Friday, May 17, 2013
The Tamarod or Rebel campaign, the Morsi no-confidence signatures drive that began less than a month ago, triggered very little reaction from the media, opposition parties and well known activists who became figureheads of the January 25th revolution. After their press conference, where they claimed to have collected over 2 million signatures, Rebel activists saw thing turning upside down and everyone rushed to jump on the Rebel bandwagon. The regime took note and the MB started pointing their guns at Rebel. Since the kids behind this signatures drive managed to piss off the MB, then they’re most probably doing the right thing.
Shook the Opposition Out Of Its Hiatus
For the past four to five months, the opposition was simply in a hiatus. The failure of the mass protests of last December and January to force the Brotherhood to change their behavior seems to have discouraged many people and convinced them that protests and filling up squares do not work anymore. The opposition managed to fill two squares simultaneously without a single bus to ship people from outside Cairo yet the MB went ahead with their plans to consolidate power and clone Mubarak’s regime and make it work for their own benefit.
The Rebel campaign came as a bolt of lightning shaking the opposition out of its despair. Now almost every opposition party declared their full support of Rebel and offering their offices for the nationwide campaign to use. Rebel was the stone that fell inside a stagnant pond of water.
At Last Grassroots Work!
One of the most cited criticisms directed to the opposition is the fact that they do not engage in grassroots political activity. The Rebel campaign, on the other hand, spread across the country by the means of purely grassroots efforts. People were encouraged to photocopy the petition and pass the copies around. Once the petitions were signed, a Rebel representative will collect them and add to the number that Rebel hopes will reach 15 million by June 30th, the day on which they will march to the High Constitutional Court to deliver the petitions. The Rebel Facebook page is filled with pictures of Egyptians from all walks of life signing the no-confidence petition form. People the opposition would dream about reaching.
The End of the Mubarak Era Activists
I watched as well known Mubarak era activists were “philosophically” debating the merits of Rebel. Some were supportive; others thought the campaign was a waste of time. I followed this debate on the place where most Mubarak era activists are finding their refuge now: Twitter.
I believe Rebel is the first sign of the end of Mubarak era activists and the rise of a new generation of far younger activists. No one can blame the older generation activists for their demise. First, this is the natural cycle of life. Second, most of these activists are now in their mid thirties and early forties, they are married, they have children and the responsibilities of life are starting to weigh in on them. Third, these activists saw their life dream grumble right in front of their eyes. They saw their revolution being stolen while they’re standing powerless. Their energy was drained. It’s time for new soldiers to fight the new enemy.
Will Rebel make a difference? I don’t know but I do know it is the start of something and it is definitely better than the inertness the opposition was in since the beginning of the year.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
I have written before that if this revolution produced one good thing it is the clash of mentalities we’re witnessing ever since the Islamists reached power a year and a half ago. I said that the halo political Islamists sported during Mubarak is diminishing and this is opening up debates that we have never experienced before.
This clash of mentalities is fully symbolized in the below tweets. The tweet on top, written by a Morsi supporter and possibly a Brotherhood member, mocks Muslims who chose to say “Happy Easter” to Christians. “Greetings on the occasion of the Lord’s death and his waking up,” he wrote mockingly. Islam does not believe in Christ’s death and resurrection, extremists use that as an excuse to forbid well wishing Christians especially during Easter.
The tweet on the bottom is a reply by another Muslim. “Unto you your religion and unto me my religion. Allah truthfully said. May Allah punish you,” read the tweet. The author of this tweet is basically saying that even though Islam does not recognize Easter, the Quran declares that everyone is free to believe in his own religion and the difference in beliefs should not make humans antagonistic towards one another.
This exchange foretells two things. First, as mentioned above, we are entering in an era of debate and second thought. More and more people, especially the young, are refusing to take things at face value again. Mubarak kept us stagnant for 30 years. He did the thinking for us; we were left to talk only about religion, football and sex. The revolution, regardless of all its current ills, has stirred the minds of many people and brought a wide array of topics into the public discussions forum. When you debate you think, and when you think you question, and when you question you’re most likely going to reach a good conclusion.
