Saving Egypt from the threat of civil war has been just one of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s actions in the two years he has been in office, writes Yassin El-Ayouty
Saving Egypt from civil war was one historic act by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, responding to 35 million voices calling on 30 June 2013 for deliverance. From every public square in Egypt, the chant against then President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to leave power was thunderous. But it needed a protection mechanism. The only mechanism was the national army.
But the chants of irhal (be gone) also had constitutional reasons. The Islamist constitution forced on Egypt in 2012 was drafted by Brotherhood hands. The liberals, including the Copts, were forced out of the drafting process. There was no provision in that document allowing for the recall of a president. This was Brotherhood overreach that was meant to last but was destined to collapse.
Deposing Morsi was not planned. It was the result of the obduracy of an ideologically fossilised organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood. Such a group does not understand the art of political compromise. From 30 June to 3 July 2013, a national conversation was begun by Al-Sisi, then minister of defence, to have the process of choosing a president for the country begun again. But this went nowhere.
The Brotherhood Guidance Bureau, then the actual ruler of Egypt, was determined to fight back and keep a sham process going. Legitimacy (shariyah) for the Islamists was above practicality and the compromise advocated by Al-Sisi to avert civil war.
The Brotherhood’s claims rang hollow. The contest for the presidency between Morsi, the Brotherhood’s second choice, and Ahmed Shafiq had in any case produced a doubtful result — 51 per cent for Morsi and 49 per cent for Shafiq. And the choice of president preceded the drafting of a new constitution. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.
Prior to the plebiscite on that defective constitution, in which Coptic rights to citizenship parity were nowhere to be seen, Morsi had declared himself to be above the constitution. A dictatorship was in the making. Morsi became another name for Mussolini. The fascist formula was then taken one step further when the parliament dissolved by the Supreme Constitutional Court on a technicality was ordered by the president to reconvene.
The agenda of the reconvened parliament was one item to be enacted in 20 minutes giving the executive (the president) legislative powers. This was an anomaly that alarmed a nation that since 1923 had luxuriated, prior to the Gamal Abdel-Nasser-led coup of 1952 in constitutional democracy. It had had 80 years of practice anteceding the Brotherhood’s birth in 1928.
With the collapse of the Al-Sisi-led negotiations, the threat of civil war loomed. Morsi had to go; a road map in which the liberal leadership of Egypt concurred, including the Coptic Church, was at hand; a transitional government was formed; an interim president, Adly Mansour, chief of the harassed Supreme Constitutional Court, was installed; and preparations for the redrafting of a new and secular constitution began in earnest.
In all of this there was no coup by Al-Sisi. The process meant the undoing of the Brotherhood coup that followed installing Morsi as president. The core problems of that Islamist presidency were complex: the Brotherhood regarded Egypt as a springboard to a mythical Islamic State; force was the first option in dealing with Ethiopia; Sinai was to be the hinterland for Hamas; the Copts and the Shias were forced into submission; Turkey and Qatar were eager funders for the new Islamic order in Cairo; and a Wahhabi-like theocracy was seen as the Egypt of the future.
These were all the realities of the one-year rule by the Brotherhood, a year that also saw the Islamic Republic of Iran being set up as a role model. Parallel security forces were formed along the model of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as well as militias patterned along the lines of those created by Ayatollah Khomeini. How could such developments escape the attention of the proud, non-sectarian Egyptian army?
With the corrective revolution of 30 June 2013 came the physical proof of the Brotherhood’s determination to collapse the national will in the occupation by gangs of street toughs trained in urban warfare occupying the Cairo squares of Al-Rabaa and Al-Nahdha.
Weddings were performed, and so was the storing of armaments. Bread was baked, and calls for soldiers and policemen to defect were issued. Foreign intervention was urged, and a mighty propaganda machine was put to work on the Brotherhood’s signal. The two squares in the heart of Cairo were declared Islamic emirates.
Without heeding the lesson of refusing to compromise from 30 June to 3 July 2013, the Brotherhood’s tactic was that the Al-Rabaa and Al-Nahda rebellions would spark a conflagration. The enemy of the Islamists was, and continues to be, the 30 June Revolution. So for six weeks entreaties by the government for peaceful disbanding were responded to with more violence. God was believed to be on the side of collapsing the modern secular state. It was a suicidal belief spun out of the inherent hypocrisy of using faith for the ends of unjust power.
It was not a conflict between two opponents, each of them holding to values common to historic Egypt. It was the onset of a conflagration of existential proportions for the very soul of Egypt with the Brotherhood aiming at the upending of a secular Egypt and the majority of the population aiming at continuity. Egypt’s DNA has never carried theocratic chromosomes. Nor has that DNA ever carried in it the germ of civil war. This has always been a cohesive and inclusive democracy.
Rean on here.