By Enza Ferreri, guest contributor
When one thinks of the events and processes that developed during Morsi’s one-year presidency of Egypt, it’s difficult to see how a person who loves democracy, human rights, freedom of speech and of religion cannot but welcome his ousting.
In that time, for example, the Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Ali Afifi, in an interview aired on Sada Al-Balad TV on March 14, 2013 said: “[W]e hope that the words of the Prophet Muhammad will be fulfilled: ‘Judgment Day will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Jews will hide behind the rocks and the trees, but the rocks and the trees will say: Oh Muslim , oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him – except for the gharqad tree, which is one of the trees of the Jews.’ We fully believe that the future of this land lies with Islam and the Muslims.” He was accused of appointing in leading positions in his ministry figures with ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movement.
In the year 2012, under the Islamist rule of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the fatwas, Sharia-based legal decrees issued by learned Muslims, differed considerably from the previous Egyptian fatwas. The more power the Brotherhood has, more rooted in the worst authoritarian and violent elements of Sharia law the fatwas are.
Raymond Ibrahim translated a summary of them. Among others, they include calling for the destruction of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids; opposing setting a minimum age in the new constitution concerning the marriage of minor girls, saying “they can get married at any time”; ruling that the peace treaty with Israel contradicts the teachings of Sharia and should be annulled, quoting the Koran; denouncing all Muslims opposed to President Morsi, explaining that the Koran declares it to be forbidden to disobey those in authority; banning congratulating Christian Copts on their religious holidays, and forbidding Muslim cab and bus drivers from transporting Christian priests to their churches; forbidding all Muslim women from marrying any of the sons of the “remnants” of the old regimes, portraying them as non-pious Muslims; banning people from joining Muhammad al-Baradei’s “Dustor” political party, claiming him to be a secularist and opposed to the implementation of Allah’s laws.
Morsi may have been democratically elected – although there are suspicions of rigged elections – but so were Hitler and Mussolini. And, just like them, once elected he assumed dictatorial powers. His new constitution was intended to establishd a Sharia state in Egypt.
Until now, counterjihad analysts have been practically the only ones to make the correct predictions about the “Arab Spring” being an Islamist takeover, even though the underlying people’s rebellion may have been sustained by genuine economic and political concerns.
In Egypt, we are now witnessing perhaps the first sign of a process that upsets those neat predictions and complicates matters. For the good.
The figures speak volumes: “Obama probably hates it that the 30 million souls who took to the streets in Cairo and throughout Egypt for the largest protests in human history dare to call it a ‘revolution’, says Canada Free Press.
So, how to interpret the new developments? Since I live in London, let’s look at what the UK media make of them.
Is it a coup or is it not a coup? This seems to be one of the dominant questions about the ousting of Egypt’s Morsi in the British media.
The answer to that question depends very much on the respondent’s opinion on whether the ousting’s outcome is positive or negative, which in turn rests on his/her view of the Muslim Brotherhood.
As can be expected, left-wing media outlets like The Guardian tend to have a favourable view, even sympathetic, of this “democratically elected” Islamist presidency, so they, taking their cue from the Muslim Brotherhood, call Morsi’s deposition a coup.
Generally speaking, right-wing papers like The Telegraph take the view that what counts as democracy is not just the elections but the will of the population however expressed. Morsi acted like an autocrat, did not give people what he had promised them, betrayed the spirit of the revolution and, in the face of mounting popular opposition, refused to concede early elections. So, rather than using force to impose its will, the military deployed its might to implement the will of the people. Ergo, they say, it’s not a coup.
But things are never so simple and black-and-white. The Telegraph‘s chief political commentator, Peter Oborne, thinks that the Islamist regime in Egypt, like that of Algeria in 1991, has not been given a chance. To do what, I’d like to ask, cut off more hands? Massacre more Christians? Talking of whom, that’s what he says: “Mohammed el Baradei (and the Coptic Church) have done himself great damage by backing the military intervention. Whatever form of government comes next will lack legitimacy because of the methods used today.”
Morsi has committed no crime and doesn’t deserve to be in custody, Oborne claims, and current events are disastrous for the relationship between the West and the Muslim world.
Whether the ousting of Morsi is viewed favourably or not, although dependent on the commentator’s political ideas, also rests on the division ”between those who emphasize process and those who emphasize substance”, as New York Times columnist David Brooks put it.
It’s an exceptional circumstance if I find myself in agreement with the NYT, so you’ll forgive me if I expand on that. He sums up the two camps as, in the former, those for whom following the correct democratic electoral procedure is more important, thinking that ruling in a democracy will reform the Brotherhood and make it moderate. And in the latter those who don’t think that democracy lies in “counting heads” but in what you intend to do once you’re in power, and in that respect Morsi can be elected till kingdom come he’ll never be democratic and he’ll never renounce radical Islamism.
World events of the past few months have vindicated those who take the substance side of the argument. It has become clear — in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Gaza and elsewhere — that radical Islamists are incapable of running a modern government.
The only thing that remains to be seen is whether the other elements of the anti-Mubarak, anti-old-regime opposition can do that.
Enza Ferreri is an Italian-born, London-based Philosophy graduate, author and journalist. She has been a London correspondent for several Italian magazines and newspapers, including Panorama, L’Espresso, and La Repubblica. She is on the Executive Council of the UK’s party Liberty GB. She blogs at www.enzaferreri.blogspot.co.uk.