Second, the author of the second tweet invoked verse 5 from Al-Kafirun chapter in the Quran to state his point. He used his religious beliefs to dispel the demeaning statement. I believe the current shock many people have from political Islamist rule will open the door once again for religious reformation. Politics unmasked the politicized Islamists and many people, especially those who belong to the influential middle class, do not like what they see. This will eventually lead anyone who despises radical thought to two reactions: either leave the faith and become very nominal or even an atheist, or return back to religious text and use it to change the current radical religious discourse. This is what our friend who wrote the bottom tweet did.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Last March, the Brotherhood appointed General Prosecutor placed Egyptian billionaires Onsi Sawiris and his son Nasif on the travel ban and arrivals watch lists. The government accused their company, Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), of evading taxes worth $2.1 billion.
“The Egyptian Tax Authority has submitted a tax claim to the company to pay 4.7 billion pounds related to the sale of Orascom Building Materials Holding to Lafarge SA in 2007,” the company said on its website. “To date, the company has received no additional claim with any different tax liability.”
The debate over whether OCI owes the government this amount could go on forever and I do not want to discuss that here. I want to tell you why I think the Brotherhood led government went after this particular family.
I believe the target of this whole ordeal was not the 82 years old billionaire- who is not running any of his businesses today – or his son Nasif. The target was Naguib Sawiris and his political activity. Naguib, who literally sold everything he owns in Egypt, including the private satellite channel ON TV, was the major financier behind the Egypt Bloc, the loose coalition of liberal parties that ran against the Islamists during the last parliament elections. Now that the MB is rapidly losing popularity because of their dreadful way of running the country, having a billionaire on the opposition side is pretty dangerous for the regime. He had to be neutralized. He had to be intimidated. Since Naguib got rid of the vast majority of his assets in Egypt, they has to find another weak spot: his family. They went after his old father who could very much spend the rest of his life in a mansion on the French Riviera, instead he returned to Egypt yesterday after settling the tax issue with the government (OCI will pay $1 billion over 7 years).
What if OCI was indeed guilty of tax evasion? Let us assume this is in fact the case. Why was this particular company targeted on its own? Is OCI the only company that evaded taxes? Is OCI the only company the broke the law? Business laws in Egypt are very complicated, unrealistic and many of them do not make any sense. The nature of these business curbing laws led to the following reality: there isn’t a single businessman in Egypt who has never broken the law even if he was merely a cigarettes kiosk owner. If you want to pull down any business in Egypt, all what you have to do is dig in its papers and you will find something illegal there. This is Egypt! In fact, there is nothing called law abiding Egyptians either! You remember that 20 pounds you stuffed inside the government employee’s pocket so that he gives you your driving license in 1 hour instead of 5? Well, that’s called bribery, that’s against the law!
So if the MB appointed General Prosecutor had targeted a whole list of companies, including Islamist owned companies, I might have believed the whole issue was about trying to collect money from any source possible. But the whole saga has the word politics written all over it. The MB is using the same dirty tactics of the Mubarak regime to ensure that money does not go to their rivals.
Now we will have to watch whether Naguib will relent and stay away from financing the opposition. A source told me that a prominent opposition party approached him for finances and he declined. It seems this will be the case in the foreseeable future. It turned out that his old man loves his Cairo apartment more than the Cote d’Azur mansion.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
I will not comment on yesterday’s events in Mokattam near the Brotherhood headquarters. I’ve commented enough on Twitter. In this post I want to share with you yet another dose of long term optimism for this country.
A few days ago I had an interesting discussion with a medical student at Al Azhar University. Al Azhar University is the education branch of Al Azhar. It is far more conservative than Egypt’s “secular” universities. Most of its faculties are religion studies based yet it does have other faculties such as medicine and engineering. Male and female students are segregated and my friend told me that there is only one female student that does not wear the head cover. The MB and Salafi political forces are in total domination there.
My friend, who is in his 4th college year, told me that he has a friend, another Al Azhar University student, who plays the guitar. He was intimidated to take it with him on campus and he just plays in his dorm room. There is no law at the university that bans students from getting musical instruments, he was just not so sure how the students and the Islamists who control the campus would react towards the stringed intruder.
A few days ago his friend woke up in the morning, grabbed his guitar and walked to campus. He played and students reacted very positively.
“People have changed,” said my friend. “We’re not afraid any more and people are now confronting the radicals”.
