The events in Egypt can be read on several levels. On the one hand it is an internal coup against the “Arab Spring” and a counter-revolution against the revolutions of liberation and emancipation. On the other it is a regional and international alliance against any popular effort towards our nation’s independence, dignity and move away from a state of dependency, regardless of the identity and ideology of the government chosen through the ballot box.
Thirdly, the events also reveal the truth behind the positions of the traditional ideological forces in the country. Be they “liberal” (a loose description of such forces), left-wing and nationalist, or even traditionally Islamic, we can see where they stand with regards to Islam as an identity and way of life for nations who have confirmed their spiritual and cultural affiliation with the faith.
After less than three years since the Arab revolution erupted in Tunisia and poured into Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Jordan it is now hitting a brick wall. It was in Syria that the strength of the winds of change was broken. Regional and international agendas have weakened and strengthened both the Assad regime and the revolutionaries concurrently. A decisive victory for either side remains elusive for the time being. The revolution is at a standstill in Syria but we must ask if the Obama administration is really worried about a takeover by Islamic extremists if Washington helps the anti-Assad forces. I doubt it.
The United States, along with some of its Arab allies, especially those in the Gulf, were surprised by how quickly the flame lit by the Tunisian revolution in December 2010 spread across the region. The events confused US policy-makers into making hasty decisions but Syria has provided time for everyone to catch their breath. “Moderate” Arab states want to weaken Syria and its allies in Iran and Lebanon, emphasising the Sunni-Shia dimension of the equation. Israel saw the weakening of the Syrian regime as an opportunity to fragment the “axes of resistance” in the region, made up of Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Intentionally or not, Iran has reopened old wounds and, in the process, has served US and Israeli interests. It was not alone in introducing the religious conflict; Saudi Arabia has been ever-present in that as well. Moreover, by supporting the Assad regime, Russia, China and Iraq, as well as Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have helped him to survive. Russia was the first to provide the regime with arms and controls the flow of weapons to ensure that there is no imbalance.
In trying to ensure that the Arab Spring is unable to take root in the Gulf States, the interests of the repressive regime in Egypt match those of the Gulf rulers who reject all change; they are funding the coup government in Cairo as it seeks to crush the legitimate demands of the people for freedom and justice. These also match the interests of the West and Israel.
The events in Egypt reveal the extent to which some of the secular and liberal “elites” will go in their quest to oppose any significant presence of the Islamists in government. Many of these forces, despite being opposed to the repressive regimes and having made undeniable efforts in this context, when given the option of accepting the people’s electoral will of an Islamist government or taking a backwards step to the discredited regimes, have opted to join hands with repression rather than with the Islamists.
The alliance between the “deep state remnants” of the Mubarak regime and the army, along with Arab states allied to the West (despite being repressive and dictatorial) has led the US and Western governments to overlook the illegality of the coup to the extent that some have, it is claimed, been involved more directly. It has become obvious that the revolution did not excise the old regime completely so that it has, with Israeli support and encouragement, been able to make a comeback.
Clearly there has also been the immaturity in political terms of the Muslim Brotherhood to take into account, as well as the role of the traditional religious establishment and the Salafi parties. Represented by Al-Azhar University, many see the traditional religious establishment as part of the problem, acting as a buffer against creativity and reform in Muslim societies. In that sense it has also been used by the coup plotters and has played a key role in the affair.
With regards of the Salafi Al-Nour Party, many sources suggest that it is a creation of Gulf intelligence services. They are major sponsors of the “Wahabi-Salafi” tendency across the region. Nevertheless, Al-Nour won 24 per cent of the votes in the 2012 parliamentary election in Egypt; it has been a thorn in the Brotherhood’s side ever since. Al-Nour’s efforts to undermine the Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi included pushing for a detailed explanation of the article of the Constitution which makes it clear that Islam is the state religion of Egypt and support for the coup on the basis that, as Yasser Borhami said, “Morsi did not implement Islamic Law”.
All of these groups have shown that they are prepared to dance with the devil himself to get rid of the Islamists, even if it means the imposition of a regime more repressive than Mubarak’s.
The example of Al-Nour Party is interesting as it fits the stereotypical images of a hard-line fundamentalist group but it is also capable of being controlled by state intelligence agencies. Furthermore, it does not have an integrated vision of Islam of the kind promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood.
One final point is that the repressive regimes opposed to change regardless of the options available have used political Islam as a bogey to create their alliances and prevent change of all kinds not just that based on Islamist parties. In short, the coup in Egypt, the tension in Tunisia and the prolonging of the devastating war in Syria are all part of the same plot to keep Islamists out of power at all costs. The Arab people must not, this twisted logic insists, be allowed to choose how they are to be governed. Even thinking about revolution for freedom and dignity will henceforth be regarded as “terrorism” and fought against.
However, the people behind such a plot have forgotten that the social environment which prompted the revolutions in 2010 has not changed; if anything, it has worsened. The Arab people have also lost their fear and are unlikely to give up the struggle; they are ready and willing to die for their freedom. Many have tasted freedom and change once, and like what they tasted; they will get another chance to do so, and soon.
The author is a Palestinian writer based in the US. This is a translation from the Arabic text which appeared in Al Jazeera Net 26 August, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.