The Muslim world stands at a crossroads after the coup which not only targeted democracy and its institutions but also the organisations which monitored and declared Egypt’s elections to be free and fair. Muslims re left with two options after the coup revealed itself to be an explicit call for violence and anything but democratic in nature. They can choose to sit in government through the ballot box, or die, literally and metaphorically.
All people of conscience should be aware of the seriousness of this matter and the risks involved if the coup succeeds. Intellectuals and those who are politically active should declare their positions clearly about this reckless tampering with the Muslim Ummah’s present and future.
The cause is neither a particular person nor a particular party; nor is it limited to one group, organisation or movement. It is bigger than all of those. It is a question of being free or enslaved. It is about how to rule and be ruled. It is a constitution and the laws which spring therefrom, which considers all citizens to be equal. Nobody is “born to rule”; that is a myth which has been used to maintain tyrannies for centuries and deny the God-given equality which determines our humanity.
It is clear that those behind the coup have misinterpreted the state of the Muslim world today. They have failed to recognise the discontent and the movements against injustice, oppression and tyranny. The region has been gripped by tyrants, with one or two notable exceptions, since the demise of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs more than a thousand years ago. The time is right for Muslims to learn from experience and fight for the right to choose our rulers and preserve social cohesion. Don’t we have a right to rule ourselves without conflict and bloodshed?
While it is true that we have to learn from collective experience over the centuries, is it possible only if we also experience the kind of upheaval and conflict seen in Europe and America as their political systems evolved? Don’t we have a right to enter the democratic experience at the mature stage and make our starting point the place where the Europeans and Americans have left off?
Sadly, the coup will serve to convince even reasonable Islamists that treading the moderate democratic path is futile. They will be excluded from the process in any case and make stability in society even more elusive as moderation is uprooted and the illusions of the supremacy of democracy through the ballot box are laid bare. In fact, the coup will do little except destroy democracy’s credibility amongst those who feel that the West puts its own interests over and above anything else. Western support for dictators in the Muslim world should already have convinced us of that.
It should be understood that if the coup is allowed to stand the Muslim world will stare into the abyss; extreme positions will be taken as the moderates amongst us lose the argument for peaceful transition. We will all, moderates and extremists alike, pay a heavy price.
The author is head of the Yemeni Islah Party
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.