I have written before about how I feel that our society is changing as a result of the Islamists reaching power. The halo that they have been sporting during Mubarak is gradually diminishing and many Egyptians, especially the youth, are now starting to have second thoughts about the Islamists and this proves the latter’s unprecedented drastic defeat in the recent student union elections.
“We’re even having a music and acting competition next month at our faculty. Can you imagine that?” continued my startled friend. It seems his friend’s guitar casted a spell that no one can stop.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
In the early 70s, president Sadat was facing fierce opposition from communist and nasserite* students on university campuses around the country. His regime did something somehow reminiscent to what the CIA did in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. To fight the leftists, on campus and elsewhere, Sadat ordered the release of thousands of Islamists from prison and brought hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood leaders from exile. His State Security apparatus aided Islamists on campuses to counter the influence of the leftist students who were extremely powerful back then. Sadat’s plan worked. Islamists surprisingly won the student union elections in a period that marked the end of Egypt’s social liberal age that commenced in the twenties and spanned till the seventies.
The student union elections victory might seem to be insignificant among other national elections. However, a close look at today’s Muslim Brotherhood leaders show that many of them were born out of these elections. People like Abdel Meniem Aboul Fotouh, Helmi el Gazar and Essam Al Arian were all active in the student movement back in the seventies. Even Hamdeen Sabahy, a nasserit though, was also part of this student movement.
Fast forward to today. For the past two days, we have been hearing astounding news coming from universities across Egypt. The MB has been losing one student union elections after the other to various independent coalitions and revolution parties such as Baradei’s Dostour Party, Hamdeen Sabahy’s Popular Current and Aboul Fotouh’s Strong Egypt Party. In many of these universities, students ignored the political inadequacy of their aged party leaders and teamed up against the MB to deal it a massive blow for the first time in over 40 years. During Mubarak’s era, State Security had to intervene to prevent the MB from winning in the universities.
The student union elections indicate two things. First, the elections showed what I’ve stated before about the MB losing support within the university students segment and the urban cities in general. The youth were behind the revolution, many of those killed were students themselves; these students saw how the MB betrayed the revolution for their own political interests. In addition, university students in general are critical and they’re more exposed to social media. And the MB is definitely losing the media war in spite of their control over the most powerful media arsenal: the state-owned media
Second, I believe that just as the seventies student union elections gave birth to many of the MB leaders we see today, these elections and the student movement in general will pave the way for young leaders to rise. This time they won’t be Islamists though. The Egypt revolution was leaderless. We didn’t have a Lincoln, we didn’t have a Lech Walesa. The current politicians proved to be inadequate and are far outpaced by the revolution’s youth. The leaders will have to come from the womb of the revolution. It will take sometime though but it won’t take another 40 years. Things are moving at an unbelievable pace. Who would have imagined that the MB would lose student elections in Assiut and Benha?!
Finally, there is something for your to ponder about. The seventies student union elections marked the beginning of the radicalisation of Egyptian society. Are we witnessing a reverse?
*Nasserites = adherants to Nasser’s ideology.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Do you remember the purple finger? It was the color of the index finger of millions of Iraqis after they voted for the first time in their history. The whole world, including myself, celebrated the purple finger and considered it as sign that finally Iraq was on its path to democracy. President George W. Bush made a speech on that day to boast in front of his critics and tell them that the purple finger proved they were wrong about the war in Iraq.
What happened to the purple finger? It turned into a red finger. Iraq for the past years witnessed the death of thousands and is still mired in sectarian conflict. Why? Because democracy is far more than a ballot box. This is the truth that many analysts in the West should understand.
Elections to many in the West is considered to be the uttermost form or interpretation of democracy simply because all other facets of the democratic process are taken for granted in their respective countries. Things like independent judiciary, independent police force, fair elections laws, free press and the free operation of NGOs are de facto in old democracies such as Europe and the United States. This is the reason why these integral elements of democracy are often ignored and sidestepped, only elections, the most visible and media attention grabbing element of democracy, receives the attention of Western analysts and governments.
