arguments are a good thing. Thanks for the comments. Sorry for not being able to find time to reply to the previous ones.



kino said...

"It's not about being cynical of others. It's just about not worming into the same holes where we've been bitten once before."

It is considered cynical by all and sundry when we condemn people for failing to do what lies beyond their power, to the point that we even begin questioning their sincerity. I didn't merely suggest you were being cynical but also provided you figures indicating that despite being the largest party, Ennahda clearly lags way behind from being in majority to get things done by itself . It would have been a relevant response if you had tried to dispell this impression and I would have seen and perhaps even agreed on why you doubt their sincerity.

"If a party says its an Islamic party, then it should uphold its ideals. Otherwise, it should just declare itself secular and get done with it. Nobody would attach any expectations then. "

I wish it were true but unfortunately the world does not happen to be binary like that. Carrying forward with a society patently divided along religious/ideological lines means you just cannot unilaterally have your way on issues. It needs sincerity together with an utter lack of political wisdom to pretend you are the only one that matters. Unless of course you are advocating to muzzle the whole of >50% dissenting society into bowing down to Al-Malik with the support of a liberated *kingmaker*. But could you kindly confirm if that is your vision?

"If he were secular, believe me this wouldn't have happened. Nothing happened to Mubarak don't you see? He's behind bars, sure, but look at his influence. His friends, his institutions are all there. And that's why Morsi - an Islamist - would never be tolerated."

I meant getting the government toppled which did happen to secular Mr. Mubarak despite a solid support from military and other state institutions that had a vested interest in seeing him stay. But of course the trial to follow might not be as severe depending upon factors that you mention.

"I don't hold Iran as a shining beacon for Islam implementation in a country. They've been corrupt and brutal to the people. I myself have had many interactions with Iranians, and collectively ALL hate their regime. "

I was a little humble in projecting my own experience with Iranians fearing you might have had some exceptions. But it really brought me a sudden smile at finding my fears to be unfounded :) But they have what you want, no legislation can be passed by the parliament that is contrary to Shariah, hence a theocratic democracy. You and I may disagree with the interpretation of their clergy but the fact is in the present system the people have absolutely no way to bring about any change accept through bloodshed. They are muzzled to live with it even if they hate it from the core of their heart. This has led to a frustrated society that slowly went from being opposed to clergy to being repulsive to religion altogether. The guardians of faith are not sadists either and would have been glad to have a compliant populace. As it didn't happen, they have to employ brutal methods to quell dissent since gracefully stepping down from power means they are leaving the way open for people to make legislations contrary to Shariah which is unacceptable.

kino said...

"Can a leader ensure law and order if the police/military is not in his control? Can he ensure justice if the courts/judiciary is not under his control? Can he really ensure economic progress if the Mubarak era bigwigs withdraw investments and cause huge damage to Egypt economy?"

Omit military because they have no role in maintaining law and order except during some form of emergency. The police have been as corrupt as it were during Mubarak's rule. The question is, when was the last time we saw Morsi trying anything to change that? And the clash with judiciary came not because he insisted them or made legislation that would make it more efficient for common man to get justice which I was talking about. Had it been the case the whole society would have been sympathizing if not standing by him today. It actually was about his ambitious plans to straighten the constitution that made him at odds with both opposition and judiciary. After all, who needs to have common sense about the *gradualism* required to phase out the remnants of decades of military rule without inviting for immediate tussle? And your opinion about the causes of economic problems are also not up to the mark. First of all, Egypt's was a dwindling economy even during Mubarak's era. When he departed the investments surely stopped, further deteriorating the state of affairs. But this time around it was largely because of political instability that Mr. Morsi's ideas always managed to have a magnetic attraction for. In his own admission: (http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2013/06/201362884049463308.html)

"I have had made a lot of mistakes and have had some successes at the same time. That’s a fact. Economic growth has been delayed and we must progress in this area. *It requires political settlement and stability*. In the past year I have discovered that the country's institutions need dramatic reforms to achieve the revolutions goals. We must steer away from traditional solutions."

But even that is not the major issue because you can fail despite giving your best. The problem is what are you seen to be busy doing all the day in office? Is it some constitutional matter that a huge segment of society is looking at in bewilderment, if not disgust, or the economic problems that are faced everyday by the poor countrymen. Ask any Egyptian and please tell me if he thinks that Morsi overspent himself taking care of a crumbling economy.

Thank you very much for sharing the two links. I have been following myself some of the contradictions that have emerged in the aftermath of Morsi's ouster. But my sympathies lie with MB and that is why I am concerned when they demonstrated utter lack of practical wisdom that exacerbated an already hostile situation into being explosive. Apart from that, Egyptians have lived all these decades since independence under military rule. Apparently they need some harsh lessons to fully understand how to behave in dissent and the curse that is military rule, whether liberated or otherwise. In all probability, the decisions they are making now will come back to haunt them in future. I am glad, however, that for all their shortcomings, at least on this matter MB stand on the right side of history.

kino said...

Somehow it just occurred to me that my last comments were horribly beyond the limits of decency. It was never the idea to pick up some phrases here and there and use them to repeatedly mock or deride. But it happened, and I am absolutely gutted to realize it. I would point out what it is but that would make it even more highlighted and hence embarrassing. It is not possible for me otherwise I would have edited or deleted it already.

As someone said, nothing we do resembles more with the acts of God than the act of forgiving. So please, let it be enough to say that I sincerely apologize.

