Egypt Needs Patience, Not A New President Tarek Fatah

“Democracy is not about being in power. It’s about respecting one’s enemy, no matter how mean-spirited [they may be].”

Millions of Egyptians, fed up with the Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood,

are celebrating the military coup that toppled the government of president Mohammed Morsi. As someone who has no love lost for the fascism of the Islamists, I too should be rejoicing the overthrow of Morsi, but I am not.

Let me explain why.

I am old enough to have witnessed another coup many decades ago on a July 4 American Independence Day weekend in another Islamic country where the military overthrew an elected Prime Minister. That was General Zia-ul-Haq toppling Pakistan’s Z. A. Bhutto in 1977.

Pakistan is no Egypt and the opposite is also true, but having witnessed what happens after not one, not two, but many elected governments being terminated before they could compete their term of office in Islamabad under the same pretext Morsi has been overthrown, permit me to consider these Cairo celebrations as fleeting moments of exhilaration that will soon dissipate.

Democracy has never arrived anywhere riding on the back of a tank.

After 45 years spent fighting for democracy in my native Pakistan against three military dictators, I cannot but feel disappointed at the naivety and short-sightedness of my Egyptian friends. The sight of their adversary falling from grace delights them. However, as I tweeted,

“Democracy is not about being in power. It’s about respecting one’s enemy, no matter how mean-spirited [they may be].”

Egyptians should know better. In 1952 their military staged a coup to overthrow a monarchy and institute a modern democratic state. What followed instead was a dark period of a 60-year military dictatorship that created a military-industrial complex. Two generations of Egyptians lost the meaning of individual liberty and freedom.

A short-term victory for liberals and secular Egyptians has resulted in a massive moral boost for the Muslim Brotherhood; they may have lost the presidency, but in return have gained a fresh lease of life that will give them even more legitimacy and moral strength, for many decades to come.

Egypt’s liberals have legitimate grievances. Democracy is not just about winning elections and president Morsi should have governed for all Egyptians, not just his core Islamist base. However, sacrosanct to the “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” is the fact an administration elected in a free and fair elections should be permitted to carry out its mandate till the end of its term.

Egyptians opposed to the Islamists should have endured the pain for the next three years and defeated Morsi and the Brothers in the next election. Instead, they have brought back the generals, failing to understand a fundamental principle: if the generals can overthrow their opponents, they will do the same to them liberals whenever it suits them.

The Muslim Brotherhood stayed in the opposition for 80 years. In that time it fanned Islamic extremism, conducted worldwide jihad, and carried out CIA-backed assassination plots against Arab nationalists and communists. It plodded on until last year when it finally grabbed power in free and fair elections with their simple slogan, “Islam is the Answer.”

But in less than a year in power, the Muslim Brotherhood gloss started losing its lustre. It could offer Islam, but people wanted bread. It fanned hatred against Christians, Baha’is and Shia Muslims, but people wanted electricity and rule of law.

For years, Muslim critics of Islamism had argued that the Muslim Brotherhood and their international partners could not provide governance. They only peddled ideology. And here was Morsi and his brothers proving us right. In less than 12 months everyone could see: Man can’t live on Islam alone; ideology does not make factories work; blaming woes on Jewish conspiracies are fairy tales.

In short, the first experiment of a Muslim Brotherhood government was headed towards a colossal failure. All that was required was to let the Brothers run their course and in three years’ time, the people would have booted them out. In the meantime, they could continue with their civil disobedience, making it difficult for the Brotherhood to govern or deliver services.

But that was not to be.

Patience, it seems, is not a characteristic of the Arab street or the Arab leadership. They have now toppled the Muslim Brotherhood’s government, and for all times to come, the Brothers will wear the crown of victimhood with their heads held high, invoking the memory of those who went down fighting for their principles, not power. In the narrative of the Arab World, the Brotherhood will emerge as the martyr Imam Hussain while the generals and the liberals will be categorized as the caliph Yazid.

For decades to come we will hear how on that fateful night of July 3, 2013, the hidden hands of the enemies of Islam triggered a military coup against the forces of Islam.

And for the White House, the coup crowns a colossal failure of the Obama-Clinton doctrine, first portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as a ‘secular’ and ‘moderate’ group then allowing Morsi access to American aid and military hardware by waiving all conditions of human rights imposed by the Congress.

Obama has managed to accomplish the impossible: the enmity of both sides in the Egyptian standoff.

The Huffington Post

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