This leads us to the question: what should the international community and especially the US administration do in Egypt? I will concentrate on what the US should do since it has the most political clout in Egypt and over the MB. How did I know the US has a lot of political clout over the MB? Well, I just compared Morsi before and after Hillary Clinton’s praises that followed the Gaza ceasefire deal. Last October, the MB used their “representative in the presidential office”, Mohamed Morsi, to sack their nemesis former Prosecutor General Abdel Megied Mahmoud. The judges revolted against the decision and Morsi immediately backed down and invited Abdel Megied to the presidential palace. Fast forward to right after the conclusion of the Gaza cease fire deal between Israel and Hamas. It only took days after Hillary Clinton praised Morsi for his role in the deal for him to issue a dictatorial constitutional decree and sack the Mubarak-era Prosecutor General and replace him with an MB poodle. This is what the MB have been doing ever since they reached power: replace a Mubarak poodle with one of their own.
The MB know the Mubarak era rule very well. Make the US happy and then do what you want inside.
How did the US administration react towards Morsi’s assumption of sweeping powers? The Obama administration almost said nothing. The only time the US government really made a big fuss was over Morsi’s 2010 disgusting antisemitic remarks that surfaced on Basem Yousef’s satirical show. Other than that, it appears as if the MB had a carte blanche to do whatever they wanted.
Why was the US reaction almost muted to the MB’s hegemonic attempts to shape Egypt post-revolution future in a way that preserves their rule, and only their rule? There could be three reasons. First, the US might still be under the influence of the MB’s years long PR campaign in DC. May be the US is still under the false impression that somehow, sometime, the MB might be like Turkey’s Justice & Development Party. If that is the case, US policymakers need to listen to this creative chant that has been echoing in many of the recent demonstrations: shave your beard, uncover your shame, you will find your face to be the face of Mubarak.
Second, let’s face it, the MB are just too good to be true! The world’s largest Islamist organization sent a letter to Israeli president Shimon Peres calling him “my faithful friend”. Camp David is well maintained and business is as usual. Who could have imagined that? A dream come true to many US policymakers who might have had doubts regarding Egypt’s policy towards Israel after the demise of Mubarak. The MB know this very well. They know that the key to keep the US happy is to be nice to Israel; or at least to maintain the status quo that prevailed after signing the Camp David agreement.
Third, besides the army, there is no viable political alternative to the MB. The US administration might be reluctant to pressure the MB to the extent of undermining their power and risk the return of the army once again.
So what can the US do in Egypt? I believe the US should start to talk, whether in public or in private, about the other facets of democracy I’ve stated above. For example, the MB just drafted an NGO law that aims at killing NGOs and bring them under the direct control of the government. Just like Mubarak’s dictatorial regime, the MB’s dictatorial regime hates NGOs. The US could pressure the MB on that.
Another example. The current MB formulated elections law was tailored made specifically to suit the MB’s political interests. Areas that voted against the MB in previous elections are now clustered together in order to minimize any loss the MB might endure. The US could weight in on that.
Am I calling for US interference in Egypt’s internal affairs? It is already there! US taxpayers give the Egyptian army $1.3 billion in aid every year. Non-military aid amounts to a yearly $700 million. In the midst of the political unrest, the MB made sure to explain its position to the White House. They dispatched the President’s foreign affairs adviser and MB member, Essam Hadad, who met senior officials in the Obama administration. So the US clout is there. It is a reality and I’m only dealing with this reality. If the US still wants to “support democracy” in Egypt, it should not be content with merely celebrating an election here and there. The US has considerable influence in Egypt and over the MB, it would be a good idea to make good use of it. If not, then the US should cease talking about democracy in Egypt and should stop the $2 billion annual aid because no money comes free of any strings attached.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
On February 16, 1923 one of the greatest events in Egyptology history occurred. Almost three months after Howard Carter ventured into the unknown on November 22, 1922, King Tutankhamen’s burial chamber was unsealed. Today, celebrate this extraordinary discovery and the event that unlocked the secrets of King Tutankhamen’s life, revealed his treasures and uncovered his curse.
King Tutankhamen’s tomb had weathered flash floods, avoided tomb robbers and remained concealed for 3000 years. Many simply did not believe that such a tomb existed in the Valley of the Kings – historians had thought that all had been excavated.
However, Howard Carter thought differently after examining Theodore M. Davis’ discovery of clues that indicated the existence of Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Carter began his search for the long lost King in 1914 and for seven long years he failed to find anything. That was until 1922, which was as Carter described it, “the day of days, the most wonderful that I have ever lived through.”
“A marvel of marvels, such as we never dreamt of” A. H. Gardiner’s account of the opening of the
burial chamber of Tutankhamen on February 16, 1923.
