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Horror in Egypt: Saying it once, saying it again

My recent analysis of the Arab uprising and the evolving crisis in Tunisia and Egypt has drawn abundant critical comment. My position with regard to the Arab uprisings, their history and the issues they raise, is quite precisely that expressed in my book Islam and the Arab Uprising. Recent events have confirmed its accuracy; I urge readers seeking clarification to read or re-read it.

To those who claim that my critical view of political Islam and its historic development is a new and opportunistic one, I refer my previous works (in addition to the latest) Islam, The West and the Challenges of Modernity (1995) and Radical Reform (2007), written well before the uprisings, which give a clear exposition of my views on politics, liberation, and on the objectives of economic and social counter-power. My most recent articles are syntheses of those earlier writings, and reassert and sharpen my position in the light of recent events. Since the late 1980’s with regard to Sudan, then Algeria, Egypt and Palestine, I have returned to the subject time and time again, all the while maintaining the same analytical line.

I have, at the same time, developed a detailed critique of the polarization of debates between secularists and Islamists, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia. My latest stance on the military coup d’État has caused some intellectuals and anti-Morsi activists to label me as pro-Morsi, pro-Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Islamist, and to fire up the propaganda machine. How nice it would be if things were so simple. But it is impossible, in all decency, to criticize me for lack of clarity toward the actions of the Morsi government and the ideological positioning of the Muslim Brotherhood. I have said it once, and say it again, but the “liberal” apologists of the coup d’État and the friends of the military who pretend to have heard or read nothing and who dismiss their opponents as “Islamists” and “terrorists” would be better off paying close attention to substance and providing answers to a range of key questions.

The women and men who have been demonstrating for more than five weeks now have been presented as “pro-Morsi,” as essentially members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The categorization is as false as it is tendentious: a tissue of lies tightly woven by the official media and disseminated by 80% of Western press agencies, which employ the same terms to describe the ongoing and massive street demonstrations. In fact, the demonstrators march under the banner of opposition to the coup d’État; they include women and men who are not members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are neither Salafis or Islamists. Among their number are youthful bloggers, secularists and Copts.

The Egyptian army never withdrew from the political scene. Its strategy of repression can be best explained by its concern to preserve its political, economic and financial interests, as well as by its close links to the American government. Certain European capitals—as well as Israel—clearly find the strategy to their liking. The timid Western condemnation, US President Barack Obama’s half-hearted remarks (canceling joint war games, confirming American financial support and implicitly backing the coup d’État), along with the media bombardment have granted the military carte blanche to carry out full-scale repression under cover of the newly declared State of Emergency. The crackdown is far from over; death, torture and mass imprisonment lie ahead for Egypt.

Nothing new, alas. State media broadcast lies and manipulate information: all time-tested tactics. The police and the armed forces claim to be acting in legitimate self-defense: they use live ammunition to target demonstrators and the number of dead is systematically underestimated. Mosques that housed the bodies of murdered demonstrators have been burned to eliminate the evidence. Other mosques, such as al-Iman, were surrounded as families were preparing to mourn their dead. In order to proceed with the burial, the bereaved were forced to attest that the cause of death was suicide, or to post-date the decease. New horrors, old methods. It came as no surprise that caches of weapons were discovered, filmed and broadcast worldwide. Meanwhile, the dull-witted demonstrators, after six weeks of mass marches and a week of threatened military intervention, could not find the time to use them. Just as plainly, the church burning strategy reminds us of the methods of al-Sisi’s predecessors: turn the people against one another and present the “Islamist terrorists” as enemies of the Copts. Thus they kill two birds with one stone: justify repression while winning the hearts and minds of the West. All those who oppose the coup are presented as displaying astounding stupidity: non-violent and disciplined for weeks on end, and even following the massacre of July 8, suddenly they have turned violent as if to please the military, right on cue. Who are they trying to fool? Who are those who pretend to believe them trying to fool?

The central question was and remains that of freedom and democracy for the Egyptian people. What is happening today in Egypt is a travesty and a horror. The country is now at the merci of the Armed Forces; Egypt will now experience summary execution, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and lying at the highest state level. The generals are fully supported by the West, the United States and Israel. This is the only reality. Those who, in their visceral hatred of the Islamists, today support the military and the police as they kill and repress must one day answer for their choice. They must also reveal to us their analysis, their “democratic” political program drawn up in the shadow of the barracks, at the heart of corruption, at the storm center of a Middle East that is now adrift. Their responsibility is immense, over and above the bitter taste of the words they use to encourage and to justify the violent repression of unarmed civilians. Wretched “liberals”, pathetic “progressives.”

