Sunday, January 13, 2013

Egypt’s Burgeoning Clash Of Mentalities

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.

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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.

  Posted by BP at 12:34 am Comments (0)
Monday, January 7, 2013

How The MB Will Use The Constitution To Try To Rule Us A La Mubarak

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.

Justice System:

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.

 

  Posted by BP at 6:08 pm Comments (0)