Almost three months were spent cataloguing and removing objects from the tomb. It wasn’t until February 16th when Carter and his team were able to unseal the door that reached to the burial chamber. The Times wrote, “ for before the spectators was the resplendent mausoleum of the king, a spacious and beautifully decorated chamber completely occupied by an immense shrine covered with gold inlaid with brilliant blue faience. This beautiful wooden construction towers nearly to the
ceiling and fills the great sepulchral hall within a short span of its four walls. Its sides are adorned with magnificent religious texts and fearful symbols of the dead.”
Inside The Chamber
The burial chamber is the tomb’s grandest room, rife with vibrant murals of the King in many representations. The four walls, divided in regions depict the Pharaoh in different stages of his death and journey to the Afterlife. The most famous of all murals is on the Northern wall that can be viewed when entering the tomb through the antechamber. The paintings are unlike any seen in tombs across the Valley of the Kings as they are a lot larger, and not as detailed as the rest, leaving many historians to believe that King Tutankhamen’s tomb was prepared in a rush.
The chamber wasn’t overloaded with treasure like the annex and treasury rooms. However, it was rich with a golden shrine and home to the greatest treasures ever discovered – Tutankhamen’s mummy, 2.24 meter long solid gold coffin and his remarkable mask.
The discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb is one of the greatest archaeological finds in history. It was and remains today the best preserved tomb ever excavated. Eight years were spent removing objects from the tomb, which can be found in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Carter revealed
Tutankhamen’s mummy in his tomb in February 1924 where it remained until 2007. His mummy was removed from its sarcophagus to be displayed in a museum in Luxor, but has since been returned and displayed.
This article has been written by Steve John of fancy dress retailer AFD. Steve is enthusiastic about Egyptology, is well read in Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, and has visited the Valley of the Kings to satisfy his curiosity about the Afterlife and ancient rituals. His passion for Ancient Egypt has spread into his work and has created a dedicated collection of Egyptian inspired outfits on AFD.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Peter William tweeted a very interesting tweet after Eastern Christmas on January 7th. His tweet was directed to another fellow tweep who wrote that Muslims should not send good wishes to Christians on their religious holidays. “Thank you for the campaign you did to tell Muslims not to send good wishes to Christians,” William tweeted. “This Christmas I received good wishes more than any other Christmas in my life.”
Peter William was not the only Christian on twitter who said that. I’ve read several tweets commenting on the same observation. One Muslim tweep said that sending good wishes to Christians became a “revolutionary act”. Another said that “Egyptians are so stubborn, Christians were drowned in good wishes this Christmas.”
This observation was not just confined to social media. A friend of my dad told him that he went through his contacts list and called all Christians on his list, even those whom he hasn’t spoken to for a long time. My house maid who lives in a poor Cairo urban neighborhood also had a story. “One of my relatives heard the imam at the mosque advise worshipper not to send good wishes to Christians,” she told me. “He went to every Christian in the neighborhood and wished him/her well.”
This reactionary behavior from certain Egyptians came after a Salafi dominated council issued a fatwa admonishing Muslims not to wish Christians well on their religious occasions. The views of this council is shared by all hardliners in Egypt, and unfortunately by many Egyptians as well. The Muslim Brotherhood’s strongman Khairat el Shater is a member of this council, but to be fair, I’ve to state that nearly all MB leaders, including their General Guide, extended Christmas well wishes to Christians and their Pope. El Shater’s membership seems to be more about politics than religion: to keep these group of radical Salafis close to him. But still, in the light of the total dominion of radicals on the religious discourse in the past 40 years, this view is the norm and not the exception. And this what makes the reaction I stated above very interesting.
There seems to be a wave of rebellion against radical thoughts ever since the Islamists took power last year. Many Muslims woke up to the fact that their religion was hijacked by radicals who are tarnishing the image of one of the world’s greatest religions. This fact became more apparent since political Islamists took power. These Muslims started to see how a group of people, who call themselves Islamists, are willing to do anything, from killing to twisting religious values, to serve their self interests and preserve their political gains after a revolution that was meant to produce freedom and social justice. Many Muslims, especially those who belong to the middle class, feel threatened from the insane rhetoric coming from these fiery clerics and they decided to fight back. Calling a Christian on Christmas day is one form of this fighting back.