Uni said...

@kino
I am not doubting anybody's sincerity. I believe Ennhada is sincere, and so was Morsi. I'm just arguing that they're taking the non-productive step of politics-of-compromise. This would keep them on the edge throughout their reign (as happened with Morsi) and they will be unable to do anything really Islamic while in power. If they try too hard, they will be deposed. Like Morsi. Worming into the same holes means trusting the West and its allies to let you come to power (democratically sure) and letting you implement Islam in your country. Not gonna happen. Like Morsi.

I'm not advocating any king's monarchy and related forced laws upon people. I'm merely saying that if you are sincere in your aim to implement Islam in a country - then a massive public opinion (clear majority) needs to be with you along with massive institutional support (army, judiciary, media etc), and THEN you should accept power. Not otherwise. Not on their terms.

Mubarak got toppled, but the system he had settled in place, remained in place. Morsi never challenged it (and I guess he couldn't). The minute he tried to challenge it, he got deposed. Changing of faces doesn't matter. It happens all the time. The underlying system is what matters.

When I talk about Iran, I don't just mean their interpretation being different from mine. I mean their methodology of ruling not conforming to the Sunnah established by the Prophet (saw).

Yes Morsi made mistakes. But you need institutional support and authority over those institutions to properly rule over a country. The reason why he turned to the Constitution first (IMHO) was that he saw immediately that he had no real power. So he tried to strengthen his authority first. Unfortunately, that's precisely what the institutions didn't want, because they weren't his to begin with. They served somebody else. Hence, it all unraveled from there.

It doesn't make sense that this organization, persecuted for about 80 years prior, gets power in Egypt and then ... doesn't seem to care to solve people's problems. Social contributions were what had brought them into power. The problem was that this power was basically, no power. And I think Morsi learned this lesson the hard way.

No big deal. Thanks for your comments.

kino said...

My reading of seerah doesn't show the prophet to have assumed charge of a city-state only after all the internal groups (which were sort of institutions at that time) had been ironed out or when he was sure there was a huge majority willing to bow down to his directions. According to Dr. Hamidullah, a preeminent scholar of very recent times, the population of Medina at the time of migration was roughly 10,000 and approximately half of it was jewish. Needless to say, not all the non-jewish population of Medina had sincerely accepted Islam, if at all. Even among sincere believers, the prophet always had to be careful not to reignite old tribal rivalries which at times severely handicapped him in addition to the conspiring tactics of the hypocrites. You can easily find these instances in biography and even commentary of Quran. For example, in the incident of Ifk in surah Noor. Yet the prophet chose to manage instead of refusing to take over until he had a clear majority with near to perfect support from all the communities. Given this fact, it makes sense why Riba could only be proscribed legally merely a few months before prophet's death despite the fact that Quran asked Muslims to stay away from it right from the days of Mecca. Or terming marriage with father's widow outright obscene tradition but turning a blind eye to it until a certain time. This is just tip. I am omitting here a long list of 'compromises' that I had prepared because I don't want to stretch the argument upon second thought.

I don't get what you mean by prophet's methodology of ruling as opposed to difference of interpretation. Everything is a result of your interpretation of the sources of Islam. And the same goes for Iranian clergy. I just highlighted the common ground between you and them which is to have a rigid system that closes door to any systemic change that is contrary to whatever they perceive to be Sharia. Of course, this luxury is not available in democracy as we know it today. Democracy can allow rulers to rule according to Sharia but it doesn't allow them to craft a system that makes the rulers powerless from changing their minds later.

Based on my own experiences with a lot of Islamic parties working for political change, I can guess, with probability of error, why Brotherhood prioritized constitution over social work which they had been doing all along. There exists a mindset among all these parties and groups about the penal laws being above anything else in religion. It is more of a crime on part of the state not to have Qisas rather than being unable to curb murder. It is a greater evil not to chop off the hand rather than alleviating factors that naturally lead to theft. It is less reprehensible if the economy crumbles as a result of mindlessly shutting down all the institutions that operate on riba than to tolerate it under a strategy for uprooting it. It is less of a problem if economy is properly taken care of so that people could earn their living respectfully than to distribute Zakat among the poor.

kino said...

Fulfilling the pledge is one of the foremost characteristics described of believers in Quran (Al Maarij for e.g.). It is so important that it was made part of the first ever constitution enacted by the prophet in Medina (pact of medina). But very recently, a famous Islamist organization wrote an open letter to the generals of Pakistan army and guess what did they ask them to do? That they should abide by their oaths, have some mercy on this poor nation and stop taking part in politics? Not quite so, they asked the generals not to worry about their oaths of duty and stage a coup in order to get rid of the unislamic system and restore Khilafah. Apparently they thought the army would break thier oath only once and forever remain committed to their oath to work under the Khaleefah.

Anyway, it is obvious that we have a slightly different world-view and a very different understanding of religion on these matters. Discussing until we agree might be difficult to carry on for me and perhaps for you too. Therefore, I would humbly like to conclude with the famous note of Imam Shafi:

"I am convinced about the veracity of my opinions, but I do consider it likely that they may turn out to be incorrect. Likewise, I am convinced about the incorrectness of the views of others, but I do concede the possibility that they may turn out to be correct."

Wish you the very best.

Tauqeer said...

Excellent discussion on this thread. Thank you for posting on this subject.