The Arab Spring started in autumn, became intense in the winter, and then stumbled in the spring. The summer is almost gone, and this Arab Spring has yet to stand back on its feet, were it not for the fact that the people of Libya have saved the day and blew new life into the movement for change.
Seeking change is much easier than achieving it, and change does not involve a leader/figure and his henchmen, but also the institutions of their regime side by side with them. Thus, we saw the new Tunisia resolve to hold elections on 14/7, only to postpone them to 14/10. Meanwhile, the ruling military council in Egypt declared - following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February- that elections would be held after six months, and proposed to hold them in September. Now, September is going to just be the month when the committee working on electoral laws would start working, while elections are set to be held two months after that.
I call for a civil democratic system in every Arab country. But such a system would not deserve its name unless it also includes for religious parties. In truth, part of the reason why the latter are powerful is because the dictatorial regimes had oppressed them and persecuted their leaders, imprisoning some and exiling others. I write this while realizing that some advocates of secular states want to isolate and confront religious parties, and that some religious extremists believe that democracy is an evil innovation that must be renounced. Personally, when I lose my way, I seek the guidance of the Noble Azhar, and truth be told, there is indeed sufficient guidance in their most recent proclamation.
The Islamists in every country were never one unified bloc. In Egypt, there are various wings within the Muslim Brotherhood itself, but perhaps we can note two main factions: A moderate one that wants a civil state with an Islamic orientation, and a hardline one that wants an Islamic state and a Caliphate; this faction also comprises an even more hardline faction that considers archaeological monuments, democracy and liberalism to violate Islam, and others that want a ‘Shura of Scholars’.
True, the Obama administration has engaged the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, albeit tepidly. However, the enemies of Arabs and Muslims, such as the Likudniks and neocons in the United States, are waging a campaign of scaremongering against the coming Islamist ‘menace’. I read warnings against the presidential candidate Mohammad Salim Al-Awa, for instance, as a ‘shadow candidate’ of the Muslim Brotherhood, and reminders of the calls by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in his sermon in January 2009, for God to slay all Jews. Furthermore, the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy has called on Congress to put pressure on the Obama administration, to in turn put pressure on the military council in Egypt, all in order to push it to fight the Islamist groups and curb their influence while preserving the peace treaty with Israel.
This is not democracy at all. The Muslim Brotherhood is part and parcel of the social fabric of Egypt. And in fact, the Obama Administration announced it would provide $ 65 million to help new political parties in Egypt, which I see as meddling in the internal affairs of the country. Then indeed, the military council announced that it considers those who accept the financial assistance to be agents of a foreign country, while the Muslim Brotherhood has criticized the American program.
By the end of the day, 65 million or even billion would not alter the stance of all the religious parties that reject the presence of Israel on the land of Palestine. I want to say to the Americans here, to use their own expression, ‘live with it’. There is hostility towards Israel and America’s share of this hostility is primarily because it supports this racist state.
I focus in my analysis of the stumbling Arab Spring on Egypt because I believe it to be in a position to lead the Arab nation. If a true democracy is established there, this would make it easier for democracy to be copied in Arab countries which would follow the Egyptian example.
Today, we are stumbling and not going forward. The public wants everything and wants the expulsion of ministers and the trial of former regime leaders immediately, while the military council is trying to appease everyone, which is an otherwise unattainable goal. I also read that the military council wants to be the protector of democracy in Egypt. However, this reminds me of the role of the Turkish army in ‘protecting’ democracy, in the course of which the army carried out four military coups against democratically elected governments, until Recep Tayyip Erdogan came and reined in Ataturk’s army.
All the above does not change my personal conviction that Egypt will indeed overcome the difficulties of the transitional stage and build a democratic regime. While we in Egypt know the alternative, or the alternatives to the Hosni Mubarak regime, this does not apply to countries like Syria, Yemen and Libya.
The Syrian opposition consists of thousands of protesters in city streets. However, it has no leader or a clear program. In Yemen, the opposition comprises several patriotic leaders, but they remain a minority next to the separatists and terrorists like al-Qaeda and other local religious groups. In Libya, there is the rebel government in Benghazi, which includes members whom I am acquainted with, and they are truly trustworthy. However, I fear that there may also be extremist terrorist groups there, although this does not prevent me from being pleased by the departure of Muammar Gaddafi out of compassion for Libya and its people.
I say again that the Arab Spring has stumbled, but if it should rise back on its feet in Egypt, this would encourage other Arab peoples to stand up again.
Published in the London-based al-Hayat on August 25, 2011.