This rebellion is still very nascent. It is not supported by the mainstream religious discourse. The current discourse is dominated by a radical interpretation of religion that was almost nonexistent over 60 years ago. I have explained what went wrong with Islamic discourse and how this radical interpretation hijacked Islam in this previous post. So we can say that those who chose to defy the clerics did so out of their own conviction and understanding of what constitutes the real true tenants of religion. I personally expect that this rebellion will increase as long as Islamists are in power.
The picture above explains it all. It is a perfect embodiment of the coming clash of mentalities. This picture was taken on Alexandria’s long picturesque corniche, the most popular meeting place for the city’s young and mostly unmarried couples who sit on these concrete blocks. On the right, someone, most probably a Salafi who belongs to one of Alex’s powerful Salafi groups, wrote these admonishing words: do you accept your sister to do the same? In other words, the admonisher wanted to ask the male partner whether he accepts that his own sister behaves in the same way as his girlfriend. Notice the admonisher was directing his message to the male partner. Now, the words in black on the left embodies the uttermost rebellion we’re hopefully going to witness. The answer to the question did not come from a young man, but from a girl. “Yes I accept, I am free”.
Welcome to our healthy clash of mentalities.
Monday, January 7, 2013
Below I have detailed how the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) will use the recently ratified constitution to rule Egypt the same way Mubarak did. See, the MB were keen on keeping the overall structure of the Mubarak regime in order to rule throughit and to make sure that they are ruling us for many years to come.
The MB constitution still gives the president certain powers over the justice system. It does not stipulate a clear separation between the executive and the judiciary branches of government. For example, the president still has to give the final approval over the appointment of members of The Constitutional High Court and the Prosecutor General.
Last month the MB replaced the Prosecutor General with their own poodle. According to the ratified constitution, their “Prosecutor Private” can remain in office for the coming 4 years. The MB want to control the cases that could be filed in the coming years and this is the reason why, just like what Mubarak did, they installed their own puppet.
One of the most abhorrent articles in the MB constituent is Article 176. This article was included specifically in order to get rid of the MB’s nemesis in The Constitutional High Court: Judge Tahani el Gebaly. People died in this revolution, others lost their eyes and were maimed in order for the MB to design an article in the supposedly “revolution constitution” just to get rid of a political opponent! I feel like vomiting just thinking about that.
Appointment of all governing officials
After the revolution, we had the dream of electing our own governors. Mubarak used to appoint governors based on his political interests. He used to reward his own cronies by giving them a governorship position. The MB constitution makes sure that they continue to do just that.
Look at the recent appointments. The MB chose their fellow MBs in governorates that voted against them in the presidential elections. They want their own men to tame these governorates and make sure that this won’t happen again. Just as Mubarak’s days, under this constitution, appointing governors will remain governed by the political interests of the ruling regime.
The president will also appoint the regulatory institutions after the approval of the Shura Council. Imagine, the president will appoint those who will regulate and monitor him and his government! That was exactly the case during Mubarak. The approval of the Shura Council means nothing because this particular house will remain in Islamists hands for the years to come. Only very pro-Islamists cared to vote in the last Shura Council elections (7 million turnout). Isn’t it suspicious that they chose the Shura Counil and not the Parliament?
President still presides over the police force
Again, after the revolution, we had the dream that our police force will be purged and be totally independent from the ruling regime just like any other police force in a sensible country. The MB had other plans though.
The president still presides over the police force, making the police subject to the political interests of the ruling regime, again, a la Mubarak’s regime.
Look at the recent cabinet reshuffling. Just as we all anticipated, the Minister of Interior was sacked after he did a number of things that pissed off the ruling regime. The police failed to stop anti-MB protesters from going to the presidential palace, they did not kill protesters who torched MB HQs in several governorates, Khairat el Shater’s bodyguard was arrested for possessing an unlicensed gun and a Hazemoon member was arrested from his home. In a protest that followed the December 5th clashes, the police even protected palace protesters when the MB started to amass in the nearby mosque Rabaa el Adawiyah. I saw police vans stationed on Salah Salem road ready to engage any possible attackers. The vehicles were facing the MB side and not the protesters. That was quite a surprise to me because a few days earlier, on the day when the MB unleashed their militia, I saw MBs taking shelter behind police trucks as they were hurling stones and firing fireworks at protesters.