20 commentaires - “Horror in Egypt: Saying it once, saying it again”

  1. Dear Professor Ramadan:

    As you correctly observe, to be “anti-coup” is not to be pro-Morsi. We may deplore the military coup, but we must recognize that there is no going back to a Morsi government.

    Egypt’s military coup is succeeding not because of U.S. funding, but because the vast majority of Egyptians grew to oppose the actions of the Morsi government and because the anti-coup movement has not stepped up with a viable alternative.

    The best available evidence –-the evidence of the election polls– indicates that virtually two-thirds of Egyptians did not favor a government run by The Muslim Brotherhood. 48% of Egyptian voters voted for career militarist Shafiq. Liberal Hamdeen Sabahi won 21.5% of the vote in the primary, and subsequently, Sabahi’s liberal supporters were forced to choose Morsi instead of Shafiq in the final election.

    Do the math. Morsi had a tenuous base consisting of no more than 35% of voters. Unsurprisingly, the populace was increasingly displeased by the Islamist constitution, by Morsi’s presidential decrees, by attempts to suppress free speech… by Morsi’s wide-ranging efforts to enforce changes without an appropriate mandate.

    You accuse Morsi’s critics of harboring a “visceral hatred of the Islamists.” In fact, what they harbor are legitimate, rational concerns that Egypt may follow other Islamist regimes in imposing summary executions, corporal punishment, gender apartheid, the curtailing of civil liberties, the oppression of religious minorities and the enslavement of non-Muslim “guest laborers.” The Morsi constitution was widely perceived – both within Egypt and without — as a prelude to Islamist rule.

    Speculating about travesties to come, you rail: “The generals are fully supported by the West, the United States and Israel. This is the only reality.” You simply ignore the 12 billion dollar contribution made by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE within days of the coup.

    How easy it is to sit on the sidelines with your comfortable, Qatar-financed Professorship at Oxford, maintaining a large and lucrative popular fan base, by bemoaning the situation in Egypt, refusing to demand that Egyptians take responsibility, tweeting rabid anti-American, anti-Wet sound-bites, and filling paragraphs with vague and verbose allusions to the content of your books (which you know almost no one will read) instead providing of concise, pertinent summaries of your views.

    Enough! Kindly lay your solution on the table, Professor Ramadan!

    Specifically, please be so kind as to begin by divulging:

    Do you favor the formation of a democratic, secular government that supports religious pluralism? Or do you favor the formation of an Islamic state with a commitment to implementing shariah law (as espoused by your grandfather, Hasan al-Banna, founder of The Muslim Brotherhood)?

    The liberals and intellectuals you call “wretched” and “pathetic” are now, in The West, unanimous in demanding an immediate withdrawal of US support to Egypt’s military. The moral imperative is clear. But is Egypt and the world prepared for the consequences?

    Egypt will burn through all of the $12 billion aid provided by gulf states within one year. If peace is not restored soon, the possibility of mass starvation looms on the horizon. Beyond that, what will happen long term if Egypt no longer receives military support from the U.S.?

    Oil-rich Gulf monarchies are waiting in the wings, eager to trade military support for what they need: Fertile land to feed their populations, “guest workers” (slaves) to do their menial work and the ever-popular, submissive (circumcised) thirteen year old brides .

    Or would you prefer a world, Professor Ramadan, in which the MENA region succumbs to the influence of China?

    What is your solution, Professor Ramadan?

    1. You seem to harbour many confusions. Perhaps this is why you resorted to making many personal and completely uncalled for side remarks against the author in your rather verbose comment.

      Your math! The bottom line is: MB won free and fair. They could not have been dismissed.
      People who were compelled to vote for MB, sorry you had a chance and now its gone. Now wait for next elections. Work hard to rally more supoort for your party till then. Its called democracy.

      Please clear your misconception about shariah law.
      Even a basic study of shariah laws and Islamic history would reveal just how pluralistic it is. (Read Umer’s arrival in Jerusalem for example)
      As for punishments, on what basis do you justify that one form is better than the other?

      Your second question is very rhetorical: it paints a horrific picture with no basis and (again) justification. There are two things called faith and self reliance: its been observed to be very effective in transforming people and countries. Your “out of the frying pan in to the fire” analysis is irrational and fictitious, conspiracy theory fan eh?

      The issue here (and discussed in the article) is indiscriminate and brutal massacre of people exercising their human rights. Period.

    2. Dear Z.B.,

      You write:

      “The bottom line is : MB won free and fair. They could not have been dismissed.
      People who were compelled to vote for MB, sorry you had a chance and now its
      gone. Now wait for next elections. Work hard to rally more supoort for your party
      till then. Its called democracy.”

      What you are saying is true in the context of a stable, established constitutional democracy that provides a process to remove elected officials from office (impeachment, motion to censure, vote of no confidence) The situation in Egypt is different. A revolution is in progress — and will continue to be in progress until the people of Egypt agree on a constitution.

      The key mistake of the Morsi administration was that it hijacked the process of writing a new constitution. They tried to use their narrow ballot-box win to ram through a constitution with heavy-handed Islamist provisions. A fledgling democracy cannot possibly succeed when it begins by writing a constitution which is supported by only a small fraction of voters. A constitution requires broad consensus.

      There is no question in my mind that Morsi’s government had to be removed, and that the constitution they wrote must be scrapped. Speculating on how that might have been achieved without a military coup is pointless.

      As Professor Ramadan pointed out yesterday in his essay “Egypte — Un Appel,” Egyptians must end the violence, remain hopeful and move foreword:

      “A national coalition must be formed with women and men of the civil society – secular, Islamist, Copts, women, youth activists – who are willing to open channels of dialogue with the authorities…”

      To demand that the Egyptian military end to violent repression, release political prisoners, and specify steps for restoring the civil political process and fixing new election dates.

      The new world is as yet
      behind the veil of destiny
      In my eyes, however
      its dawn has been unveiled

      ― Allama Muhammad Iqbal

      We must remain hopeful and keep working for peace and justice.


    3. When it comes to Islam, its very distressing to see the same old tired rhetoric regarding living life under Islamic Shariah. You say that it means:

      imposing summary executions, corporal punishment, gender apartheid, the curtailing of civil liberties, the oppression of religious minorities and the enslavement of non-Muslim “guest laborers.” The Morsi constitution was widely perceived – both within Egypt and without — as a prelude to Islamist rule.

      Is this what Islam is to you? Do you feel the Quran is a dark book filled with evil sadistic rulings to make our lives miserable and oppressed? Since shariah is based on Quran and Sunnah which is filled with justice, compassion, honesty and fairness… you must not have even read the Quran or studied the Sunnah. If you had studied and implemented them, your view of Islamic life would not be so skewed. By such a negative and false presentation of Shariah you are actually showing your “visceral hatred of the Islamists.” and confirming the author’s premise.

      The Quran was sent as guidance for believers in order to help us live righteous lives. In the twin testimonies we affirm our belief by obeying Allah SWT with sincerity and following the Sunnah. This can only be accomplished by referring for judgment to the laws of Allah SWT.

      As a revert Muslim who initially grew up with western culture, I am well placed to compare the two. Islam is a huge blessing and becoming Muslim is the most satisfying decision I have ever made. Living under shariah law (which can be broadly defined) is not this dark and gloomy scenario you wish to portray but rather a framework to live a life in harmony and peace.

      The obligation of Muslims to live under Shariah is clear:

      فَلاَ وَرَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّى يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لاَ يَجِدُواْ فِى أَنفُسِهِمْ حَرَجاً مِّمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً
      But no, by your Lord, they can have no faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission. (An Nisa’:65) Among many other ayat in Quran 2:32 59:7, 3:85, 16:89, 4:59 5:48, 50

    4. A point of clarification. Deborah is muslim herself, as becomes clear from former posts. The complaint is about islamism/ MB, not islam

    5. It shouldn’t be relevant to anyone’s consideration of what I have written, but yes, for the record, I am a Muslim.

      It is important to distinguish between Islam and the interpretations of Islam (salafism, wahabism, Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) collectively referred to as “Islamism”.