I was never a fan of the ministry of interior, I believe they have blood on their hands, but no one can deny the fact that the sacked minister of interior tried as much as he can to maintain the police’s neutrality. His sacking was not a surprise to anyone. I said in one of my tweets “The MB will keep on changing ministers of interior till they find their “Habib el Adly”. Adly was Mubarak’s trusted minister of interior. He protected Mubarak’s regime for 14 years.
Control over unions
The MB constitution bans any unions besides the official ones that are controlled by the government. Therefore, all those independent labor and farmers unions that are truly make a difference will be outlawed. Again, the MB are copying Mubarak regime’s tactic of controlling unions and rendering them ineffective so they won’t really challenge the government and force them to meet the demands of workers and farmers. Dictatorial regimes are always afraid of strong effective unions.
Impossible to change the constitution
The constitution was passed by a 50%+1 majority and in order to change any article in it the opposition must have 66% of the coming parliament! To add to the joke, the low turnout (32%) made this constitution pass by the approval of just 20% of eligible voters! So you need 66% of parliament to change a constitution that was approved by 20% of the voters!
Control state owned media and scare private media with lawsuits
The MB constitution replaced the Ministry of Information, which runs the government owned media outlets, with something called “The National Institution for Press and Media”. Nobody knows how this institution will be formalized or who will elect or appoint its members. It will most probably still be under direct regime control just as any other national institution.
The constitution do preserve freedom of the media, however, this freedom will always be threatened by article 48. This article allows the shut down of media outlets by a court ruling. So an entire media outlet could shut down because of an editorial or something a TV show host said. And we’ve seen the number of cases filed against journalists and media personalities ever since the MB took power! Usually it is not the regime that files these cases, but “individuals” who do that on their behalf.
Azhar still not as independent as it seems:
Article 4 of the constitution states that “Al Azhar is an independent Islamic institution” and that the Grand Sheikh is “independent and cannot be sacked and the law stipulates the way he is chosen from the members of the Council of Grand Scholars”. All is fine till we reached this clause: “the state guarantees the financial resources needed for Al Azhar to carry out its duties”.
When Gamal Adel Nasser nationalized the religious institutions in the early 60s, he did two things. First, he made the appointment of the Al Azhar’s Grand Sheikh by a direct order from the president. Second, he stripped Al Azhar of all its financial resources and made it totally dependent on the state.
Al Azhar that does not control its source of income is not a free Al Azhar. I have no idea how the representative of Al Azhar at the constitutional assembly did not take that into consideration.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
In this post I will explain how and why the voting behavior changed in each of Egypt’s regions in the past 2 years. The changes in some regions was astounding and it shedded light on Egypt’s future political landscape.
The March 2011 referendum on the constitution amendments passed almost unanimously. 77% of voters voted Yes on these amendments that paved the way for the MB and their ilk to reach power in Egypt. In the parliament elections that took place in December 2011, the Islamist parties swept through and won around 70% of the vote. Change in voting behavior started to appear on the horizon in the presidential elections that took place 6 months after the parliament. This alteration in voter behavior was very interesting indeed.
Cairo: Islamists lost the upper class, middle class and surprisingly the urban poor.
Cairo in 2011 was not that different from the other regions. It voted for the March 2011 constitutional amendments by 63%, and voted for the MB and the Salafi Nour party by 54%. Drastic changes started to appear in the presidential elections. The non-Islamists swept through the upper class and middle class areas of Cairo. Hamdeen Sabahy surprised all analysts and came in first in Cairo during round one of the elections. No one would have anticipated that, not even Sabahy himself. Shafik came in second. In round two, Shafik won Cairo by 56%. In the last referendum, Cairo voted No by 57%.
The Cairo developments showed something very profound. Islamists, namely MB and Salafis, lost almost all of the educated middle class living in the urban areas. In fact, if we looked at the results of the urban areas in Giza and even the poorer Delta region, we’ll notice how the middle class turned against the Islamists. This happened in a 6 months period after the Islamists won the majority in parliament!