      The good Professor knows that I hold him and his work in the highest regard. Otherwise, I wouldn’t waste my time criticizing him when he deserves it. As you can see from the essay he posted this morning, “Egypte — Un Appel,” Professor Ramadan has appreciated my reasons for giving him a gentle kick in the rear. 😉

      As for not being “nice,” the days of women sitting in the back of the masjid, remaining silent and being “nice” are long gone.


    6. Dear Deborah:
      I would implore Dr. Ramadan not to grace your comments in attempting to answer to your suppositions.
      Dr. Morsi was elected president of Egypt. No body has any right to de legitimize his election by trying to do psuedo mathematical analyses to suggest he only had support of x percent of the electorate.
      Dr Ramadan has also explained (in his previous articles) the military project in conjunction with its supporters (US etc) to have decided to give Morsi one year and plan the reversal.
      I am a believer in one and only God and pray to Him that time has come that falsehood be separated from truth.
      One can keep arguing without being intelectually honest till the cows come home!

    7. Deborah, you said: “we must recognize that there is no going back to a Morsi government.”
      you are right, there is no going back period now. no going back to the freedoms Egypt got after its now officially failed revolution, no going back to real elections, no going back to an Independent Egypt which dared to open the Rafah pipeline through the sub-humanly siege on the Palestinian population in Gazza. Sissy himself is probably an agent of the Mossad from what I read about his CV, I am sure you are familiar with that terrorist agency which killed more than 35 of the honest young brass of the Egyptian army in the late nineties in a plane crash, which was of course blamed on a suddenly suicidal pilot. Careful observers of Egyptians affairs now understand why that happened. 15 years later , those officers would have prevent Sissy and his like from doing what he did.
      _ Now this is the real war happening in Egypt, the other proxy wars such as Ikhwani vs. nasserist, democracy vs elections, ar just convenient alibis, it suffices to see who are the main supporters of Sissy: other than the implicit support of the US and Israel, it is the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Syria’s Assad.. all bastions of democracy.

      Yes the Muslim Brotherhood is partially to blame for its stubbornness, and I personally am against the MB agenda, however, they backed off many times this year, but the military just was going to take power no matter what. As for solutions, right now there is no short term solution from inside Egypt. we just have to put pressure from outside because an army against unarmed civilians is not a balanced equation, and we saw what happened in Syria. The only legal solution outsiders can take is to boycott this illegitimate government and declare it clearly as illegitimate until it conducts internationally supervised elections where no military officials are candidates. I am not holding my breath for that to happen though! Egypt is very important, and as long as Israel views the Arab people as enemies to be put at bay by some friendly dictator, there will be no democracy in Egypt!

    8. Deborah brings up one really good point. Is Arab colonisation any better for Egypt than Western/ American? Why do the likes of Tariq Ramadan and the muslim brotherhood think Arabs will have their best interest at heart: the facts speak for themselves as Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries are openly hostile. Qatar’s support will only go as far as it is in their best interest. Egypt is becoming the joke of the muslim world and will be exploited if it doesn’t get its act together. May God help and guide us.

    9. «You simply ignore the 12 billion dollar contribution made by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE within days of the coup.»
      Absolutely right, but Tariq Ramadan might be right about Israel. According to the NYT, “the Israelis, Saudis and other Arab allies have lobbied [Obama ] to go easy on the generals in the interest of thwarting what they see as the larger and more insidious Islamist threat.”

      Summary [here->].

    10. “You simply ignore the 12 billion dollar contribution made by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE within days of the coup.”

      Absolutely right. But on Israel, Tariq Ramadan could be right. According to the NYT, “the Israelis, Saudis and other Arab allies have lobbied [Obama ] to go easy on the generals in the interest of thwarting what they see as the larger and more insidious Islamist threat.”. [Summary here->].

    1. This an apparent failure of democracy. A party wins the election gets into parliament, the American backed military ousts the party. Failure of democracy once again… Full stop.

    2. Any point in your statement, Just another failure of Islam….period – Islam??? I sincerely hope you were trying to say “Just another failure of hypocrites….period” not even “Just another failure of Muslims….period”. And if you are a Muslim, I pray you are not among the failures – hypocrites!