What is even more startling than the change we saw in the urban middle class vote was what happened in the voting behavior of the Cairo urban poor. There are several huge poor neighbourhoods scattered around Cairo. Areas such as Ain Shams, Matareyah, Rod el Farag, these were always Islamists playgrounds. My jaws dropped open when I heard of the results coming out of these areas during the presidential elections. Sabahy won these areas in round 1 and Shafik won there in round two. Even in the last referendum, the No vote was quiet substantial.
Alexandria: The BIG BIG Surprise
Alexandria is know, or was known, to be the bastion of Salafi power in Egypt. Once a beautiful cosmopolitan city, the city turned into a playground for the MB and Salafis during the Mubarak years. The ruling National Democratic Party had to always resort to widespread rigging in order to beat the MB candidate,
In the parliament elections, 66% of Alexandrians voted for the MB and the Salafi Nour party. No one was surprised back then. The huge surprise came in the presidential elections. The Alexandrian voter defied the Salafis who were campaigning for Morsy and the other Salafis who were rooting for Abul Fotouh and ended up voting for Hamdeen Sabahy who came in first. That was unprecedented. Even in the constitution referendum, Alex voted 44% No. I really believe that if we added the 5-10% rigging margin, Alex would be a No vote governorate. Remember, Alex voted for the Islamists by 66% in the parliament elections!
Besides elections numbers, what happened near Al Qaed Ibrahim mosque a couple of weeks ago showed that Alex had definitely changed and finally shrugged off the reputation that Alexandrians have replaced the Swiss, Greeks, Jews and Italians, who were once living there, with angry bearded religious zealots. During the clashes between Alex’s youth and the Salafis, I was staring at my TV screen and literally screaming “what?? in Alex??? Salafis being chased out by youth in Alex??? This can’t be real!”
Delta: Delta proved that money and religion are not the only way to win votes in Egypt.
Many of us, upper and middle class Egyptians, believe that Islamists win in Egypt because they influence poor uneducated people with religion and bribe them with cash and other products such as oil and sugar. When a friend or colleague tells me this, I always shoot back with “then how did Sabahy and Shafik fare so well in Delta? Shafik even beat Morsi there”.
While bribery and religion do play a major role in winning votes, Delta proved that that they are not sufficient in an Egypt that is rapidly discovering the true colors of the Islamists; and especially the MB. The poor illiterate voter in Monofiyah, Sharkia, Kafr el Sheikh and Dakahleyah heard his mosque imam tell him to vote Morsy and he ended up voting for Sabahy or Shafik. That poor illiterate voter voted for the Islamists in the parliament elections by 65%!
In the last constitution referendum, the No vote in Delta was 40%. This is close to Alex’s 44%! Taking rigging into consideration, that 40% could well be over 50% especially that Delta is one of the areas where the regime has almost free hand to forge. Delta voted 84% Yes in the March 2011 referendum! WOW!
Upper Egypt: where sectarianism rules!
Upper Egypt has almost the same poverty and illiteracy rates as Delta, however, the voting behavior throughout the past 2 years was very different. Upper Egypt remained steadfast in its loyalty to the Islamists. Why? Here is why:
The Upper Egyptian voter goes to the polling station with one thing in mind: what his/her Christian neighbour will vote for. Mohamed goes to the polling station with George in his mind. In the Delta, there is no George. The Delta voter is more at ease to defy his mosque imam and vote for what he/she thinks is right.
Want to win future elections? Make Mohamed think about bread and butter instead of George.
The Canal: Port Said going on its own way
The Suez Canal region is composed of the governorates of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said. The MB organization was founded in Ismailia and Salafis are very powerful in Suez. The Islamists remained dominate there in 2011 and 2012 (that didn’t stop the main HQ of the MB from getting torched during the recent protests though!). Port Said, however, decided to take a different course. The old port the resides on the intersection of the Canal with the Mediterranean voted for the Islamists by 55% in the parliament elections. In the presidential elections, Sabahy won by a landslide there in round one. Shafik beat Morsy in round two. In the last referendum, the No and Yes vote were evenly divided. However, I have no doubt that Port Said in reality voted No.
If the above analysis proved anything, it proved that the land is ripe and ready for harvest. The land just needs a viable alternative to the MB. And by viable I mean an opposition that is 1) organized, 2) has money, 3) and can convince voters that it has an alternative plan for bringing Egypt out of abyss it is in now.
N.B. I’ve prepared a spreadsheet with each region’s results from the March 2011 referendum till the last constitution referendum.