  2. Dear Professor Ramadan:

    The first comment to your blog was fair, not nice, but fair. Perhaps, you should consider publishing what you believe is not a short term; rather 21st century proposal for a new Egypt before it God forbid; turns into Iraq or Syria.

    (From the nile to the euphrates – Zionist ‘dream’ NIGHTMARE)

    E gypt

    G enerals

    Y outh

    P olice

    T ime

    If the world can understand the essence of this; then one will understand that this is the first critical step to breaking the perpetual cycle of ‘controlled chaos’; as many enemies of Egypt would like to see continue; like in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc.

    May God guide us all to the straight path.


    مطيع العمري
    Motie Omari


    My condolences to you for the killing of your cousin Dr. Khalid Albanna who was reported to have been killed today in Masjid Alfateh in Cairo.

    May God bestow his mercy upon all those that lost their lives.

    Inna lilahee wa inna elaihe raajioun.

  3. The view from Pakistan:

    It just seems like you have an army of mercenaries killing their own people. Will Egyptian be okay be such mass murders of their own people because they dont like the Mursi ideology……or will they be more like the Iranians were at the time of their revolution…..that is have a nationalistic revolutionary guard which is religious rather than live under an army of mercenaries…..

    Of course the Iranians chose the former…..but this time its the Egyptian people’s choice and Egypt is not Iran.

    But for me I do feel that having a nationalistic revolutionary guard (which is very religious and will not be exactly in concurrence with my view) is better than living under an army of mercenaries……..

  4. As Salaamu’ Alaikum Professor Ramadan,

    Shukran wa jazakallah khair for Your tireless efforts to bring balance to the global
    complexities facing the Muslim Community. The
    above article is right on target identifying the legitimate pursuits of democracy by the
    people. And the article clearly identifies the geopolitical strategies of the US, Israel and
    western indoctrinated military collaborators.
    And yes many people are being duped with the amoke and mirrors – age old tactics of the oppressors and their handpicked surrogates…May Allah Most High Guide
    and Protect the innocent & the righteous…Amin…
    But keep teaching Akhi…Keep lifting THE VOICE OF REASON…Insha’Allah…Khuda Hafiz

  5. I agree with the most of Ramadan’s article. Egyptians are being massacred by the brutal military in front of the world and nobody opposes or resists against this brutality except Turkey and Qatar. As a Turkish citizen, I am deeply worried about my Egyptian brothers and sisters who are claiming their most legitimate right to be governed by the administration which is elected by a full democratic election. Here, I have a question for the people who argue that Mursi did not have the support of the majority so he did not have the right to govern Egypt. What was the percentage of the Merkel’s supporters in the German elections or Hollande in France. I can help you with the numbers. Merkel was elected with the 35.2% of the votes in 2005 elections and Holland was elected with the 28.63%, in the first round of the presidential elections. these numbers show us that they are not supported by the majority of their peoples, but there is no discussion on their authorities’ legitimacy. Can you find a German citizen who claims that Merkel is not the representative of him or her and no authority to rule. Isn’t that illogical… So arguing Mursi is not the representative of the Egyptian people and no right to rule is as illogical as the previous statement. If we are talking about democracy, first of all, we should be sincere on the premises of this conception. If Baradey wants to rule the country, he should first learn the rules of the FairPlay which necessates an amount of votes. However, begging for the consent of the USA and Israel and taking the help of the cruel autocrates of the Arab countries for a destructive and immoral coup d’état would never be an act of a person who deserves a Nobel prize.
    During this brutal operations in Egypt, the only leader who opposed the massacre and declared the rights of the elected Mursi government was Tayyip Erdogan. He is the only leader who declares the rights of the democratically elected Egyptian government and opposes the acts of military on Egyptian civilians. Moreover, there are civil mass meetings everyday in Turkish cities in order to support the Egyptians on the streets. Turkish people are aware of what goes on in Egypt because of similar experiences in the their history.
    The Arab spring showed the world that Muslim nations demand their civil rights and participate as actors in political democratic processes just like their western counterparts. But west and their alliances in Muslim countries are reluctant to make space for them. nonetheles, they can not prevent the transformation but only delay that for a while.

  6. I read your article several times, over the past few days, and have given much thought to your opinions. Not that my small voice matters, but I find your arguments thought provoking, and brutally honest. Indeed cogent analysis, and I am bookmarking your site for further perusal. Thank you.

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